While many juvenile offenders go on to be law-abiding, productive members of society, this is harder to do if the offenses of your youth continue to follow you into adulthood. Thankfully, in Washington, juvenile court records for many offenses can be sealed by the court. Although sealing doesn’t happen automatically in sex cases, it is now possible in most of them. State of Washington v. S.J.C., a 2015 decision by the Washington Supreme Court about a young man The Marshall Defense Firm defended, eliminated some of the barriers courts once faced in sealing juvenile records and made this outcome more attainable for many young people, even those convicted of a sex offense.
Class A Offenses
With the exception of rape in the first or second degree and indecent liberties “that was actually committed with forcible compulsion,” a motion to seal records for any Class A sex offense will be granted under RCW 13.50.260 if:
- The person has spent five consecutive years in the community without any new convictions; and
- There are no pending charges for juvenile or criminal offenses; and
- The person is no longer required to register as a sex offender under RCW 44.130 or has been relieved of the duty to register under RCW 9A.44.143; and
- The person has paid the full amount of restitution owed to the victim, excluding any restitution owed to an insurance provider.
Convictions for rape in the first or second degree and indecent liberties (as described above) cannot be sealed.
All Other Offenses
A record of any sex offense classified as a Class B felony, Class C felony, Gross Misdemeanor, or Simple Misdemeanor can be sealed if all of the same criteria set forth above for Class A offenses is met, with one exception: rather than five years, a juvenile convicted of one of these less-serious offenses can petition the court after spending only two consecutive years in the community without any new convictions.
Do You Need to Disclose a Sealed Conviction?
When juvenile records are sealed, the social file, which contains records and reports of probation officers, remains available to any juvenile justice or care agency if (1) an investigation or case involving the juvenile is being prosecuted by either agency, or (2) the juvenile justice or care agency is responsible for supervising the juvenile.
However, apart from that, if the court enters a written order sealing the juvenile court record, all records relating to the case are sealed and the proceedings in the case are treated as if they never occurred. You may respond accordingly to any inquiry about the events of the case, for example, on an application for employment or a landlord’s background check. The law also requires any agency receiving an inquiry concerning sealed records to respond that records are confidential and no information can be given about their existence or nonexistence.
Can a Sealed Record Ever Be Unsealed?
A sealed record presents an opportunity to start fresh with a clean slate, but only if you avoid future criminal activity. Any subsequent juvenile conviction will nullify, or undo, a sealing order. The court can order that the juvenile court record be resealed after the subsequent matter is resolved if the criteria set forth above are met. However, a record can only be resealed one time. Also, the mere act of being charged with an adult felony offense will nullify the sealing order, and in that case, there is no opportunity to have the record resealed.
If you have questions about sealing a juvenile sex offense record, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled team of defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the matter with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.