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California Juvenile's Record May Be Sealed and Still Prohibit Gun Ownership Until 30

On January 19, 2016, Division Three of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, affirmed in part and reversed in part a trial court's decision not to seal a juvenile's record on the basis that doing so would frustrate the provision of another statute that prohibits possession or ownership of a firearm until the age of 30.

A juvenile court dismissed Joshua R.'s juvenile adjudication for several misdemeanor offenses he committed in 2014. The court, however, refused to order his record sealed as required by Welfare and Institutions Code section 786. The court ordered Joshua R.'s probation terminated but declined to seal his record because another section of state law (§ 29820, subd. (d)) mandates that any juvenile adjudged a ward of the court "shall not" own or possess a firearm until the age of 30 "notwithstanding any other provision of law."

Joshua R. argued that the trial court erred in refusing to seal his record; because sealing his record would erase his adjudications and thus relieve him of the burden of complying with § 29820(d). The attorney general, on the other hand, took the position that the record could not be sealed due to the outstanding condition of probation. The appellate court split the difference, holding that Joshua R.'s record can be sealed, while also enforcing the firearm ban. "We believe the current state of the law requires this outcome and furthers the primary purpose of both statutes," the court wrote.

The firearm prohibition can still be enforced even if the record is sealed, the court held. Finding that the two statutes can be reconciled, the appellate court said Welfare and Institutions Code section 786 and § 29820 (d) can be harmonized and do not necessarily conflict. The firearm prohibition until Joshua R.'s 30th birthday is thus exempt from the requirement of destruction for the limited purpose of determining "eligibility to acquire a firearm," the court found.

"Thus, while the rest of the record must be sealed and destroyed by the date the court specifies in the order it will issue after remand," the firearm prohibition can be enforced until Joshua R. turns 30. The court thus reversed the part of the trial court's order denying Joshua R.'s petition to seal his record, affirmed the remaining parts of the order, and remanded for further proceedings. See: In re Joshua R., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law; The People v. Joshua R., No. G052965 (C.A. 4th Dist. CA), January 19, 2016.