A criminal record can follow a person long after they complete any probationary period or sentence, making it difficult to obtain employment, housing, or even professional licensing. In Texas, after meeting specific qualifications, it is possible to petition the court for a record sealing, or Order of Non-Disclosure.
With an Order of Non-Disclosure, once a criminal history record is sealed, the general public, including background check services, will not be able to view it. However, criminal justice agencies are permitted access to the sealed information and can supply the information to other law enforcement agencies along with licensing and employment entities specified by Texas law.
An Order of Non-Disclosure is not an expunction or expungement. An expunction is a court order disallowing the release or use of a person’s criminal record for any reason. After receiving an expunction, a person can deny they were arrested or had a record expunged unless asked under oath in a criminal trial.
Who Is Eligible For An Order Of Non-Disclosure?
Eligibility for an Order of Non-Disclosure requires a person to meet six conditions. They are as follows:
- The offense in question ended in a deferred adjudication.
- The deferred adjudication was successfully completed.
- The offense itself qualifies for an Order of Non-Disclosure.
- The person cannot have any disqualifying criminal history.
- If required, any waiting period after dismissal or discharge of the qualifying offense must pass.
- The person cannot incur any new convictions from the date of the order of dismissal and discharge plus any applicable waiting period of the qualifying offense, as described above.
If all six of the foregoing requirements are met, a person qualifies to file a Petition for Order of Non-Disclosure.
The waiting period after dismissal or discharge for felonies is five years, and there is a two-year waiting period for serious misdemeanors. If the misdemeanor punishment consisted of a fine only, there is no waiting period. Otherwise, there is a two-year waiting period after the successful completion of a sentence to apply for an Order of Non-Disclosure.
Close relatives of a deceased person with a criminal record that is eligible for an Order of Non-Disclosure can apply on their behalf. The law defines a close relative as; a parent, grandparent, spouse, or adult brother, sister, or child of the deceased person.
Crimes Never Eligible For An Order Of Non-Disclosure
There are some crimes never eligible for an Order of Non-Disclosure. These include the following:
- Any crime requiring registration as a sex offender;
- Aggravated kidnapping;
- Human trafficking;
- Child endangerment or abandonment;
- Any family violence offense; and
A complete list of ineligible crimes is available in Texas Code.
How Do I File A Petition For An Order Of Non-Disclosure?
A Petition for an Order of Non-Disclosure is filed with the clerk of the court that handled the qualifying offense. There is a filing fee, but it varies depending on the county. It is ultimately up to the judge whether or not to grant the Order of Non-Disclosure.
The State is automatically sent a copy of the Petition for an Order of Non-Disclosure. The State is permitted to request a hearing before the 45th day after receiving notice of the filing of the petition. If a hearing is requested, attendance is mandatory.
If the State does not request a hearing, the judge may still decide to do so. Notice is provided of the hearing, and attendance is mandatory. The judge will determine if the Petition for an Order of Non-Disclosure is valid and, if so, whether issuing the Order of Non-Disclosure is in the best interest of justice.
Do I Need An Attorney To Obtain An Order Of Non-Disclosure?
Any time you have questions about a legal process or need legal advice, you should contact an attorney. An experienced criminal law attorney has the knowledge and can provide the support needed to ensure your Petition for an Order of Non-Disclosure is approved. The attorneys at Vinas & Graham are ready to assist you in determining whether your criminal record qualifies for an Order of Non-Disclosure or if another route is your best option.
The laws surrounding criminal records are constantly evolving and changing. Therefore, it is important to contact the office of Vinas & Graham to ensure your understanding of the law is current. Recently statutes were enacted that could positively affect your criminal record outcome. Be sure to check us out on Facebook for other Texas laws and information.