By Gospel Cruz.
Adults with minor offenses on their juvenile records can get a fresh, new start through a clinic run by the Sacramento County Probation Department. In pro-bono partnership with Hewlett Packard’s corporate legal department, Voluntary Legal Services Program of Northern California (VLSP), and DLA Piper – one of the largest law firms in the world, the Juvenile Record Sealing Clinic aims to help clients seal their juvenile records once they turn 18. The project has recently been nominated for the 2015 Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award, and received the June Black Pro Bono Award in 2011.
“Sealing juvenile records gives clients a second chance at starting over,” said Chris Johnson, Probation Division Chief for Juvenile Court Services. “It opens opportunities for their career, education, housing, child custody, and more. Eligible clients are striving for a better life and we want them to succeed. We want to show them that minor mistakes in the past don’t have to define who you can become.”
A California juvenile record is a log of all criminal activity in which a minor (under 18) participates. This may include arrest reports, judge’s findings and rulings, exhibits, and probation reports. Clients 18 and older may be eligible to seal the record if he or she has not been convicted of a serious offense, has successfully completed their grant of probation, and there are no current litigations pertaining to the crime.
If a petition to seal the record has been granted, the record can no longer be accessed and will be destroyed after five years’ time by agencies involved. Once successfully sealed, clients can lawfully say that they have no record. A sealed juvenile record, held by the Courts, may only be reopened before the age of 38 if a client is involved with a defamation civil lawsuit or if the client requests it to be opened. Automobile adjustors can inspect a client’s driving record only to assess insurance risk.
“These clients are mostly young adults who just want to turn their lives around,“ said Lee Seale, Chief Probation Officer. “By going through this process, it shows they want to move through life without their past deterring them from becoming valuable and productive members of society. In order to do this, they must close this chapter, and our Clinic helps them do it for free.”
The Juvenile Record Sealing Clinic is a monthly workshop where pro-bono workers from DLA Piper, Hewlett Packard, and VLSP give legal advice and help applicants fill out the petition to seal. Since the Sacramento County launch in 2010, DLA Piper and Hewlett Packard launched a Clinic in San Mateo County in April 2015 because of the success.
In partnering with the pro-bono organizations, the Probation Department has saved approximately 840 hours of work serving more than 210 clients.
For more information on the Clinic, visit the Voluntary Legal Services Program website. For information on eligibility or on how to apply for record sealing, visit the Sacramento County Probation website.