Juvenile Record Can Be Sealed, But It Isn’t Automatic
Today I was able to help a young lady seal her juvenile records. I get calls all the time from young adults, or parents asking why something from years ago is popping up on a criminal background check. The answer is, juvenile records are not automatically sealed.
There is a system in Texas that makes it harder for individuals to get someone’s juvenile criminal record, but the records are not sealed automatically, so it is possible to have them pop up (and it does happen often). This particular client was about to start a professional school program, so record sealing was very important to help her get her career started.
Can My Juvenile Record Be Sealed?
Many people ask me if their record can be sealed. The answer is no, you are not eligible to get your record sealed if:
You have received a determinate sentence (which is basically a sentence where is starts off in TYC with the possibility of moving to the adult prison TDCJ) adjudication for one of these types of cases:
- Murder, Attempted Murder, Manslaughter
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Assault or Aggravated Robbery
- Causing Injury to a Child, Elderly Person, or Disabled Person
- Deadly Conduct with a Firearm
- Big drug case (usually more than 200 grams)
- Criminal Solicitation
- Indecency with a Child
- Conspiracy to commit any of the above 5
- You have to register to the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program.
- Your case was certified, and you were charged as an adult
- You have engaged in “habitual felony conduct” (which is usually 3 cases over 3rd degree felony) for which you received a determinate sentence.
If your case is eligible to be sealed, you file your petition with the court where you were charged, and request a hearing date. At the hearing date the judge will decide whether or not to grant the sealing. In my cases I always contact the Assistant District Attorney in the case to ask if they are opposed or unopposed to my petition. If they are unopposed it is usually very easy, and the Judge signs no questions asked. But if it is opposed you must be prepared to give the reasons why an individual deserves to have their record sealed (both legally and in the interest of justice).
Juvenile Record Sealing: What Happens Next
Once the judge signs the order, I send certified court copies of the order to all of the agencies that have my clients records and they are given up to 61 days to comply. Usually the agencies comply much quicker than 61 days, but they are given up to that amount of time.
Juvenile record sealing can be confusing, but it is very important to protect your record!
Petition of Non-Disclosure Case for an Out of State Client
It was a full day in the criminal courthouse today. A petition of non-disclosure case started my day off doing at one of the county courts. My client was from out of state, so I had been working on this case for a while. Sometimes when you are out of state, and depending on the situation, the judges will work with defense attorneys and waive the appearance of the defendant. In this case, I told the judge we were simply trying to seal the record and the judge was willing to waive his appearance as long as the district attorney handling the case didn’t have any objections to the petition we were filing.
What is a Petition of Non-Disclosure?
A petition of non-disclosure is a special type of sealing of a criminal record that helps people who successfully complete a deferred adjudication. Not all cases qualify, if anyone has a specific question on a particular case you can call me or see the list of cases that are disqualified on my website. If a petition of non-disclosure is granted, the record is hidden from the general public, but it will always be visible to the government, governmental agencies, some places that are funded by the government, and law enforcement. So while it is definitely not full proof, it does seal the record for most jobs, apartments, schools, etc.
Criminal Information on the Internet
In today’s world of the internet, there are some websites that compile criminal databases and post information online. In my experience, some of these websites are cooperative if you contact them after the judge signs an order of non-disclosure (or expunction). It is always best to contact these websites, because if you don’t, then the information of the arrest is there for everyone to see.
In this particular case the district attorney’s did not have any objections since it was fairly straight forward and by law my client was eligible. The judge reviewed all of the information and signed the order prohibiting the release of his criminal record. So that is great for my client, as he is about to start looking for new jobs. This is just a small step in letting him move on from the mistake he made many years ago.
I also went on to court with a few other cases, but they were pretty much just reset for discovery purposes.
- Petition of Non-Disclosure – Granted
- DWI – Reset to try to get into the pre-trial intervention program
- Terroristic Threat – Reset to get the evidence
- DWI – Reset to wait on results from a toxicology lab
As an attorney who does a lot of work in this area, I have learned that many people are confused by the difference between Sealing a Record, a Petition for Non-Disclosure and Expunctions. People typically call and tell me they want to expunge their record. But there are different things that different people are eligible for.
Record sealing is for juvenile crimes. In the state of Texas you can seal most criminal records. This ensures that nothing is visible once the individual starts applying for jobs in the future. The big difference with juvenile crimes as opposed to adult crimes is that you may be eligible to seal your juvenile record even if you were convicted of the crime. In adult court, if you are convicted there is no possibility of getting the crimes off of your record.
The only time a juvenile record will not be sealed is if the juvenile:
- Received a determinate sentence
- Is currently registered as a sex offender
- Was certified and tried as an adult
Some lawyers do not tell their clients that they must seal their juvenile records, and some people assume the case is automatically sealed, but that is not the case.
Non-disclosures are for individuals who were placed on deferred adjudication and completed the deferred adjudication successfully. A non-disclosure will make your record hidden (non-disclosed) for the general public. However, governmental agencies and law enforcement will be able to see the record for the rest of your life. Non-disclosures are good protection from jobs/apartments/schools, etc that might hold a case against you even though it was dismissed.
There are some misdemeanor crimes that are eligible immediately for a non-disclosure, others require a 2 year waiting period. Felonies that are eligible have a 5 year waiting period from the day your deferred adjudication is terminated. For a personal consultation, please call our office.
You are NOT ELIGIBLE TO A NON-DISCLOSURE if you have been previously convicted of or placed on probation for any of the following:
- Sexual performance by a child
- Possession of production of child pornography
- Unlawful restraint, kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping of anyone under the age of 17
- Attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these listed offenses
- Capital murder
- Indecency with a child
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Prohibited sexual conduct (incest)
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Compelling prostitution
- Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual
- Abandoning or endangering a child
- Violation of protective order or magistrate’s order
- Burglary of a habitation with the intent to commit any of the above offenses
- Any other offense involving family violence
You also will not be eligible to get a non-disclosure if you were convicted of another crime after you finished your deferred adjudication.
Even though your case might have been dismissed, no billed, or if you were found not guilty the arrest record is still visible to the general public.
To combat this, the State of Texas allows you to destroy (expunge) your criminal record. If you have an adult arrest record, you can have it expunged if:
- You went to trial on your case and you were found NOT GUILTY
- Your case was dismissed by the State (not through deferred adjudication)
- You complete deferred adjudication probation for a CLASS “C” misdemeanor
- Another person was accidently arrested under your name
- You are victorious in an appeal in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
- You receive a pardon from the President of the USA or the Governor of Texas
Expunctions are complete destructions of the criminal record, to where no one should know anything ever happened to you unless they have a personal recollection of the situation. If you are confused on whether or not you are eligible just call our office and we can walk you through the options.
If you read my older blog entry on Non-Disclosures, you know that a non-disclosure is a type of sealing of a record for an adult who successfully completed Deferred Adjudication. On a deferred adjudication the case is dismissed upon completion, there is never a conviction, and the arrest record can be partially non-disclosed to the general public (but not the government or law enforcement). The reason you need a non-disclosure is because if someone does a background check on you they will be able to see that you pled guilty, were giving deferred adjudication, and your case was dismissed. The problem with that is that anyone who knows anything about the law is going to know that you pled guilty, and that the case was only dismissed because you did probation. This can be a problem when you are applying for jobs, schools, apartments, etc. So Non-Disclosures are very important for your record. The problem is the rules are confusing.
I get a lot of calls about Non-Disclosures and what the waiting periods are before you are eligible to proceed. On a felony case, if your case is eligible, you have to wait 5 years after you finish your deferred adjudication. You will be eligible after the 5 years as long as you have not been convicted of another crime before you file your petition for non-disclosure.
Misdemeanors are a little different. Some misdemeanors are eligible immediately, meaning you can try to get a non-disclosure the day after your deferred adjudication completion is official. But there are other cases that you are not eligible to file your petition until 2 years after the day that your case gets dismissed.
There are the cases the misdemeanor charges that carry a 2 year waiting period before you can get a non-disclosure:
- Abuse of Corpse
- Advertising for placement of child
- Aiding suicide
- Cruelty to Animals
- Deadly Conduct
- Destruction of Flag
- Discharge of Firearm
- Disorderly Conduct
- Disrupting meeting or procession
- Dog Fighting
- False Alarm or Report
- Harboring runaway child
- Hoax Bombs
- Indecent Exposure
- Interference with Emergency Telephone Call
- Leaving a Child in a Vehicle
- Making a Firearm Accessible to a Child
- Obstructing Highway or Other Passageway
- Possession, Manufacture, Transport, Repair, or Sale of Switchblade Knife or Knuckles
- Public Lewdness
- Silent or Abusive Calls to 911 Service
- Terroristic Threat
- Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon
- Unlawful Possession of Firearm
- Unlawful restraint
- Unlawful transfer of certain weapons
- Violation of protective order preventing offense caused by bias or prejudice
So if you were charged with any of these crimes you are not allowed to apply for the non-disclosure for 2 years. If your crime is not listed then it is immediately eligible (unless it’s one of the types of crimes that is never eligible – see my past blog on non-disclosures for a list of those).
If after reading this you are still confused, please feel free to give me a call and I will give you a more personal consultation.