First District: Dismissal of 707(b) Offense Under WIC 782 Requires Sealing Under 781

In a sweeping published decision, the Court of Appeal granted David T.’s motion to seal his juvenile petition for a robbery, a 707(b) offense. The Court held that “because the court’s order setting aside the robbery finding and dismissing the petition under section [Welfare and Institutions Code section] 782 erased the petition as if it had never existed, the court improperly denied appellant’s motion to seal his records under section 781.”

 In this case, David T., who had previously been committed to the California Youth Authority, had sought sealing of his juvenile record on three prior occasions. In 2016, with Kate Weisburd as his counsel (Director of the Youth Defender Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center), David T. successfully got his robbery adjudication dismissed under 782 but the juvenile court would not seal his juvenile record despite David T.’s accomplishments, mentorship of youth and work history.

In reversing the juvenile court’s decision, the Court of Appeal clarified much of the confusion surrounding the interplay of the sealing provisions of WIC 781 and 786 as well as 782, which provides for dismissal “in the interests of justice and welfare of the [petitioner].” The Court found that because a dismissal under 782 differed from the standard dismissal at the end of a juvenile case, a 707(b) case could be sealed pursuant to WIC 781. The Court reiterated the holding in People v. Haro that the purpose of 782 is to “erase the prior conviction as if the [person] had never suffered the conviction in the initial instance” (Haro, 221 Cal.App.4th at 720). The Court resoundingly rejected the People’s argument that 781 precluded such a result despite its language seemingly to the contrary.

 This is a wonderful victory for David T. who sought sealing of his records for 10 years, and for all our clients who seek to put their juvenile records behind them as they rebuild their lives.