This article provides a brief overview of what Texas criminal records can be removed by an individual. The focus here is on eligibility; that is, what a person can seal, expunge, or non-disclose from their criminal history.
First, your attorney must understand your criminal history. Second, he must determine whether you were a juvenile or an adult when the offense occurred.
In common usage, a juvenile may mean 16 years old and under; 18 years old and under; or 21 years old and under. However, under Texas law, a juvenile is ten to sixteen years old. An adult is seventeen and older. Sealing of records governs clearing offenses that occurred as a juvenile. Expunction and non-disclosure are the two main mechanisms to clear an offense that occurred as an adult.
Expunction, non-disclosure, and sealing of records legally entitle a person to deny that the arrest occurred. All three remedies hide the record from the public.
Expunction, which is governed by Chapter 55 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, basically applies to cases that are dismissed without punishment; pardoned by the governor; or acquitted by a jury. Expunction also applies to a completed deferred adjudication on a Class C misdemeanor. Expunction is a right; if the person is eligible, a judge does not have discretion to deny an expunction. Expunction is the strongest remedy of the three mechanisms and results in a record being erased.
Non-disclosure applies to completed deferred adjudications on crimes punishable by jail time. Some misdemeanors can be non-disclosed immediately after completion of community supervision; some misdemeanors require a two year waiting period. Felonies require a five year waiting period. Some offenses like crimes involving family violence are not eligible for non-disclosure. A judge has discretion whether to grant or deny a non-disclosure. Non-disclosure results in a record being hidden from the public. However, the record is not destroyed and several entities designated by the legislature can see a non-disclosed record. Non-Disclosure is laid out in §411.081 of the Texas Government Code.
Sealing of records, found in § 58.003 of the Juvenile Justice Code, governs concealing a juvenile record. Sealing of records results in a juvenile record being sealed with the clerk of the court. It is not as strong as expunction but stronger than non-disclosure. Sealing of records is also available to more offenses and dispositions than expunction and nondisclosure. Thus, while an adult conviction can never be expunged or non-disclosed, many juvenile adjudications can be sealed.