A criminal history can have long-term adverse consequences for your teenager. A criminal record could prevent your child from receiving scholarships and grants for college. Juvenile criminal records could impact your child’s career choice and have serious financial impacts on their future.
For that reason, it is essential to work with an experienced California DUI attorney to minimize the impact of DUI arrests. In addition, a lawyer can help you with DUI expungement and requests to seal juvenile DUI records in California.
What Does It Mean to Seal Juvenile Records in California?
Many people believe their criminal records from juvenile court automatically disappear when they turn 18 years old. However, that is not the case. Assembly Bill 666 results in some juvenile records being sealed automatically. However, many violations might not be automatically sealed by the court.
Never assume that the court sealed your juvenile record for a DUI case. Instead, always check with the court or a California DUI defense lawyer about records sealed after the court resolves the case.
Your juvenile record contains all information regarding every juvenile court appearance and criminal activity you were involved in as a minor. It includes:
- Arrest reports
- Police investigations
- Orders and judge’s findings
- Probation reports
- Other information submitted to the court regarding the charges against you or the matter that brought you before the juvenile court
When the court seals a juvenile record, the file ceases to exist in the public records. Therefore, your child can answer no to questions such as were you ever arrested, do you have a sealed record, or do you have a criminal record.
What Types of Juvenile Cases Are Sealed in California?
Under the Welfare and Institutions Code §781 WIC, your juvenile record may be eligible for sealing if you meet all the following criteria:
- You are now at least 18 years old OR the juvenile court’s jurisdiction ended over five years ago
- You have not been convicted of misdemeanors or crimes as an adult that involves moral turpitude, including certain sex crimes, drug offenses, and theft crimes
- The court finds you are rehabilitated
- You have no pending civil lawsuits arising from the charges against you as a juvenile
Specific crimes listed in WIC §707(b) are automatically ineligible for sealing by the courts. The court does not seal the juvenile record if you commit any of these crimes after turning 14 years of age. Examples of those crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Murder and attempted murder
- Assault with a firearm or utilizing force that would produce great bodily harm
- Discharge of a firearm into an occupied or inhabited building
- Violent felonies described in penal Code §667.5(c)
- Torture as described in Penal Code §§206 and 206.1
- Voluntary manslaughter
There is another way to seal some juvenile criminal records. Penal Code Section 851.7 states that if you were a minor and arrested for a misdemeanor, the court might seal your records if:
- The court released you because the state had insufficient evidence to hold you for the charges
- The court acquitted you of the charges
- The court dismissed the charges or discharged the charges without a conviction
Under this section of the penal code, you may petition the court to seal your juvenile record at any time, even before you turn 18 years of age.
Will a California Court Seal My Teen’s Juvenile DUI Case?
Most drunk driving convictions by minors are eligible to be sealed. However, a minor may be charged with one or more crimes for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Most of those crimes fall under the California Vehicle Code.
Generally, the juvenile probation department in the county of arrest contacts the minor and the parents within a few days or weeks after the DUI arrest. They request a meeting to discuss the charges and other factors related to underage drinking. You have the right to have a California DUI defense lawyer with you and your child during this interview, all future meetings, and all court appearances.
If the court finds your teenager guilty of drunk driving, the court may sentence your child to time in juvenile detention, community service, substance abuse counseling, and formal or summary probation. The probation may include numerous terms and conditions your child must obey.
Juvenile DUI cases may be sealed when the teenager turns 18 years of age.
What Is the Process for Sealing a Juvenile DUI Case in California?
Generally, it takes eight to ten months to seal a juvenile record in California by using the provisions in the Welfare and Institutions Code §781. You begin by filing a petition with the juvenile court in the county you were arrested for underage drinking and driving.
Your criminal defense lawyer can handle this for you and may appear in court on your behalf in some cases. You may also file the petition yourself, but you are responsible for ensuring the petition and all required documents and evidence are presented correctly to seal your juvenile records.
The juvenile court schedules a hearing date to hear your petition. During the hearing, the judge reviews your petition and the evidence you present. He also reviews other records related to your juvenile DUI arrest, including your probation record and information provided by the District Attorney, Probation Officer, and other parties.
Based on the facts of your case, the judge may deny or grant your petition to seal your juvenile DUI case. If the judge seals your DUI case, the court issues an order and sends the order to all agencies with possession or access to your records. The agencies must seal the records.
Agencies destroy sealed records unless the court determines your records must be retained and sealed. However, this situation does not occur often.
What Happens to a Teen’s Driving Record when a Court Seals a Juvenile DUI Case?
Sealed juvenile records are very rarely reopened. However, the California Department of Motor Vehicles maintains a record of underage drinking and driving charges and DUI offenses involving minors under the California Vehicle Code.
By law, the DMV may allow automobile insurance adjusters to view juvenile DUI cases that appear on a person’s driving record. The insurance company uses the information to determine driving risk and insurance eligibility. However, the insurance company must keep the records confidential and only use the records to determine insurance eligibility and rates.
However, the sealed DUI cases would not be available to the general public.
What Are the Penalties for Underage DUI in California?
The two primary laws used to charge minors with drinking and driving are:
- California’s Zero Tolerance Law (Vehicle Code §23136)
- Underage Driving with a BAC of .05% or higher (Vehicle Code §23140)
Teenage drivers violate these laws if they have any alcohol in their system while driving. The alcohol does not need to impair their driving ability. Instead, they violate the law by merely operating a motor vehicle with alcohol in their system.
Underage DUIs are punished as follows:
- Zero Tolerance violation – one year suspended driver’s license
- Underage drinking and driving – one year suspended driver’s license, alcohol education program, and a $100 fine
Neither of these crimes results in criminal penalties. However, a minor could be charged with a violation of the “adult” DUI laws, including:
- Driving under the influence under Vehicle Code §23152
- Having a BAC above the legal limit of .08%
- Driving under the influence of drugs
- Causing an accident while intoxicated
Unlike the DUI charges for minors, a conviction of an “adult” drunk driving offense results in criminal penalties. Your teenager could be sentenced to:
- Three to five years of summary probation
- Up to six months in county jail
- Mandatory alcohol education program
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Driver’s license suspension
If your teenager causes a DUI accident, the penalties may increase substantially. A misdemeanor charge could result in up to one year in jail, along with DUI school, fines, and probation. A felony charge increases the incarceration time to two to four years in prison. In addition, fines for DUI accidents can be as high as $5,000.
If a minor refuses to take a breath test, either before or after an arrest, it results in an automatic one-year suspended driver’s license. In addition, the DMV may revoke driving privileges for two or more years if the teen driver has one or more prior convictions for refusing a chemical test, DUI, or wet reckless.
Are There Legal Defenses to Underage DUI in California?
Because having any alcohol in their system violates the underage drinking and driving laws, it can be challenging to fight underage DUI laws. However, you should speak with a California DUI defense attorney before your teenager pleads guilty. There could be one or more DUI defenses that might result in the charges being dismissed.
If your teenager faces “adult” DUI charges, contact a California DUI lawyer as soon as possible. The consequences of a DUI conviction for a teenager are serious.
A DUI attorney evaluates the case to develop a defense strategy that gives your teenager the best chance of beating the DUI charges. Several DUI defenses could be available for your teenager to use, including violations of their civil rights, lack of probable cause, and errors with chemical tests.
Protect your teenager’s legal rights and future by seeking advice from an experienced California DUI criminal defense lawyer.