Legislature close to allowing more sealing of juvenile records

Crosscut archive image.

Rep. Ruth Kagi, longtime advocate for at-risk youth.

The Washington House passed a bill 95-2 Monday that would require a court to seal the record of a juvenile offender if the youth makes restitution of at least 80 percent. Offenders would also be allowed to have files sealed when they can show a good faith effort to make restitution.

Under the measure, the restitution amount, which also may include court costs and other financial obligations, can be converted to hours of community service at minimum wage. The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma.

Law enforcement agencies investigating a new crime would still be able to gain access to the sealed records.

Washington is one of the few states where the laws have allowed routine publication of juvenile records, a practice that makes it very hard for offenders to find jobs or even rent apartments. The Legislature last year passed a bill allowing some juvenile records to be sealed, but it has had little if any practical effect because it required payment of all restitution.

“Passing this bill is a crucial step to holding juveniles accountable, but also provides them a second chance," said Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, who introduced a similar bill in the House.

O'Ban's bill goes back to the Senate because the House did some minor tweaking to it.

  

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John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government. He can be followed on Twitter: @johnstang_8