HB 1651 states that the Washington State Constitution establishes that the public has the right to an open court system. However, the public’s right of access to court records is not absolute and may be limited to protect other interests. The legislature intends that juvenile court proceedings be openly administered, but that the records of these proceedings be presumptively closed and not disseminated.
The bill delineates circumstances by which records are to remain confidential and when they are to be open.
Second Substitute: Provides that juvenile offender records are confidential unless the juvenile has been adjudicated for a sex offense, a serious violent offense, or the offenses of Arson in the first degree, Kidnapping in the second degree, Assault of a Child in the second degree, Malicious Placement of an Explosive, or Leading Organized Crime; the court may release juvenile records for inspection upon good cause shown. Provides that confidential juvenile offender records may not be published, distributed, or sold.
Provides that the provisions of the act are prospective and retrospective; and the act takes effect on the date that the Administrative Office of the Courts fully implements a court data system that allows juvenile records to be categorized as confidential.
Final Bill: As passed by the Senate, the bill does the following:
- Requires courts to hold regular hearings to seal certain juvenile court records, which will occur administratively unless the court receives an objection to sealing or the court notes a compelling reason not to seal, in which case the court will hold a contested sealing hearing.
- Requires courts to seal certain juvenile court records administratively after an individual turns 18 and completes probation, confinement, or parole.
- Excludes most serious offenses, sex offenses, and certain felony drug charges from this regular sealing process.
- Requires an individual to have completed the terms of disposition, including financial obligation to be eligible for this regular sealing process.