Having a criminal record is never favorable to a person. In many instances, a criminal record can even effect employment or acquiring of property. When potential employers and bank officers do a background check and find a criminal record, they may not provide the desired service. However, there are options available under Texas law for sealing or hiding a criminal record. Many people qualify to have their record fully sealed if they meet certain legal requirements.
Record sealing or a non-disclosure order in Texas involves sealing the court and arrest records so that it is no longer part of the public record. The criminal record will no longer appear on a background check. The case information is fully sealed and cannot be disclosed to the public by the criminal justice agencies or courts. However, the records can be accessed by very specific government entities, authorized criminal justice agencies, and law enforcement agencies. Following the successful entry of an Order of Nondisclosure, a person no longer has to disclose the arrest nor the court case details of the sealed offense, subject to very limited circumstances.
Who is eligible for non-disclosure?
Texas law only allows non-disclosure for specific types of criminal cases. According to the laws, only a person who successfully completed a deferred adjudication sentence may apply for record sealing. The person must have received a dismissal and a discharge at the completion of the deferred adjudication sentence.
A deferred adjudication sentence does not result in a conviction. It is an arrangement where the defendant pleads guilty to the charges but the judge does not find the person guilty on condition that they meet particular requirements set by the court for a specified probationary period. Typically a deferred adjudication sentence involves community service, participation in treatment programs , or any other requirement set by the court.
However, not all deferred adjudication offenses can qualify for a non-disclosure order. There are specific types of crimes that may not be sealed, including DUI and domestic violence.
A person who was simply convicted of a crime is not entitled to file for a non-disclosure order.
The statutory waiting period
The period a person needs to wait before getting a non-disclosure order depends on the type of criminal record.
For completed deferred adjudication probation of most misdemeanors, a non-disclosure order can be obtained immediately. Other specific misdemeanor offenses have a waiting period of two years from the date of discharge. Felonies always have a waiting period of five years from the date of discharge.
During the waiting period, the person applying for the record sealing must not have been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offenses.
Duration of getting a record sealing
The whole process takes a few months to complete. The first step is to file the petition, then court will set the case for a hearing date. In Texas, the hearing is set about five weeks from the filing date.
It only takes a number of days after the record sealing order is granted for the whole process to be complete. After signing of the order by the judge, the court sends it to the Department of Public Safety and any other agencies listed.
Record Sealing vs. Expunction
Record sealing and expuction are the only options in Texas for erasing or sealing a criminal record. The records still remain with the courts and other agencies, but they cannot be accessed by the public. With the expunction, the records are destroyed as if the event never took place. Generally, deferred adjudication sentences are not eligible for a Texas expunction, making a non-disclosure the only and best option.