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Are my juvenile records in Washington automatically sealed when I turn 18?

The criminal justice system treats children and adults differently.

This is especially true when it comes to sealing court records. 

Are juvenile records automatically sealed when you turn 18?

You might think the answer is yes, but not necessarily. 

Juvenile records do not automatically disappear when you turn 18.  Until they are sealed, your juvenile records are public record, and anyone can view them, just like adult records.

Do I have to file a motion to seal my juvenile record?

Not necessarily.  The question primarily depends on the type of crime,  

Unlike in adult court, juvenile courts in Washington regularly schedule administrative sealing hearings to determine whether to seal a juvenile offender's court record in a criminal case.  The court schedules these hearings on the same the juvenile is sentenced.

Besides you and your attorney, the prosecutor and the victim (if any) receive notice of this hearing,  

Besides the juvenile and his or her attorney, the following parties receive notice of this hearing.

Unlike in adult criminal cases, Washington law favors sealing juvenile records.  Under RCW 13.50.260, a juvenile court “shall” seal a juvenile record unless a party objects or the court finds a "compelling reason" not to seal.   

When does this administrative hearing take place?

The Court will schedule your juvenile case to be heard on the first regularly scheduled administrative hearing that is set to occur after the latest of these events:

  • Your 18th birthday
  • The date on which you are scheduled to complete probation 
  • Your anticipated release date from a juvenile detention facility
  • The dater at which juvenile is anticipated to complete probation
  • Anticipated release date from juvenile detention facility

Example:  John Smith pleads guilty in July 2020 and receives a prison sentence.  He turns 18 on August 21, 2020.  He is scheduled to get out of prison in September 2020.  He is scheduled to finish probation in December 5 2020.  The Court will schedule Smith's hearing to be scheduled at the first ASH to occur after December 5.

What happens if someone objects to sealing my record?

If this occurs, the juvenile court will schedule a contested hearing at which the judge will hear from all the parties and enter a written decision either sealing or not sealing your records.

The court will schedule this hearing no sooner than 18 days after receiving an objection.  You are not required to personally attend this hearing.  

Will the court seal my juvenile records?

The Court will seal your juvenile records following an administrative hearing assuming you meet the following three requirements:

1. You completed all the conditions of your juvenile sentence

This includes paying all fines and court costs, and paying all restitution.  This also includes completing any treatment, any other probation requirements and (obviously), not committing any more crimes. 

2. You did not commit a Class A felony

Class A felonies are the most serious crimes in Washington.  They carry a maximum possible punishment of life in prison.

Here are the most commonly charged Class A felonies in Washington:

  • Aggravated murder
  • Murder in the first degree
  • Murder in the second degree
  • Manslaughter in the first degree
  • Rape in the first degree
  • Rape of a child in the first degree
  • Rape of a child in the second degree
  • Child molestation in the first degree
  • Arson in the first degree
  • Burglary in the first degree
  • Robbery in the first degree
  • Kidnapping in the first degree
  • Kidnapping the second degree with sexual motivation
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Assault in the first degree
  • Assault of a child in the first degree
  • Indecent liberties by forcible compulsion

You also cannot have been convicted of attempt or conspiracy to commit a Class A felony.  

2. You did not commit a most a sex offense or a "most serious" offense

In addition to the Class A felonies listed above, the following crimes in Washington fall under the categories of "sex offense" crimes under RCW 9A.44 and "most serious" crimes under RCW 9.94A.030:

  • Assault in the second degree
  • Assault in the second degree
  • Assault of a child in the second degree
  • Child molestation in the second degree
  • Controlled substance homicide
  • Extortion in the first degree
  • Incest when committed against a child under age fourteen
  • Indecent liberties
  • Kidnapping in the second degree
  • Leading organized crime
  • Manslaughter in the second degree
  • Promoting prostitution in the first degree
  • Rape in the third degree
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Vehicular homicide if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving recklessly
  • Vehicular assault if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving recklessly
  • Any other Class B felony offense with a finding of sexual motivation
  • Any other Class B felony offense with a deadly weapon verdict under RCW 9.94A.825

3. You did not commit a felony drug offense

You cannot have committed a felony drug offense under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. These crimes usually involve possessing, selling, or trafficking in illegal controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, or oxycontin without a prescription.    

Will the court deny my motion if the prosecutor or the victim objects?

Not necessarily.  As indicated, the law in Washington favors sealing juvenile records  so the burden is on the opposing party to prove why sealing is not in the public's best interests.

What happens if the court refuses to seal my records?

If the court does not seal your records at the regularly scheduled sealing hearing, then you can still file a motion to seal at a later date.

If you were convicted of Class A offense or a sex / most serious offense, then this is the only way to get your record sealed.  

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