Where multiple delinquency and probation violation petitions have been filed against a minor and he satisfactorily completes juvenile probation in some of his cases, Welfare and Institutions Code section 786 does not require the juvenile court to seal the entire juvenile case file. W.R. had seven delinquency petitions and two violations of probation filed against him between January 2013 and October 2015. Ultimately, the juvenile court found that W.R. had satisfactorily completed probation. Upon W.R.’s motion to dismiss and seal the records under section 786, the court dismissed and sealed the records as to six of the petitions. The court then agreed to dismiss the October 2015 petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 782 in the interest of justice but declined to seal those records. The court did not mention, dismiss, or seal the records in the remaining two petitions where the allegations were not previously sustained. W.R. appealed, arguing that the sealing provisions in section 786 required the juvenile court to seal all the accumulated records in his case file as long as the court found he had satisfactorily completed probation. Held: Reversed in part and remanded. Section 786, subdivision (a) requires the court, upon the satisfactory completion of probation, to “order the petition dismissed” and further “order sealed all records pertaining to that dismissed petition.” Upon the dismissal of the petition, “the arrest and other proceedings in the case shall be deemed not to have occurred.” (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 786, subd. (b).) After reviewing the language of the statute and the legislative history of subsequent amendments, the court determined “that the records to be sealed are those pertaining to a particular petition: a petition for which probation was imposed and satisfactorily completed[.]” The juvenile court also has discretion to seal records that meet the requirements in subdivision (e)(1), but it is not required to seal the entire juvenile court file.
The juvenile court had discretion under section 786, subdivision (e)(1) to seal records related to a prior filed petition where the allegations were found not true. One of the delinquency petitions was filed against W.R. in September 2014. The allegations were found not true after a contested jurisdictional hearing. The juvenile court did not dismiss or seal the records related to this petition. Although the juvenile court was not required to seal these records under section 786, subdivisions (a) and (b), under subdivision (e)(1), the juvenile court had discretion to include “an order to seal a record relating to, or to dismiss, any prior petition or petitions that have been filed or sustained against the individual and that appear to” meet the sealing criteria (emphasis added). The last sustained petition was filed in December 2014 and the Court of Appeal determined that W.R. was essentially on a continuous grant of probation for all his sustained petitions when he was sent to and satisfactorily completed an out-of-state program. As a result, the juvenile court had the discretion to seal the records pertaining to the petition filed in September 2014, even though it was not sustained, because it was filed prior to the last petition for which the minor was placed on probation.
The court was required under section 786, subdivisions (a) and (b) to seal the records pertaining to a petition that was dismissed in its entirety in light of an admission in a separately filed petition. The district attorney filed two petitions against W.R. in October 2014. W.R. admitted an allegation in one of the petitions, and the court dismissed the other petition in light of the admission. The court later dismissed and sealed the records of the sustained petition pursuant to section 786, but did not consider sealing the records related to the dismissed petition. After analyzing In re G.F. (2017) 12 Cal.App.5th 1, the Court of Appeal determined that it should treat “the disposition of two petitions, resulting in the continuation or grant of probation which the minor ultimately completes to the court’s satisfaction, as one petition for the purposes of record sealing under section 786, whether or not the petitions were formally consolidated.” Recognizing that W.R. did not waive his future right to relief under section 786 at the time the petition was dismissed, the court held that “the minor should not forfeit his rights under subdivision (b) of section 786 because the prosecutor chose to file two separate petitions, which resulted in one grant of probation.” The court remanded the case to the juvenile court with an order to seal the records pertaining to the allegations in the previously dismissed October 3, 2014 petition.
Although section 786 did not authorize the trial court to seal records related to a petition that had been dismissed under section 782, on remand the juvenile court may consider sealing the records under section 781. W.R. was charged with a felony in an October 2015 petition. The juvenile court found W.R. not competent to stand trial, and later dismissed the petition pursuant to section 782 in the interest of justice. However, the juvenile court declined to seal the records pursuant to section 786. This was proper because the October 2015 petition was not a petition for which probation was granted, and it was not filed prior to the last petition for which probation was granted (the December 2014 petition). Therefore, W.R. was not entitled to dismissal or record sealing under section 786. However, the Court of Appeal was informed that the W.R. was now over 18 years old. As a result, he may be eligible to have his records related to the October 2015 petition sealed under section 781. On remand, the juvenile court should consider a request from W.R. to seal these records under section 781.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A150435.PDF