Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records in Texas
In the case of juvenile criminal records, Texas law lets you seal some convictions after a waiting period. Another law lets you expunge some criminal records (i.e., minor alcohol violations) handled in municipal or justice courts.
To ask the court to seal your case, you will need to go back to the county where the original criminal proceedings were handled. You must have been between the ages of 10 and 17 when arrested, taken into custody or charged (includes Class A or B misdemeanors or any felony). Your record can be usually sealed when you reach 21.
Not all records can be sealed. If you received a determinate sentence, the records cannot be sealed. Aggravated felonies and sex offenses cannot be sealed.
Some matters can be sealed quite easily. Cases where you were not adjudicated, with no finding of delinquent conduct, there is no waiting period to have the record sealed. You may petition the court for sealing immediately. Others are more difficult to seal. If you had misdemeanor adjudication with a finding of delinquent conduct, you must wait at least 2 years after the completion of your deferral and have no subsequent convictions to file a Petition. If you had a felony adjudication, you must be at least 21 years old, had no subsequent convictions, nor had the case transferred to criminal court, nor had any felony convictions since the age of 17, and the records were not later used as evidence in the punishment stage of a subsequent criminal trial.
Sealing is discretionary by the court. Because the court does not have to seal the record, this is where the services of an attorney would be crucial as he or she would show a variety of evidence (i.e., recommendations, declarations, and so forth) that the record was a product of a youthful mistake or stupidity, rather than the beginning of adult criminal behavior.
If a court orders the sealing of your juvenile offense, all records of that offense may also be eligible to be "expunged", a broader protection than sealing (TX. Fam. Code. Title3. Chapter 58.003). You may petition the court to order the destruction of any sealed juvenile record if:
- your record does not involve the commission of a felony or misdemeanor for which jail time could have been given;
- at least 5 years have passed since your 16th birthday;
- and you have not has been convicted of a felony.
Effect of sealing: Sealing your juvenile record in Texas means that the matter is treated as if it doesn't exist. The advantage of sealing is that you can truthfully say that you were not arrested or charged. This is especially valuable when a job application, educational or occupational licensing application asks, "Have you ever been arrested, convicted or adjudicated of a crime?" You can answer "no" on any questions on all of these applications. If a judge, lawyer, or police officer is asked about you, they are required by law to respond as if your record never existed. It is also removed from the Criminal History Database, so your name will not come up if someone searches for it.
A sealed juvenile record can only be opened with the juvenile court's permission:
- to inspect your own records;
- if you are subsequently tried on another felony ;
- on application for a license to carry a concealed handgun.
Expunction of juvenile records in Municipal and Justice Courts
In Texas, municipal and justice courts have jurisdiction of lesser offenses, including all Class C misdemeanor, non-jail time, cases involving juveniles (with the exception of public intoxication). Additionally, juvenile courts are authorized to transfer civil truancy cases to the municipal court and justice courts.
Texas law provides for the expunction of certain juvenile offenses that are heard in these courts. Juvenile record expunction allows for the complete and entire removal of any trace of your juvenile record.
You have the right to have these records expunged if:
- You are at least 17 years old;
- You were at least 10 years old but younger than 17 at the time of the offense; and
- You were convicted of not more than 1 offense punishable only by a fine.
There are specific provisions for expunction of offenses relating to the possession and consumption of alcohol, the possession of cigarettes and tobacco products, and for failure to attend school. The clerk of the specific municipal or justice court can explain this further to you.
For the law on the expunction of these crimes, see Tx. Code of Crim. Pro., Art. 45.0216.
For more articles on the Texas expunction process, click on the following: