Washington Court Can’t Seal Juvenile Record Before Individual Restitution Is Paid

A Washington juvenile record may be sealed if certain circumstances are met.  The court schedules an administrative sealing hearing at the disposition hearing, if the juvenile is eligible.  The hearing is to occur after the last of the following: the juvenile’s 18th birthday, the anticipated end of the juvenile’s probation, and the juvenile’s anticipated release from confinement or completion of parole.  Certain offenses, including “most serious offenses,” certain drug offenses, and certain sex offenses, are not eligible for a sealing hearing.  The court is to seal the record if it finds at the time of the hearing that the juvenile is no longer on supervision for the case and has fully paid restitution to the person named in the order, excluding any restitution owed to an entity providing insurance or health care coverage.  If the court finds the juvenile is still on supervision, then it is to continue the hearing within 30 days after the anticipated completion of the supervision. If the court finds the juvenile is not still on supervision for the case but has failed to fully pay restitution to the person named in the order, the court is to deny sealing the record and issue an order that specifies the restitution that is unpaid to the person and directs the juvenile on how to pursue sealing the record.  RCW 13.50.260.  The state recently appealed the sealing of a juvenile record, arguing the juvenile had failed to fully pay restitution.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the juvenile pleaded guilty to second degree malicious mischief and agreed to pay restitution.  The court ordered him to pay $1,233.17 in restitution and set a date for a hearing to seal the record.

The state argued at that hearing that the juvenile failed to fully pay restitution so the record could not be sealed pursuant to RCW 13.50.260(1)(d).  The juvenile court still sealed the record, finding the juvenile was eligible for the record to be sealed because he had “paid in full the amount of restitution owing,” but also that “the remaining amount of restitution . . . is $613.17.”

The state appealed, arguing the juvenile court had no authority to seal the record before restitution was paid.  The juvenile argued the state could not appeal an order to seal a juvenile record.

The state argued the order was subject to appeal because it was a final decision. The state may appeal from a final decision “that in effect abates, discontinues, or determines the case . . .”  RAP 2.2(b)(1).

The state argued the order sealing the record ended the victims’ and court’s ability to collect restitution and discontinued other issues that may have been pending in the same matter.

The appeals court disagreed, pointing out RCW 13.50.260(10), which permits county clerks to interact with juvenile respondents and restitution recipients to collect outstanding legal financial obligations after the juvenile record has been sealed.  The appeals court also noted the judgment that ordered restitution was enforceable for 10 years pursuant to RCW 13.40.192(1).  The case was therefore not effectively abated or discontinued by the sealing order.

The state argued alternatively that, if it could not appeal as a matter of right, the appeals court should exercise discretionary review.  The appeals court may grant a motion for discretionary review when the trial court has “departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings . . . .” RAP 2.3(b)(3).  Discretionary review is appropriate where the court has ignored the unambiguous language in the statute.

The court must seal the juvenile court record if it “finds . . . the respondent . . . has paid the full amount of restitution” ordered to be paid to an individual victim.  The juvenile court must deny sealing the record if it finds the juvenile has not fully paid the restitution owed.  RCW 13.50.260(1)(f)(i). The court must specify in its order the amount of restitution that has not been paid and direct the juvenile on how to seal their record once they have made the full payment.

The appeals court agreed with the state that the statute was unambiguous and concluded that a juvenile court only has the authority to seal a juvenile record when supervision has been completed and restitution has been fully paid.

The appeals court reversed and remanded the case to the juvenile court to vacate the sealing order.

This case serves as a reminder that restitution must be paid to an individual before the court can seal a juvenile record.  If your child is facing criminal charges, an experienced Washington juvenile defense attorney can fight to protect their rights.  Schedule a consultation with Blair & Kim, PLLC, by calling (206) 622-6562.


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