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Name: In re Chong K.
Case #: C052051
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/23/2006

Proposition 21’s amendment to section 781 applies to all petitions to seal juvenile records brought under that statute. The minor appellant was convicted of murder and committed to the California Youth Authority (CYA) in 1996, and was honorably discharged from CYA in October, 2004. In July, 2005, at his request, the probation department filed a petition to have his record sealed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 781, subdivision (a). On August 1, the court found appellant eligible to have his record sealed, but not yet suitable, and continued the matter to September for appointment of counsel. In January, 2006, the court found appellant not eligible to have his juvenile record sealed, and denied the petition. On appeal, appellant contended that the court erred in determining that an amendment to section 781 made in 2000, (Proposition 21) which provided that persons over 14 who have committed murder cannot have their juvenile records sealed, applied to him. He contended that the amendment did not apply to offenses committed before 2000, and that even if it did, it would violate the proscription against ex post facto laws. Further, the application of the amendment based solely on age constitutes a denial of equal protection. He also argued that an honorable discharge from CYA permits sealing of the record notwithstanding the amendment to section 781. The appellate court rejected each contention and affirmed. Had the voters intended to limit the application of Proposition 21’s amendment to offenses occurring after its effective date, it would have specifically said so. Since it does not, the amendment was intended to operate restrospectively. Proposition 21’s amendment to section 781 applies to all petitions to seal juvenile records brought under that statute on or after March 8, 2000, regardless of when the underlying offenses occurred. The amendment was not an ex post facto law, as was already determined in People v. Superior Court (Manuel G.) (2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 915. It was not a denial of equal protection, because the application of the amendment to persons over 14 is a legitimate cutoff point for distinguishing the maturity level of youths. Further, a person honorably discharged from CYA is not entitled to a sealing of records as part of the phrase “all penalties and disabilities” in sections 1179(a) and 1772.