of Difficult Cases
Sealing the Record of Conviction for Juvenile Offenders
The impact of juvenile sex offense convictions on the record of a young person can be enormous. Finding work, housing, or even getting into some schools, is difficult if not impossible. But there is finally some good news for those convicted of sex offenses when they were juveniles.
The Washington Legislature enacted new measures designed to allow the record of conviction for juvenile sex offenses to be sealed if certain criteria are met, and the Washington Supreme Court in State v. S.J.C., 183 Wn.2d 408, 352 P.3d 749 (2015) upheld this law that now allows individuals with juvenile records to have their cases sealed. Cases that can be sealed include most sex offenses. A person with a juvenile sex offense must ask a court to seal the case because it will not be automatically or administratively sealed. The good news is that it is now possible once again to seal juvenile sex offense records in Washington State.
Requirements for Sealing Juvenile Sex Offense Records
If a person who brings a motion to seal meets the following requirements, then the Court must seal the case.
The requirements to seal a sex offense that is a Class A offense are:
- Since the last date of release from any confinement, including full-time residential treatment, if any, or entry of disposition, the person has spent five consecutive years in the community without committing any offense or crime that subsequently results in an adjudication or conviction;
- No proceeding is pending against the moving party seeking the conviction of a juvenile offense or a criminal offense.
- No proceeding is pending seeking the formation of a diversion agreement with that person.
- The person is no longer required to register as a sex offender under RCW 9A.44.130, or has been relieved of the duty to register under RCW 9A.44.143, if the person was convicted of a sex offense.
- The person has not been convicted of rape in the first degree, rape in the second degree, or indecent liberties that was actually committed with forcible compulsion, and
- Full restitution has been paid.
The requirements to seal a sex offense that is a Class B, Class C, or Gross Misdemeanor, or Simple Misdemeanor are identical to the Class A requirements except that they must only be in the community two consecutive years without any new offenses, rather than the five years required for Class A Offenses.
No new Criminal Convictions
The law under RCW 13.50.260 requires that the person spend either five or two consecutive years in the community without committing any offense or crime that results in an adjudication or conviction. Where a person does have a subsequent conviction or completed diversion, then that period restarts from that point, and they must wait the requisite period of time.
Removal of Sex Offender Registration
You cannot seal a record of conviction for a sex offense until you first are relieved of the duty to register as a sex offender. This requirement was not a part of the pre-1997 sealing law, and makes it more difficult than it used to be when getting the record of a juvenile sex offense sealed. Until this important step has been accomplished it is not possible to move to seal a record of conviction for a juvenile sex offense.
Waiting Periods to Seal a Record of Conviction
Sex offenses are never automatically sealed by the court, the way many other criminal convictions are sealed. The waiting period to seal Class A sex offenses committed by juveniles who were 15 years of age or older at the time they committed their offense was increased to 5 years in the community with no new criminal convictions of any kind by the 2011 Amendments to the registration laws. This is stricter than the requirements to be relieved of the duty to register, and any new conviction for a criminal offense restarts this five year waiting period to seal the record of conviction.
Class A offenses committed by juveniles who are under 15 years of age, as well as Class B, C and gross misdemeanor sex offenses, can be sealed after the juvenile has spent two years in the community with no new criminal convictions of any kind.
What Cannot be Sealed
You cannot seal the record of conviction for Rape 1, Rape 2 and Indecent Liberties that was “actually” committed with forcible compulsion. Because Indecent Liberties with Forcible Compulsion is a “reduced” charge in the juvenile sentencing scheme relative to certain other offenses, and the words are not rape or molestation, many cases that did not actually involve the use of force were plead to this charge over the years. Recognizing that these offenses might be barred from sealing even though there was no violence involved, the Legislature added the phrase “that was actually committed with forcible compulsion” to the statute and that language was upheld in State v. J.C., 192 Wn.App. 122, 366 P.3d 455 (2016). In cases where the charge is a result of the plea negotiations and not a reflection of the true facts, as the statement of the respondent on plea of guilty should make clear, a charge of Indecent Liberties with Forcible Compulsion may be sealed.
Restitution Must be Paid in Full, Mostly
If you owe legal financial obligations (LFOs) such as fines, costs or assessments, you can still have your case sealed. However, if there is restitution is still owed to any victim of the crime, it can be a barrier to getting a case sealed. If you owe restitution and you want your case sealed, there are options available. Call our office and speak to our attorney who can discuss the possibility of getting your case sealed with you even if restitution or legal financial obligations are still owed.
Get it Right the First Time
Sealing your record of conviction can be a huge benefit, but it requires careful preparation and a solid legal basis if you are to succeed. If you have a juvenile sex offense you wish to have sealed then contact the experienced lawyers at the Meryhew Law Group for a free initial consultation to learn how we can help you. Call today to schedule that consultation and begin to finally put this chapter behind you.
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