T. v. Superior Court, S.F. 22777

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation94 Cal.Rptr. 813,4 Cal.3d 767,484 P.2d 981
Decision Date06 May 1971
Docket NumberS.F. 22777
Parties, 484 P.2d 981 T.N.G., a Minor, et al., Petitioners, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF the CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Respondent; The PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest.

Kenneth Hecht, Peter Bull, Armando Menocal, Michael Sorgen, Oscar Williams and William Turner, San Francisco, for petitioners.

No appearance for respondent.

Thomas C. Lynch and Evelle J. Younger, Attys. Gen., John T. Murphy, Derald E. Granberg and Louise H. Renne, Deputy Attys. Gen., for real party in interest.

TOBRINER, Justice.

In this case we hold that a juvenile 1 who has been temporarily detained by juvenile court authorities and subsequently released without further proceedings does not become subject to a record which should be described as an 'arrest' or 'detention' record. In filling out forms for applications for educational or occupational opportunities such a juvenile need not state that he has been 'arrested' or 'detained.'

Petitioners ask for a more sweeping holding: they ask that the records themselves be immediately sealed and expurgated; they would accomplish this end by holding unconstitutional Welfare and Institutions Code section 781, which establishes a five-year waiting period for such sealing and specifies procedures to obtain it. Petitioners contend that the section denies the equal protection of the law and due process. We believe, however, as we shall explain, that such a charge does not stand and that the retention of the records of even the innocent juvenile serves certain salutary purposes.

To protect the juvenile who has been temporarily held and released we need not hold Welfare and Institutions Code section 781 unconstitutional; we need only invoke the provisions and policy of the existing law. Both the underlying policy of the Juvenile Court Law which enfolds its procedures within the cloak of confidentiality, and the careful exclusion of the language of arrest as to such an innocent juvenile from the sanctions of that law, support the conclusion that he need not state that he has been arrested or detained. Nor does that law permit the authorities to release to third persons any such information as to arrest or detention.

1. The facts.

At about 9:45 a.m. on April 15, 1970, three youths were distributing anti-war leaflets outside Balboa High School in San Francisco. Two of the youngsters, petitioners in the present proceeding, were then and are now 15 and 16 years old. The third youth was 18 years of age. Two San Francisco police officers in civilian dress, viewing the three engaging in these activities, took them into custody for allegedly loitering near a school in violation of Penal Code section 653g. 2

The officers transported the three juveniles to the Ingleside police station where they were held for about two and one half hours. At about 11:20 a.m. the police officers completed a standard 'Incident Report' describing the conduct of the youths and the circumstances of their detention. The 18-year-old youth was taken to the local jail facility and later released. The two petitioners were sent to the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center. At about 2 p.m. a juvenile probation officer considered the 'Incident Report' and determined to release petitioners from custody. (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 628.) Later that afternoon, the parents came to the center and took the children home.

The juvenile probation department filed no petition for wardship or any other formal charges against the two petitioners. Neither youth was ever taken before the juvenile court or placed on formal or informal probation. (See Welf. & Inst.Code, § 654.) Neither petitioner has ever been detained, arrested, charged with any criminal conduct, or appeared before any court on any charges, but for the incident of April 15th.

On June 26, 1970, the two petitioners sought an order from the San Francisco Juvenile Court sealing their detention records pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 781. 3 On July 1, 1970 Judge Francis W. Mayer held a hearing on the petition for sealing, at which the petitioners, their attorney, one of their parents, and a representative of the Juvenile Probation Department appeared. After hearing testimony of the petitioners and argument of counsel, the trial court denied the petition for sealing.

Although the trial court did not prepare a written memorandum of decision, the transcript of the hearing reveals several reasons for the court's decision. Firstly, the trial court upheld the constitutionality of the five-year waiting period prescribed by section 781 before sealing may occur. The court observed, 'Now, I think there is a reason why the Legislature feels these records should not be sealed, and that is because on many occasions young persons come back before this court while they are still juveniles. And I think that in trying to eventually help these young men that these records should be made available to the Probation Officers and knowledgeable to the Court, so that if they come back that all of these matters can be considered in determining what is to the best interests of the minors.'

The court secondly questioned petitioners' contention that they would be subject to the stigma of an 'arrest' record or would be compelled to admit that they had been 'arrested' in applications for employment or college. The court pointed out that Welfare and Institutions Code section 625, under which the petitioners were temporarily detained, avoids the use of the term 'arrest.' Hence, they may properly deny that they had been 'arrested' and thus not suffer the consequences of an 'arrest.' 4

On August 24, 1970, the San Francisco Municipal Court dismissed charges against the 18-year-old for allegedly violating Penal Code Section 653g. (Pen.Code, § 1385) Two days later, pursuant to Penal Code section 851.7, 5 the 18-year-old youth filed an application to seal the record of his arrest. Since section 851.7 contains no waiting period for sealing misdemeanor arrest records of youths who are under 21 years old and whose charges in criminal proceedings are dismissed, the San Francisco Municipal Court ordered that all official records of his arrest be sealed on September 3, 1970. In this mandate proceeding we consider whether the record of petitioners' detention should also be sealed. 6

2. The Juvenile Court Law protects a juvenile who has been detained but who has never been the subject of wardship proceedings from the disclosure of his 'arrest' or 'detention' record to employers or other third parties and from the grave consequences of such a 'juvenile record.'

In the present proceedings petitioners seek an order of the court sealing the records of their short, and apparently unwarranted, detentions. Primarily they hope to relieve themselves of the obligation of disclosing this 'detention' or 'arrest' in applications for college, employment, military service, business licenses, insurance, and other applications that line the threshold of future opportunities. We believe, however, that sealing is unnecessary to achieve the practical relief they seek and that such relief may rest upon the provisions, and the legislative policy of confidentiality, of the Juvenile Court Law.

The purpose of the Juvenile Court Law has long been 'to secure for each minor under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court such care and guidance, preferably in his own home, as will serve the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical welfare of the minor and the best interests of the State * * *.' (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 502.) The process of the juvenile court involves determination of the needs of the child and society, provision for guidance and treatment for the juvenile, and protection of the child from punishment and stigma.

In recent years the courts, while preserving the beneficial aspects of the juvenile process, have held that certain procedural protections must be observed in order to guarantee the fundamental fairness of juvenile proceedings. (In re Winship (1970) 397 U.S. 358, 365--367, 372--374, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368; In re Gault (1967) 387 U.S. 1, 12--14, 74, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527; Kent v. United States (1966) 383 U.S. 541, 554--556, 86 S.Ct. 1045, 16 L.Ed.2d 84; Joe Z. v. Superior Court (1970) 3 Cal.3d 797, 801--802, 91 Cal.Rptr. 594, 478 P.2d 26; in re William M. (1970) 3 Cal.3d 16, 25--26 & fn. 17, 89 Cal.Rptr. 33, 473 P.2d 737.) Gault, Winship and the other decisions which insure such procedural fairness in juvenile proceedings do not, however, suggest a surrender of the salutary protections of the juvenile court system. As we observed in In re Dennis M., supra, 70 Cal.2d 444, 456, 75 Cal.Rptr. 1, 8, 450 P.2d 296, 303, 'even after Gault' juvenile court proceedings 'retain a Sui generis character' and are 'conducted for the protection and benefit of the youth in question.'

In order to protect the juvenile from the stigma of criminality often attached to adult penal proceedings, the Legislature has carefully avoided the use of the term 'arrest' for the type of detention to which the petitioners were subjected in the present case. Welfare and Institutions Code section 625, provides that juveniles are not subject to 'arrest,' but may only be taken into 'temporary custody.' The basic procedures of the juvenile court, as set forth in sections 600 through 660 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, similarly avoid the term 'arrest.' 7 Section 503 declares that juvenile wardship 'shall not be deemed a conviction of a crime for any purpose, nor shall a proceeding in the juvenile court be deemed a criminal proceeding.' Although the courts 8 and the Legislature 9 have not been completely consistent in their terminology, the legislative purpose and intent to spare juveniles from the untoward and unjustified consequences of an 'arrest' record appears clear. 10 (Se...

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