What's the difference between expunging and sealing a juvenile record in Texas?
Monday, May 20, 2019 by Brian Laviage
If you were referred to a juvenile court for conduct before the age of 17 – even without being taken into custody by law enforcement before the referral – you have a juvenile record in the state of Texas. This includes any Class A or B misdemeanors, felony offenses or conduct indicating a need for supervision (CINS) like underage drinking, truancy or running away.
Even if you’ve spent years abiding by the law, a youthful transgression can damage your reputation and hold you back from attending college, receiving financial aid, obtaining professional licenses, applying for housing, getting hired for jobs, or joining the military.
It’s a common myth that once a minor reaches the age of 18, any criminal record they may have had disappears. Having a “clean slate” where a record is automatically sealed typically only occurs in two situations: - If you were only referred to a juvenile court for 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 record is sealed two years from dismissal of the offense, or 18 years old, whichever comes first.
In both situations, the law also requires that you do not have any adult felony convictions or pending charges as an adult.
The Law Office of Brian S. Laviage works with adults who have a mark on their juvenile record. Depending on your situation, it is possible to move on from past mistake by sealing or expunging these records. Keep in mind, sealing juvenile records refers to closing them to the public, while expunging requires complete physical destruction.
Sealing a Juvenile Record
In the state of Texas, a juvenile record typically includes a list of arrests, charges and findings that occurred in juvenile court before the age of 17. In most situations, these remain confidential, however the list can be read by government agencies, law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice officers, probation officers, potential employers, education institutions, the Department of Family and Protective Services and the military, among others.
However, if juvenile records are sealed, it is as if they are gone. In fact, the entities above would typically need a court order to be able to view them. It’s also important to note that, with the exception to the above instances where juvenile records are automatically sealed, you must ask for your records to be sealed by submitting a request in the county where the original criminal proceedings were handled.
Additionally, when it comes to misdemeanor or felony offenses, juvenile records can be sealed depends on the following: - Misdemeanors – the court must seal your record if all the following are true: - At least two years have passed since your case was resolved - You have not been convicted of any other offenses - No charges are currently pending against you - Felonies – the court might seal your record if all the following are true: - You are at least 19 years old - Your case was not transferred to adult criminal court - Your record has not been used in the punishment phase of a criminal case - You have not committed another felony since you were 17
If a sentence included completion of a court-ordered drug program, the court could agree to seal a misdemeanor or felony record as well.
However, not all records can be sealed. The following instances do not qualify: - A determinate sentence for having committed crimes such as murder, indecency with a child of sexual assault - Someone who has registered as a sex offender - Instanced when cases are moved to the adult court - Someone who is considered a habitual felony offender
While the court can order juvenile records sealed without a hearing, it may also hold one to decide whether or not to approve the sealing process. Additionally, sealing records is completely discretionary by the court. A prosecutor could object to it and request a hearing, triggering a notice to the owner of the record who can then make a case to seal the record.
In this instance, the services of an experience attorney is crucial. He or she would present a variety of evidence in your favor, such as recommendations or declarations. Most importantly, a lawyer will prove that the offense was a youthful mistake rather than the start of adult criminal behavior.
Ultimately, if juvenile records can be sealed, it is extremely beneficial to go through the process. While they are not completely destroyed, once they are sealed, it’s as if they never occurred. This means on employment applications, professional licenses, college applications, housing application, and so on, you can legally state “no” when asked if you have ever been arrested, prosecuted or adjudicated.
Expunging a Juvenile Record
As mentioned before, expungement means complete physical destruction of a juvenile record. Sealed juvenile offenses may also be eligible to be expunged if: - Your record does not involve the commission of a felony or misdemeanor for which jail time could have been given - At least 5 years have passed since your 16th birthday - You have not been convicted of a felony
Because not all juvenile criminal records can be sealed, expungement could be a better option. This is typically the case with class C misdemeanors that occurred before the age of 17. These infractions actually create a criminal record rather than a juvenile one and cannot be sealed.
Even though records related to class C misdemeanors committed by a minor are confidential, it could still be beneficial to discuss expungement with an attorney. Examples of this include a conviction for failing to attend school, an alcohol offense, or a class C misdemeanor where the punishment only resulted in a fine.
Additionally, you could be eligible for expungement in the following instances: - Arrested for a crime, but never charged - Charged, but it was dismissed - Convicted of certain misdemeanor juvenile offenses - An arrest, charge, or conviction on a record due to identity theft - Convicted as a minor of certain alcohol offenses - Convicted for failing to attend school - Convicted of a crime, but later acquitted on appeal - Conviction was pardoned
To expunge a class C misdemeanor, there must not be a felony conviction on your record in the five years since the arrest date of the original offense. Additionally, deferred adjudication probation must be completed.
Do you have a question about expungement or sealing offenses committed as a minor? Call an experienced criminal defense and juvenile attorney. The Law Office of Brian S. Laviage is prepared to help and will review whether your record can be sealed or expunged. Call us today at (832) 259-9095 or contact us via our online form to learn more.