Texas law refers to getting an order to seal your records as obtaining an “Order of Nondisclosure” – for this article we will use both terms interchangeably.
The process for drafting and filing a Petition for Nondisclosure for a Texas record sealing can be a long and complex process, with many steps involved. After determining that your criminal record qualifies for sealing, you must then:
- Draft a Petition for Nondisclosure meeting statutory requirements
- File it in the court that placed you on deferred adjudication
- Attend a hearing if required to do so
- Obtain an Order of Nondisclosure to seal your Texas record
- Ensure that your Order of Nondisclosure is properly enforced on both government and private entities.
Drafting a Petition for Nondisclosure can be difficult if you are not familiar with the preparation of legal documents. But it can be done if you have copies of your criminal record, understand the requirements of legal documents, and can follow complex instructions. Have a little patience, you can probably use the Form Petition for Nondisclosure and Order for Nondisclosure to successfully draft and file the legal documents needed to seal your criminal record.
You will need the following information relating to the criminal offense you are sealing in order to draft your Petition for Nondisclosure:
- The offense as shown on your order of deferred adjudication, and its penal code
- The exact dates of the period you were on deferred adjudication, including the start and end date
- The date you were granted a dismissal due to successfully completing deferred adjudication
- The degree of offense (i.e., misdemeanor or felony)
Once you have drafted your Petition for Nondisclosure, you must then file it in the specific court which placed you on deferred adjudication.
Related content: How to seal a TX Criminal Record
Texas law requires the Petition for Expunction to be filed in a district court for the county in which you were arrested—which may not necessarily be the county where the charges originated. One of the most challenging parts of the Texas record sealing process is how much the process can vary on a county-by-county basis—there are 254 counties in the state of Texas, and many of them have very unique filing requirements and even impose different filing fees. For example, Dallas County makes you do everything via mail, and requires six paper copies of everything—they don’t tell you this on their website and aren’t very helpful on the phone, but if you do not comply with their unique demands, they will return your filings and cause significant delays to the process.
Reader Tip: When mailing anything in this process, whether it’s the Petition itself, copies to notify the prosecutor, or the Order, always make sure to obtain tracking for your mailings or delivery confirmation. The least expensive way to do this is by sending things via USPS Certified Mail and requesting a return receipt.
Typically, you will be required to send a copy of the Petition to the state prosecutor (i.e., the District or County Attorney) in addition to filing the Petition with the applicable district court; but again, remember that these requirements vary among the county in Texas. Explaining the unique filing requirements of each county is certainly beyond the scope of this article, but it is vital that you contact the county clerk to understand the filing requirements of your county in detail.
Once you’ve drafted and prepared your Petition for Expunction, and understand the county’s specific filing requirements, follow the instructions the county clerk has provided you with exactly in preparing and making your filing, and then put it in the mail. In most cases, the Petition for Expunction must be verified and signed in the presence of a notary public.
Once you’ve received your legal documents in the mail, you must then wait for the county or district clerk to inform you of whether a hearing will be required, and if so, what the time and date of your hearing will be. Please note that unless you were acquitted at trial, Texas law requires the hearing to be set at least 30 days after filing—the actual hearing date will depend on how busy the county is.
Reader Tip: Politely calling and staying in touch with the prosecutor and clerk after you’ve made your filing can be very helpful (depending on the county) in getting the prosecutor to agree to your Order for Expunction. It can also be helpful getting it signed by the judge without hearing, and staying up to date with the progress of your Texas record sealing and any additional requirements.
Are you eligible to seal your TX criminal record? Check eligibility here.
In some cases, you can get the prosecutor to agree to your Order for Expunction, and get it signed by the judge without a hearing. However, you will often be required to attend a hearing so a judge can decide whether or not to grant your Order for Expunction.
If you’re required to appear at a hearing, dress nicely, answer the judge’s questions concisely and truthfully, and do your best to convince the judge why it is in the interests of justice for the Order to be granted. Try to remain calm, and not to be intimidated by the judge, prosecutor, or court. If you are clearly eligible for expungement, and the prosecutor doesn’t have an overriding reason to oppose your Petition, your Order may be granted without too much difficulty.