SEALING JUVENILE RECORDS IN TEXAS
Juvenile Records are documents about an encounter with the state that can become part of your juvenile record. This record may include:
• Basic information about you (date of birth, address, etc.) • Records of your arrest or detention and what you were charged with • Court documents from your trial • Your sentencing or disposition, including probation • What programs you were assigned to (treatment programs, schools, etc.)
When a juvenile record is “sealed,” it’s treated like it doesn’t exist. You are allowed to deny that anything described in this record ever happened. Tex. Fam. Code § 58.003(j). If a judge, lawyer, or police officer is asked about you, they are required by law to respond as if anything related to your record never existed. It is also removed from the Criminal History Database, so your name will not come up if someone searches for you on it.
If juvenile records are not sealed, anyone with a “legitimate interest” in accessing your records will be able to see them. This often means that potential employers, college admission offices, or landlords can see your arrest record. Getting your record sealed can be an important step in successfully finding a job, going to college, and finding a place to live.
Texas does have a system called “Automatic Restriction of Access to Records,” which automatically makes juvenile records harder to access once you turn 21, if you haven’t been convicted of anything else since you turned 17. But this does not seal your records. Most criminal justice agencies can still access these records, and use them against you if you are charged with a crime as an adult.
In order to have a record sealed, the applicant must file a petition in the same county where the original proceedings took place. Tex. Fam. Code § 58.003(p). After the court receives the application, a judge will decide whether or not your juvenile record should be sealed. The judge does not have to hold a hearing if you waive the right to a hearing in writing and the court and the prosecution consent.
The Judge must grant your request if:
- If you were found not guilty at your adjudication hearing, or the matter was dismissed, the court should have immediately ordered all files and records sealed.
- If you successfully completed a drug court program, the juvenile court may order your records of either a misdemeanor or felony offense sealed immediately.
- If your juvenile offense was a misdemeanor, a court MUST seal your record if:
- It has been two years since your final discharge from the juvenile system, and
- During those two years, you have not been convicted or adjudicated of anything else, and no charges are pending against you.
- If your juvenile offense was a felony, the court does not have to seal your record, but it MAY seal it only if:
- You are 21 years of age or older; AND
- You have not been convicted of another felony after turning 17.
If the judge decides to seal your record, they will issue an Order for Sealing of Files and Records. After a judge orders a juvenile record sealed, any agency or official who has a copy of the record must send it back to the court by the 61st day after the date the order is received. There is no time limit on sealing your record. But to get the maximum benefit you should seal it as soon as possible. I’d be more than happy to help.