What are California Juvenile Court Records?
The California Juvenile Court System is made up of divisions of superior courts responsible for adjudicating criminal violations pertaining to minors that are less than 18 years of age. These divisions are popularly referred to as juvenile courts; so-called because they have exclusive and original jurisdiction over all juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice matters. Essentially, the goal of these courts is not only to ensure public safety but to provide care and guidance to delinquent minors. As such, records generated during juvenile court proceedings are not available to the general public. Pursuant to the California Rule of Court 5.552 and the Welfare Institution Code (WIC) 827, juvenile court records maintained by various agencies are strictly restricted to selected persons with direct and tangible interests in the records. Note that records of juvenile criminal cases that were handled in adult criminal courts are not covered under the confidentiality rules.
What Information is Contained in a California Juvenile Record?
California juvenile records are designed to provide official accounts of the state's juvenile judicial processes. These records contain general and specific information regarding juvenile wards, petitions leveled against them, as well as details of legal processes, court's final rulings, and any additional reviews made by the state's appellate courts. Generally, juvenile delinquency cases vary from one petition to another depending on the case and the particular court handling the case. Even then, these records contain the following general characteristics:
- Biodata of the minor and prosecutor— including their full names, age, and house addresses
- Details of alleged violations of the law and facts supporting the petition
- Details of the minor's social history
- Information regarding the past offense history of the juvenile
- Results of mental health evaluations
- Details of the judge's decision including fines, probation type, community services, and detention
- Notices and memorandum of decisions
- Details of diversion programs, counseling, foster care, educational, and rehabilitation programs
- Revisions to the original verdict made by the appellate-level courts
What Cases are Heard by California Juvenile Courts?
The 58 juvenile courts in California handle the following matters:
- Status offenses such as curfew violations, truancy, and running away from home
- Child protection or juvenile dependency cases such as child abuse and neglect
- Juvenile delinquency cases such as misdemeanors and non-capital offenses
Who is Eligible to View Juvenile Records in California
In accordance with the Welfare and Institution Code 827, juvenile court records are exclusively limited to the following persons:
- The minor who owns the record
- Minor's parent or legal guardian
- Court custodian and personnel
- Prosecuting agencies tasked with overseeing juvenile and criminal cases under California state law
- The minor's legal representatives, probation officers, judges, and other law enforcement officers that the juvenile case proceeding
- The local councils and attorneys representing the petitioning agency in a dependency case action
- The superintendent overseeing the school district where a minor is attending
- Members of the child protective agencies (California Penal Code § 11165.9)
- California Department of Social Services and authorized employees tasked with investigating resource facilities or community care facilities
- Employees of the juvenile multidisciplinary teams responsible for supervising, rehabilitating, and treating delinquent minors
- Judges and other authorized personnel handling a custody and/or visitation cases involving the minor
- Members of the law enforcement agencies for the purpose of an ongoing criminal investigation
- County or city child support agencies when determining paternity and enforcing orders pertaining to child support
- Members of juvenile justice commissions as dictated under WIC §225
- The California Department of Justice for the purpose of enforcing sex offender registration and notification in the state
- Persons authorized by court orders
How to Find Juvenile Records in California
Those looking to find juvenile records in California are required to submit their requests to the applicable courthouse in person or by mail. Generally, the processes for locating, viewing, and/or copying juvenile records vary among case types as well as on the eligibility of the requesting party. Authorized persons can easily access these records without a court order while other members of the public are mandated to petition the court for valid court orders. Note that criminal or civil subpoena are not accepted.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Find California Juvenile Records Without a Court Order
Under WIC §824, authorized persons can inspect and copy juvenile records by physically visiting the courthouse/business counter or by submitting their requests through the mail. To do so in person, begin by completing and signing the appropriate Juvenile Records Without Court Order Form(s). These local forms are available on the judicial websites of all California county superior courts. Some courts may require the completion of more than one form. It is also possible to obtain and complete these forms from the courthouse on the day of visit in case the online process proves elusive. Otherwise, contact the courthouse to enquire if they can forward applicable forms via email. Generally, these virtual forms are provided to prepare requesters, ease the process, and reduce court wait time.
After collecting the required information or completing the forms, proceed to the appropriate business counter during normal business hours. Do not forget to bring along a valid photo identification that matches the name on the record. Most courts provide the same day services unless the requested file is stored on microfiche.
To submit a request for a California juvenile court record by mail, print and complete the form and then send it along with a copy of a valid photo ID and a return envelope to the court clerk's mail address. Get help on how to properly complete the mail requests by contacting the particular Juvenile Court Business Office.
To obtain California juvenile records maintained by the County Department of Health and Human Services Agency, Child Welfare Agency, or the Probation Department, make sure to contact the particular department to know the specific information needed. Generally, these offices provide request forms and require a stipulation.
How To Find California Juvenile Records With a Court Order
Members of the public, the news media, and other unauthorized agencies may submit requests for juvenile case files in the following steps:
- Complete and serve petitions (JV-570), Notice of Request (JV-571), and Objection (JV-572) to proper persons and agencies
- Go to the courthouse and file a request for disclosure. The request must include:
- JV-569 — Completed Proof of Service, also available in Spanish. Ensure to indicate that the proper persons and agencies have been served
- JV-570 — Request for Disclosure of Juvenile Case File
- JV-571 —Notice of Request for Disclosure
- Any local forms
- If seeking to use a juvenile record in an ongoing legal action that is not a juvenile court proceeding, make sure to also issue notices to parties in that action. It is important to attach a copy of the complaint/charging document as well as the next hearing date to the disclosure request
- If an objection is received, the court will schedule a hearing. Otherwise, the court may conduct an in-camera review and then grant or deny a request without a hearing
- The Juvenile Court typically notifies the petitioner to come in and view the file. Charges may apply for copying and certifying pages of juvenile records. Applicable fees are generally waived for minors requesting copies of their own records.
Note that the California Judiciary does not allow anybody to obtain or inspect juvenile records by civil or criminal subpoena.
Can you Lookup California Juvenile Records Online?
No. Because juvenile records are confidential in California, the state judiciary enforced stringent restrictions on the electronic dissemination of these case files. While the nature of a juvenile adjudication is primarily similar to an adult criminal conviction, the different terminologies afford minors the ability to legally declare that they have no criminal convictions (See WIC § 203.) Unlawful release of these records, online or otherwise, attracts some consequences to the custodian. Further, anybody who willfully and knowingly obtains California juvenile records under false pretenses is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and potential jail time.
Do California Juvenile Records Show up on Background Checks?
Whether or not a juvenile record will show up on background check depends on who is making the request. The subject of the record may request a background check by going to or mailing the appropriate juvenile court business center. Running these checks require the completion of one or more forms and presentation of a valid ID that is issued by the state or federal government. Essentially, the ID must match the name on the record. In addition to these, mail-in requesters must send their forms along with a notarized copy of a valid photo ID, a self-addressed stamped envelope, and a check or money order of appropriate payment. The fee for each background check is $15.
On the other hand, employers and other members of the public cannot carry out state-wide and local background checks on delinquent minors. Because of the confidentiality of juvenile records, the restriction as regards to accessing them remains solid. However, section 707 of the WIC states conditions where an offense committed by a minor can appear on background checks. Such cases are those that were transferred to adult courts because of their serious nature and can include first-degree murder, forcible rape, sodomy, arson, robbery, kidnapping, lewd and lascivious act with a child, and many more.
How Long are Juvenile Records Kept in California?
Effective as of January 2015, the California Legislature enacted a new law codified under Section 786 of the Welfare and Institution Code which mandates automatic sealing of juvenile delinquency records upon completion of probation terms. While the long and cumbersome sealing procedure outlined under WIC section 781 has not been repealed, §786 lifts the burden of waiting for a certain time period from subjects of juvenile records. Even then, not all automatically sealed juvenile records are destroyed. Those records with sustained petitions rendering the owners ineligible to possess firearms can only be destroyed after the ward turns 18 years old.