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In re Dean W.

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division

November 3, 2017

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

         Appeal from an order of the Superior Court of Orange County No. DL049617-001, Cheryl L. Leininger, Judge. Reversed with directions.

          Lindsey M. Ball, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Barry Carlton and Heidi Salerno, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

          FYBEL, J.

         Introduction

         The juvenile court found that Dean W. (the ward) had committed a misdemeanor violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, driving under the influence. The court later found that the ward had successfully completed his probation and terminated his wardship. The court granted the ward's request to seal his juvenile court records, except for one document regarding his acknowledgment that he knew driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol was dangerous to human life.

         The Welfare and Institutions Code allows minors who have completed their rehabilitation to have “all” records of their juvenile adjudication sealed. The Vehicle Code authorizes criminal prosecutors to use a criminal defendant's acknowledgment of the dangerousness of driving under the influence as evidence of implied malice in a later second degree murder case. We publish this case because, based on the words of the statutes and their underlying purposes and policies, the ward's right to have all of his juvenile records sealed includes the ward's acknowledgement of the dangerousness of driving under the influence. Therefore, we reverse the juvenile court's order, with directions to seal the entirety of the ward's records, to ensure that other government agencies specified in the statute seal the ward's records, and to consider whether other government agencies also be ordered to do so.

         Statement of Facts and Procedural History

         In the juvenile court, the ward admitted to misdemeanor driving while under the influence, in violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (b). He was declared a ward of the court and placed on probation. The ward signed an advisement pursuant to Vehicle Code section 23593 and People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290, 296 (Watson), which stated: “You are hereby advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate/drive a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and, as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.” The juvenile court also recited the Watson advisement at the hearing at which wardship was declared and probation was imposed.

         Twenty-three months later, the juvenile court found the ward had successfully completed probation and terminated his wardship. The ward requested to have his juvenile records sealed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 786. The district attorney argued that sealing the ward's signed Watson advisement would violate public policy. The court ordered that the ward's juvenile record would be sealed, with the exception of the Watson advisement. The ward timely filed a notice of appeal.

         Discussion

         The issue before us is whether the trial court properly decided not to seal the ward's juvenile record in full. This question requires us to analyze two statutes-Welfare and Institutions Code section 786 and Vehicle Code section 23593. We review the matter de novo. (In re Joshua R. (2017) 7 Cal.App.5th 864, 867.)

         1. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 786

         Welfare and Institutions Code section 786, which makes the sealing of juvenile records mandatory when the juvenile has successfully completed his or her probation or term of supervision, is intended to further the goals of rehabilitation and reintegration by giving juveniles the opportunity to clear their records so that they may pursue education, employment, or military service. Section 786 provides: “(a) If a person who has been alleged or found to be a ward of the juvenile court satisfactorily completes (1) an informal program of supervision pursuant to Section 654.2, (2) probation under Section 725, or (3) a term of probation for any offense, the court shall order the petition dismissed. The court shall order sealed all records pertaining to that dismissed petition in the custody of the juvenile court, and in the custody of law enforcement agencies, the probation department, or the Department of Justice.... [ΒΆ] (b) Upon the court's order of dismissal of the petition, the arrest and other proceedings in the case shall be deemed not to have occurred and the person who was the subject of the petition may reply accordingly to an inquiry ...


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