Process for Sealing Criminal Records in Texas
Did you know that even if you had your criminal case dismissed or if you successfully completed deferred adjudication, records from your case and arrest remain on your criminal record and are still available for public view? Unless you have successfully sealed or expunged your criminal case, case records and any other records relating to your arrest are considered public information and are easily discoverable through a simple background check or internet search.
Austin criminal defense lawyer Kevin Bennett represents people seeking to expunge or seal criminal records in Austin and throughout Travis County, including, Lago Vista, Pflugerville, and Lakeway.
First Step: Determining Eligibility for Non-Disclosure
The first step in the process for sealing your criminal record is to determine whether a case is actually eligible for non-disclosure. Only some cases in which deferred adjudication was successfully completed in Texas are eligible to be sealed. If a case was dismissed, as opposed to a successful discharge from deferred adjudication probation, then your case may be eligible for an expungement. An expungement or expunction is not the same thing as non-disclosure or sealing a criminal record.
Was the felony or misdemeanor case given deferred adjudication? Was deferred adjudication successfully completed? Has the statute of limitations expired? Is this the type of case or offense that Texas has specifically excluded from non-disclosure and which is ineligible to be sealed under Texas law? If a person can answer yes to the first two questions, then they should contact a criminal lawyer who regularly handles expunctions. These are all important legal issues when trying to seal your criminal record.
A good record sealing lawyer in Austin will be able to examine the outcome of the original criminal case for any other legal issues and to make sure that all necessary pre-filing requirements have been met. Filing for non-disclosure prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, filing for non-disclosure in the wrong court or filing for an expunction in a case in which deferred adjudication was received are just a few of the types of mistakes that might cause a motion for non-discloser to be denied. Contacting an Austin attorney who regularly handles non-disclosures and criminal record sealing in Texas can make an essential difference in whether or not your criminal record is successfully sealed.
Second Step: Obtaining Necessary Information for Record Sealing
Assuming that the original criminal case appears to be eligible to be sealed, the second step in sealing a criminal record is to gather the required information that identifies the original felony or misdemeanor case and the defendant. This can include information such as the original case's cause number, the original arrest date, the arresting agency, the defendant's social security number and their birth date, etc. Kevin Bennett is a criminal defense lawyer in Austin, TX for record sealing who works closely with his clients to obtain all of the necessary information that is required to seal criminal record in Texas.
Third Step: Drafting and Filing for Non-Disclosure Order
The third step in the record sealing process is the drafting and filing of the petition for non-disclosure and the actual order of non-disclosure that orders sealing the criminal records. The petition for non-disclosure, as well as order for nondisclosure, will contain the defendant’s personal identification information, original case and arrest information and a list of any and all agencies or entities that are believed to have records of the original arrest and/or case. These are the types of criminal records that a non-disclosure is meant to seal. Jail records and arrest mugshots would be sealed as well. At a bare minimum, the order of non-disclosure should list the arresting agency, the county jail or booking facility in which the accused was "booked" after arrest, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the original court in which the misdemeanor or felony case was assigned. There are also many other government entities or offices in which a non-disclosure order should be sent, which is why the attorney or lawyer that is hired to expunge or seal a case is so important.
Trying to seal your criminal record prior to the statute of limitation expiring or filing for non-disclosure for an offense that is ineligible to be sealed are just two of many reasons that can lead the State or the Texas Department of Public Safety to file an objection to the petition for non-disclosure or cause a Judge to deny the order of non-disclosure altogether.
As you can see, the drafting and filing of a petition for non-disclosure can be very detailed, complex and confusing. However, in order to have a successfully completed deferred adjudication case sealed from public record, you must obtain a non-disclosure order.
Fourth Step: Non-Disclosure Hearing
Usually, either at the time of filing the petition or shortly thereafter, the Clerk's Office will notify the attorney as to the future hearing date, as well as notify the Court in which the hearing will take place. By law, a hearing for an order of nondisclosure cannot take place until at least thirty (30) days have passed from the date of filing. However, in practice, it usually takes about thirty (30) to forty-five (45) days from the date of filing to have the actual hearing.
Depending on the status of the case between the date of filing and the scheduled hearing date, it may be possible for the record sealing lawyer to appear at the hearing on behalf of the client without the client/petitioner having to be present. At the hearing, the Court will hear legal argument and possibly evidence and/or testimony as to why a petition should or should not be granted. Texas has very strict criteria which must be met prior to a non-disclosure being granted. If this criterion is not met, the non-disclosure order may be denied and you could possibly be prevent from filing another petition for the same case in the future.
Fifth Step: Dissemination of Non-Disclosure Order and Record Sealing
Assuming the non-disclosure has been granted by the Court, the defendant or petitioner may now deny the arrest, the case and even the order of non-disclosure itself. However, there is an exception: if questioned under oath in a criminal proceeding about an arrest for which the records have been sealed, the petitioner is permitted to state only that the matter in question has been sealed.
In addition to being able to immediately deny the sealed case, the clerk of the court must send a copy of the order to all of the agencies listed in the order. Upon receipt of the order, each agency named therein is required to seal the record from public view.
A good lawyer for record sealing will know to not only list the Texas Department of Public Safety as an entity that is ordered to seal the criminal records specified in the order, but that the order should also contain language to the effect that the Texas Department of Public Safety is ordered to provide notice of the non-disclosure order to any of the private entities that the attorney has listed in the order and that Texas DPS is ordered to provide notice to any other private entity that purchases criminal history information from the Texas Department of Public Safety. This notice will also request that each entity seal from public view, any information in the possession of the entity that is subject to the order.
Lawyer in Austin for Sealing Criminal Records
If you are trying to seal or expunge your criminal record for a case that occurred in Austin or Travis County, contact Austin Attorney Kevin Bennett for additional information. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett has helped countless individuals expunge or seal their criminal record in Austin, TX.