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In re David T.

California Court of Appeals, First District, Second Division

July 26, 2017

In re DAVID T., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
v.
DAVID T., Defendant and Appellant. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

         Superior Court Alameda County No. C-163423 Hon. Charles Smiley Trial Judge

          Attorney for Appellant: East Bay Community Law Center Katherine R. Weisburd

          Attorneys for Respondent Attorney General of California Kamala Harris Kathleen A. Kenealy Acting Attorney General of California Gerald A. Engler Chief Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey M. Laurence Senior Assistant Attorney General Eric D. Share Supervising Deputy Attorney General Huy T. Luong Deputy Attorney General

          Kline, P.J.

         Appellant David T. appeals from the juvenile court's denial of his motion to seal his juvenile records, brought pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 781.[1] He contends that because the court granted his motion to dismiss the petition arising from a 1995 robbery adjudication, pursuant to section 782, the court erred in concluding it could not also seal his records due to a limitation found in section 781. We conclude that because the court's order setting aside the robbery finding and dismissing the petition under 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. We will therefore reverse and remand the matter to the juvenile court with directions to grant the motion to seal appellant's juvenile records.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of appellant's participation in the armed robbery of a pawnshop in Oakland in December 1994, when he was 17 years old. In January 1995, the juvenile court sustained a robbery allegation (Pen. Code, § 211) against appellant. Appellant was committed to the California Youth Authority (now known as the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Facilities), where he spent three and one-half years. He was honorably discharged from parole in 2002.

         On three prior occasions, appellant petitioned to have the records pertaining to his robbery offense sealed pursuant to section 781. On each of those occasions, the court denied his petition.

         On January 19, 2016, at age 38, appellant filed an amended motion to set aside the robbery finding and dismiss the petition, pursuant to section 782, and to seal his juvenile records, pursuant to section 781.

         On April 8, 2016, the court granted the motion to set aside the robbery finding and dismiss the petition on the ground that it was “in the interest of justice and welfare to do so.” (See § 782.) The court, however, denied appellant's request to seal his juvenile records, pursuant to section 781, subdivision (a)(1)(D).

         On May 27, 2016, appellant filed a notice of appeal.

         DISCUSSION

         Appellant contends that since the juvenile court had set aside the 1995 robbery finding and dismissed the petition pursuant to section 782, it erred in concluding it could not seal the related records due to a limitation set forth in section 781, subdivision (a)(1)(D).[2]

         I. Trial Court Background

         In his briefing in the trial court, appellant stated that, since his juvenile adjudication some 20 years earlier, he had, inter alia, worked with local youth at the Oakland YMCA, run his own janitorial business, worked as a stagehand on various productions, and worked as a limousine and Uber driver. In 2008, he had trained for months to become a firefighter and emergency medical technician before being told that his juvenile record would be a bar to joining the fire service.[3] Appellant's ultimate goal was to work with at risk youth fulltime as a mentor and counselor, but he was afraid that his juvenile record would prevent him from passing a background check or obtaining needed certification.

         At the hearing in this matter, the juvenile court explained its rationale for granting the motion to set aside the robbery finding and dismiss the petition under section 782: “The court finds and the minutes will reflect that the interest of justice and welfare of the petitioner... requires such a dismissal. He is not a minor, the offense having occurred... over two decades ago.... [¶] To reach this conclusion, the court has considered the extreme length of time between the finding that was made by the juvenile court back when [appellant] was a minor. And in the two decades that have occurred since then, there is no evidence that [he] has suffered any further convictions. He appears to have led a law-abiding life.”

         The court, however, denied appellant's request to seal his juvenile records because it found applicable the bar in section 781 to sealing the records of a person found to have committed certain offenses, including robbery, at age 14 or older. The court explained: “I disagree with the argument of [appellant] that upon granting the request to set aside the juvenile adjudication that that has a retroactive effect that would in effect circumvent the application of this rule under Section 781[, subdivision] (a)(1)(d). [¶] The court is specifically concerned that in order to follow the law which provides that notwithstanding any other law the court shall not order the person's records sealed still applies to [appellant] [sic] and for ...


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