Yamada Sponsors Legislation Making It Easier to Seal Juvenile Court Records

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assemblymember-mariko-yamadaThe Assembly Public Safety Committee passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1006 on Tuesday on a 6-0 bipartisan vote.  Authored by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, the legislation is designed to enable former juvenile offenders to move into adulthood without the burden of juvenile records.

“Youth who have completed their court adjudicated ‘debts-to-society’ should have an opportunity to start over with a clean slate,” Assemblymember Yamada said. “Many former juvenile offenders are unaware that their records are unsealed until they are refused a job, credit or housing.”

Under the existing law,  a juvenile who has not received an adult felony conviction or committed a serious felony after the age of 14, would have their petition reviewed by the court.  The court may choose to seal the criminal record, and the offense is considered never to have occurred.

“Existing law authorizes a person who is the subject of a juvenile court record, or the county probation officer, to petition the court for the sealing of the records relating to the person’s case, including records in the custody of the juvenile court and the probation officer and any other agencies, including law enforcement agencies and public officials as the petitioner alleges to have custody of the records,” the Legislative Counsel’s Digest suggests.

The petition may be filed 5 years or more after the jurisdiction of the juvenile court has terminated, or at any time after the person reaches 18 years of age, but only if the person was not found by the juvenile court to have committed any one of certain specified serious or violent offenses, and the person was 14 years of age or older when he or she committed the offense.

Moreover, existing law also does not permit the sealing of a person’s juvenile court record for an offense if the person has been convicted of that offense in a criminal court.

“This bill would require, on and after January 1, 2015, each court and probation department to ensure that information regarding the eligibility for and the procedures to request the sealing and destruction of records is provided to each person for whom a petition has been filed,” the digest explains.

“The bill would require the Judicial Council on or before January 1, 2015, to develop related informational materials and a specified form. The bill would specify when the materials and the form are to be provided,” the digest continues.

“By imposing additional duties on local probation departments, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program,” it explains.  “The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.”

As the press release from Assemblymember Yamada’s office explains, “While state law also requires the clerk of the court to advise youth of their right to petition the court, the means of informing these individuals may vary among counties. Many youth, parents, and case managers are also under the mistaken impression that juvenile records are automatically sealed when the youth turns 18.”

AB 1006 would require the creation of a standardized form informing juvenile offenders of their right to petition the court to seal their juvenile records and a standardized petition form to initiate the process.

Courts and probation officers would provide this information when the youths have fulfilled the requirements of the court or their probation.

The legislation, according to the release, was proposed by Elliot Jones, a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate for minors in the family court and foster care system, who said that a juvenile record can be especially debilitating for foster youth who already face a number of challenges when they reach adulthood.

“Having an unsealed juvenile delinquency record can mean the difference between getting a job and being unemployed, between being a productive citizen and struggling with homelessness,” Mr. Jones said. “Not having this as a barrier will be huge step towards self-sufficiency.”

AB 1006 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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