An Introduction to Clearing up the Juvenile Criminal Record

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.


Where to Start?

First, your attorney must understand your criminal history. Second, he must determine whether you were a juvenile or an adult when the offense occurred.

Who is a Juvenile?

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.

The Effect

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.



A Summary of the Three Actions



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.

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