What Is the Difference Between Expunging and Sealing a Juvenile Record in Texas?Published: Sep 21, 2018 in Criminal Defense, Juvenile Crimes
At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we work with many adults who have a mark on their juvenile records. A mistake in your youth should not hold you back after years of abiding by the law. Unfortunately, one small error when you were young can create many hurdles when it comes to gaining an education, obtaining professional licenses, getting hired for jobs, and growing your career. When colleagues and peers learn about a youthful transgression, it can damage your reputation. All of these are reasons to speak with an attorney about sealing a record and expungement. Depending on your situation, you may be able to move on from your past mistake.
Sealing a Juvenile Record
In Texas, a juvenile record contains lists of arrests, charges, and findings that took place in juvenile court before you were 17-years-old. In most situations, they are confidential. Government agencies, the Department of Family and Protective Services, the military (with your permission), and non-criminal justice agencies (with federal authorization) can view your juvenile record. However, if you get your juvenile record sealed, it is as if they are gone. For sealed records, entities need a court order to view your juvenile record.
Juvenile records are automatically sealed in two situations. If you were only referred to a juvenile court for conduct in need of supervision (CINS) and not delinquent behavior, then your record is sealed when you turn 18. If you were referred to juvenile court for delinquent conduct, but not adjudicated, or you were adjudicated for a misdemeanor, then your juvenile record is sealed when you turn 19. In both situations, the law also requires that you do not have any adult felony convictions or pending adult charges.
When your juvenile record does not fit into one of these situations, then you must ask for your record to be sealed. You must be at least 18-years-old, and at least two years must have passed since your sanctions (such as being released from probation) ended. You cannot have any adult felony convictions, any adult charges pending, be a registered sex offender, or currently admitted to a Texas Juvenile Justice Department program. The court may order your juvenile record to be sealed without a hearing, or it may hold a hearing to decide whether or not to approve sealing your record.
Benefits of Sealing a Juvenile Record
If you can have your juvenile record sealed, you should. Once you seal a record, it is as if your referral to the juvenile court system never occurred. All adjudications are vacated. However, this does not mean that all of your records are completely destroyed. They will still exist under seal.
The important aspect of this situation is that when you apply for a job, a professional license, admission to college, rental housing, or any other public or private benefit, you do not have to state that you were arrested, prosecuted, or adjudicated. Unless you were arrested, charged, or convicted of an adult crime after your juvenile records were sealed, you could honestly answer no when an application or individual asks if you have a criminal record.
Expunging a Criminal Record From When You Were a Minor
Not all criminal records that occurred before you were 17 can be sealed. One of the most common exceptions we deal with are class C misdemeanors that were brought in municipal courts before you were 17. These proceedings create a criminal record, but not a juvenile record, and they cannot be sealed. Although records of class C misdemeanors that occurred when you were a minor are confidential, you may benefit from talking with an attorney about expungement, also known as expunction.
You may be eligible for expungement if:
- You were arrested for a crime, but never charged
- You were charged, but it was dismissed
- You were convicted of certain misdemeanor juvenile offenses
- You were convicted as a minor of certain alcohol offenses
- You were convicted of failing to attend school
- There is an arrest, charge, or conviction on your record due to identity theft
- You were convicted of a crime, but later acquitted on appeal
- Your conviction was pardoned by the governor of Texas, or the President of the U.S.
If you were convicted of failing to go to school, an alcohol offense, or a class C misdemeanor (which only results in a fine) as a minor, talk to an attorney today about expunging your record. To expunge a class C misdemeanor, you must not have been convicted of a felony five years prior to the date of your arrest for the class C offense. You also must have completed deferred adjudication probation.
If your class C misdemeanor record is expunged, it is destroyed. It is as if it never happened at all. If an application asks if you were ever arrested, charged, or convicted, you could say no.
Do You Have Questions About Expungement or Sealing a Record? Call Us Today for Help
If you are concerned about how your juvenile record may hold you back, call an attorney right away. An experienced criminal lawyer will review whether your juvenile record may be sealed or expunged. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we are prepared to help you. Call us today at (713) 222-6767, or contact us via our online form to learn more.