No one should be continuously punished for one mistake. Nevertheless, juvenile criminal records continue to haunt individuals in the world were criminal background checks are common when applying for jobs, schools, housing (aptartments, condos, community associations), loans, grants, special licenses, getting promotions, security clearances, in personal relationships, to name a few. One of the common misconceptions we hear in Washington State is that the record will be sealed when an individual turns eighteen. This is simply not true. If you qualify to have your record juvenile sealed, and the court grants your petition, then your record will no longer appear in Washington State Patrol Criminal Background Checks. First you need to determine which process applies. The difference between deletion and sealing a juvenile record rests on whether you plead or were found guilty.
Deletion (Plead or Found Not Guilty)
If you were accused and found not guilty, the case was dismissed or you entered into stipulated order of continuance you may qualify to have your record deleted. Washington law allows a person who has never been convicted of a crime and who has never received a previous record sealing or deletion of non-conviction data to request that the court delete the non-conviction data. This is a different procedure and operates under a different statute than the juvenile sealing record. If you believe this is what you qualify for, visit this page on Expungement in Washington State.
Sealing (Plead or Found Guilty)
Washington law allows a person who has been convicted as a juvenile to seal his or her juvenile records. If you plead guilty, found guilty or entered a deferred sentencing you may qualify to have your record sealed. Washington law allows a person who has been convicted of a crime as a juvenile to request that the court seal juvenile convictions and the criminal history record information (CHRI) on file with the Washington State Patrol. This will prevent your record from being disseminated if you meet certain statutory criteria. The threshold requirements for sealing are:
- This was a juvenile court conviction.
- There are no active agencies seeking to convict or enter into a diversion agreement.
- All legal financial obligations (including restitution) has been paid.
Thereafter, you must determine whether you have met the statutory waiting period. This requires that there are no new criminal law violations during your waiting period. The clock for when the waiting period starts, is from the last day of confinement or the day of the disposition (the day the court sentenced). The waiting periods for each class of crime are
- Class B Felony is 2 years
- Class C Felony is 2 years
- Misdemeanor or Gross Misdemeanor is 2 years
- A Diversion Agreement is 2 years
In addition, there are specific requirements if this was a Class A offense or a Sex offense. It is best to meet with an attorney to discuss these other requirements.
You or your lawyer will likely draft a Motion and Declaration to Seal Records of Juvenile Offender, Order on Motion to Seal Records of Juvenile Offender and Notice of Respondent’s Motion to Seal Records of Juvenile Offender. Thereafter, the process varies from court to court and you or your lawyer needs to contact the court clerk in you local jurisdiction and determine the local procedures.
Once sealed or expunged, all records of your arrest and/or subsequent court case are removed from the public view. Even better, once sealed, for the purposes of employment and housing, you may legally deny or acknowledge that you were convicted for the crime which you had sealed.
Unlike adult convictions, there is no limit to the number of juvenile records you can seal. However, it still is in the courts discretion to seal. Sealed juvenile records are protected from public examination, but they do not cease to exist. Records may be re-opened for public examination if you are convicted of a juvenile offense or adult crime, or if you are charged with a felony.
The King County Juvenile Record Sealing Clinic works with the Seattle community to inform individuals of the sealing laws and assist indigent offenders.