Sealing Adult Criminal Records—Nondisclosure Orders
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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021
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If your case in Texas is ineligible for an expunction, you will have to obtain an “Order of Non-Disclosure”.
Effect: Sealing is different from an expunction. A Texas expunction order requires all your criminal records information to be shredded and physically destroyed by all police and government agencies, leaving no documented evidence of your criminal past. You can deny under oath that an arrest occurred, and you can even deny the expunction itself. This is not true for non-disclosure orders. An order of non-disclosure does not physically destroy any of your criminal records. But it does restrict when and to whom your criminal information can be released to and viewed. An Order for Non-Disclosure prohibits the criminal justice agencies from turning over your criminal history to the general public, private screening and background search companies, credit reporting agencies, employers, landlords, and private investigators, etc. But the information would be seen by law enforcement, state licensing and regulatory agencies, schools, hospitals and state, county and municipal hiring authorities. You cannot deny the offense under oath.
Sealing is not an automatic or simple process. You have to meet all the qualifications, present a Petition for Non-Disclosure to the Court where you received deferred adjudication probation, and a judge still has to approve the non-disclosure. The decision to grant the request is discretionary with the judge—meaning the Judge may not support your petition if it is not “in the best interest of justice”. This is significant. You need to hire a lawyer to do this because there are many pitfalls and the law is complicated and complex in this area.
Waiting period: There is a waiting period before you can file, which varies, depending on how your case was concluded. For most misdemeanors, an individual who was placed on deferred adjudication (i.e. probation) and who case was dismissed on completion of probation may file for an order of Non Disclosure immediately after probation ends and there are no subsequent convictions or deferred adjudication (traffic tickets excepted).
For other Class A or Class B misdemeanors (such as assault, unlawful restraint, certain sexual offenses, disorderly conduct), you must wait 2 years after completing deferred adjudication with no subsequent convictions. For felonies, the waiting period is 5 years.
Offenses that are excluded from nondisclosure: You are ineligible for non-disclosure if you have been convicted or placed on deferred adjudication for aggravated kidnapping; sex offender; murder; capital murder; injury to children, elderly, or disabled individuals; child abandonment or endangerment; stalking; or family violence.
Moreover, nondisclosure is not available if you received probation, you were convicted, or you did not successfully complete your probation.
DWI: A DWI can never be sealed.
For the law on Nondisclosure Orders, see Tex. Govt. Code 411.081 (d)-(h)
For more articles on the Texas expunction process, click on the following: