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Juvenile Court Improperly Denies Motion to Seal.

Why This Article Matters: The following summary exemplifies the value of being creative and strategic in the practice of law, as David T. was able to have his robbery adjudication as a juvenile at age 14 or older sealed by first seeking dismissal under Welfare & Institutions Code § 781 and then, once this was granted, having it sealed under § 782.
In December 1994, David T. was 17 years old and was involved in an armed robbery (Penal Code § 211) of a pawnshop in Oakland.  In January of 1995, the juvenile court judge sustained a robbery allegation against David T., which is the juvenile court equivalent of a conviction in “adult court.”

David T. was sent to the California Youth Authority (now known as the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Juvenile Facilities) for three and a half years.  He was honorably discharged from parole in 2002. 

Between 2002 and 2016, when he was 38, he worked with local youth at the Oakland YMCA, ran his own janitorial business, worked as a stagehand on various productions and worked as a limousine and Uber driver. 

In 2008, he had trained for months to become a firefighter and emergency medical technician before being told that his juvenile record would be a bar to joining the fire department. 

Between 2002 and 2016, he also filed three petitions to seal his robbery offense pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code § 781, but the court denied the petition each time. 

Court of Appeal First Appellate District San FranciscoCourt of Appeal First Appellate District San Francisco

In 2016, he filed an amended motion to set aside the robbery finding and dismiss the petition pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code § 782 (like an expungement under Penal Code § 1203.4 for an adult conviction) and to seal his juvenile record pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code § 781.  The judge granted his motion to set aside the robbery finding, but denied the request to seal his juvenile records under Welfare & Institutions Code § 781(a)(1)(D), stating that it was not allowed because he committed robbery, a specified offense under Welfare & Institutions Code § 707(b) excluded from sealing, at the age of 14 or older.

David T. then appealed to the First Appellate District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.  David T. argued that once the trial court set aside the robbery finding and dismissed the petition under § 782, there no longer was a robbery finding or sustained petition remaining to be governed by the limitation on sealing contained in Welfare & Institutions Code § 781(a)(1)(D).

The First Appellate District Court agreed with David T. in People v. David T. (2017 DJDAR 7181).  The key finding that the appellate court focused on was that under § 782, the juvenile court’s discretionary dismissal power was expanded over the “standard dismissal” that occurs when the juvenile court terminates jurisdiction at the conclusion of a juvenile case.  In re Greg F. (2012) 55 Cal.4th 393, 419.

The First Appellate District then looked to the Third Appellate District’s ruling in People v. Haro (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 718.  In Haro, the trial court had denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss a strike allegation under the Three Strikes law (§§ 1170.12(a)-(d), 667(b)-(i)), based on defendant having suffered a prior juvenile adjudication for robbery, a serious felony within the meaning of the Three Strikes law.  Defendant then argued on appeal that because the juvenile court had previously dismissed the petition underlying the robbery adjudication pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code § 782, the court was precluded from using that adjudication as a strike. 

The appellate court in Haro agreed.  It explained that § 782 is a general dismissal statute, similar in operation to Penal Code § 1385.  Haro, supra, 221 Cal.App.4th at 721, citing Greg F., supra, 55 Cal.4th at 416; see also People v. Barro (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 62 (a Second Appellate District case).  The Haro court ultimately concluded that a dismissal under 782 of a petition underlying a juvenile adjudication has the same effect as a dismissal of a prior conviction under Penal Code § 1385. 

Lastly, the First Appellate District addressed the 707(b) issue, pointing out that in 2014, Welfare & Institutions Code § 786 was added as a record sealing statute to provide automatic dismissal and sealing of juvenile records upon successful completion of probation.  However, in 2015, 786 was amended to state that a court may not seal a juvenile’s record or dismiss a petition for any 707(b) offense “unless the finding on that offense was dismissed or was reduced to a lesser offense that is not listed in subdivision (b) of section 707.”  Here, that offense was dismissed, so the 707(b) exception did not apply.

We bring this case summary to the reader’s attention as an important road map toward having a 707(b) juvenile offense sealed, to prevent that person from being stymied for life from leading a productive life due to a juvenile record for a rather serious offense.  The key is having the juvenile court grant the petition for dismissal first in the interests of justice under § 782 and then requesting sealing under § 781 as did David T.

The citation for the First Appellate District Court ruling discussed above is In re David T. (1st App. Dist., 2017) 13 Cal. App. 5th 866.

For more information about sealing a record, please click on the following articles:

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