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To Seal or Not To Seal – California Taking a Progressive Approach to Sealing Juvenile Records

California State Capitol Building

CJCJ Media

Recently, there has been a resurgence in the issue of sealing juvenile records, due to the future impact on justice-involved youth. There is a common misconception that justice-involved youth automatically have their records sealed either once they turn 18 or once 5 or more years have passed since the termination of juvenile probation, last arrest, or closure of the case. Yet truthfully, in most states juveniles must petition to have their records sealed, which can become a long and cumbersome process filled of court hearings and excessive fees. These fees and hearings often deter minors from sealing their records, which can limit their future employment and education opportunities.

California, however, has recently taken a more progressive approach. On April 7, 2014, the Public Safety Committee in Sacramento passed SB 1038 with a vote 5-2 in favor of the bill. SB1038, submitted by Senator Mark Leno’s office, proposes the automatic sealing of juvenile records for individuals who have complied with all existing statutory and probationary requirements. The bill is now waiting to be sent for a Senate Floor vote.

Additional to SB1038, AB 1756 presented by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner’s office would eliminate the record sealing fees for individuals ages 26 years and younger, as well as seal arrest records for those who were not convicted. There is a lack of consistency in the fees for sealing juvenile records among California’s 58 counties. The fee is merely for administrative purposes and does not have any real affect on the eligibility to have a record sealed. What is interesting is that while few counties do not charge a fee for processing the application, most charge the maximum of $150, while some charge anywhere from $40 to $120, illustrating the lack of consistency. Furthermore, very few counties who charge the maximum amount have waivers or reimbursement programs for individuals. While $150 may seem reasonable to most people, in reality it can create a burden on youth and hinder them from going through with the sealing process, which may have larger future implications.

It is crucial for justice-involved youth to seal their records, which would provide them with a clean slate and a chance to regain stability without the lingering fear of being ostracized and unable to achieve success. Both bills will help usher California into a progressive era of juvenile justice reform, where justice-involved youth will be provided with a clean slate and ample opportunities for future success.

Keywords: California, Juvenile justice, legislation, reentry, state policy

Posted in Blog, Juvenile Justice

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