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How can I seal my juvenile record in Texas?

Texas has an automatic process in place to restrict access to juvenile records and seal them.

It is understandable why people in Texas would want to have a juvenile criminal record sealed. After all, crimes from the past could come back to haunt someone as he or she is applying for a job or trying to secure housing.

Fortunately, the state of Texas does allow people to seal their records. In fact, there is even an “automatic” sealing process that applies to people who meet certain criteria, as well as an automatic restriction of access.

Automatic restriction of access

First, let’s take a look at what the automatic restriction of access means. According to the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, once someone turns 17, his or her juvenile record is automatically restricted. In other words, only certain parties have access to those records, such as state or federal criminal justice agencies seeking information as part of an investigation.

If a school or employer requests the record, the response would be that “no record exists.” Further, upon having a record restricted in this manner, the TJPC states that the owner of the record is permitted to deny any such record.

Sealing juvenile record

It is important to note that just because a record is restricted does not mean that it has been destroyed or sealed. For example, someone with a juvenile record who wishes to work for a federal criminal justice agency would still have a record to which that agency has access. Additionally, certain records may not be restricted, such as those involving a juvenile tried as an adult or sex offender records.

When a record is sealed, it means that no one is able to access it. In order to be eligible to have a record sealed, two years must have passed since the adjudication or since the person was discharged. Additionally, in that time frame, the person must not have been convicted of a crime or engaged in what the law states is “delinquent conduct.”

When it comes to felony adjudications, records may still be sealed as long as the person is at least 19 years old, was not certified as an adult and he or she has not had any further felony convictions. Also, the record must not have been admitted into evidence as part of a criminal proceeding’s punishment phase.

People who are typically ineligible to have a juvenile record sealed include the following:

  • Someone who has received a determinate sentence for having committed crimes such as murder, indecency with a child or sexual assault
  • Someone who has registered as a sex offender
  • Someone whose case was moved to adult court
  • Someone who is considered a habitual felony offender

A law that went into effect in 2015 states that after Sept. 1 of that year, the Texas Department of Public Safety reviews which records are eligible for sealing and automatically do so. It is possible that a prosecutor could object to the sealing and request a hearing. That would trigger a notice to the owner of the record, who has the opportunity to make a case to seal the record.

Though the system is supposedly automatic, it is not always perfect. Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak with a criminal defense attorney in Texas.