Juvenile court erred in concluding it could not seal records after it had set aside a robbery finding and dismissed the delinquency petition under Welfare and Institutions Code section 782. Appellant was 17 years old when the juvenile court sustained a robbery allegation against him. In 2016, at age 38, appellant filed a motion to set aside the robbery finding and dismiss the delinquency petition pursuant to section 782 and to seal his juvenile records pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 781. The court granted his motion to set aside the robbery finding and dismiss the petition because appellant had led a law-abiding life and the interests of justice and appellant’s welfare required such a dismissal. However, it denied the motion to seal the records, relying on section 781, subdivision (a)(1)(D), which bars sealing the records of a person found to have committed an offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (b) (including robbery) committed at age 14 or older. Appellant appealed. Held: Reversed. Section 782, like Penal Code section 1385, is a general dismissal statute. After analyzing relevant case law and related statutes, the Court of Appeal concluded that a dismissal under section 782 “is intended to erase a prior adjudicationnot merely reduce or mitigate itand to thereby protect the person from any and all future adverse consequences based on that adjudication.” The court determined that a dismissal under section 782 operates as a matter of law to erase the prior sustained petition as if the defendant had never suffered it in the initial instance. Therefore, once the court set aside the robbery finding and dismissed the petition under section 782, there was no longer any robbery finding or sustained petition left to be governed by the limitation on record sealing contained in section 781, subdivision (a)(1)(D). The matter was remanded to the juvenile court with directions to grant the motion to seal appellant’s records.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A148563.PDF