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Eligibility Requirements for Non-Disclosure Orders in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Eligibility Requirements for Non-Disclosure Orders in Texas

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nondisclosure of criminal records

Having a criminal record can affect someone long after a sentence has been served. Even so, not everyone who has served time should continue to be scrutinized after paying his or her debt to society. In some cases, individuals can move beyond their past by obtaining an order of non-disclosure. Sometimes referred to as “records sealing”, it can help a former offender obtain a fresh start in a number of ways.

What is an Order of Non-Disclosure?

An order of non-disclosure is an order from the court that prohibits government agencies from disclosing information about an arrest or conviction. As such, police departments may not provide this information during a background check. An order of non-disclosure prohibits information about a particular offense from being disclosed, and does not automatically apply to each and every offense a person has. As such, it’s quite possible that some information could nonetheless be provided unless an individual receives multiple orders.

While an order of nondisclosure prevents outside entities from obtaining certain information, it does not prevent government agencies from providing it to each other. State law enforcement agencies may share information with local or federal agencies (or vice versa), regardless of whether there is an order of non-disclosure on file. See Texas Government Code, Section 411.081 – Subchapter F.

Differs from Expungement

An order of non-disclosure differs from an expungement in that one’s criminal record is not actually being wiped clean. Instead, information about an arrest and/or conviction is shielded from the public so that anyone performing a background check cannot uncover it. As mentioned before, other law enforcement agencies may still have access to the information, which means it could be used in determining a sentence for future offenses.

Who is Eligible for One?

Only select individuals are entitled to obtain an order of non-disclosure. To become eligible, certain conditions must be met. The first condition is that the defendant must have received deferred adjudication, which is a type of plea deal in which the accused receives probation in exchange for a guilty or “no contest” plea. Courts also agree to “dismiss” charges once the sentence is satisfactorily completed.

Other conditions that must be met before an order of non-disclosure can be issued include:

  • Successful completion of the deferred adjudication program, which should result in an order of dismissal and discharge
  • No prior disqualifying criminal history
  • Ensuring the waiting period requirements are met, which varies by offense
  • No subsequent arrests during the waiting period

Qualifying Offenses

The offense must also meet the criteria for an order of non-disclosure. Some offenses that would make one ineligible include:

How to Obtain

To obtain an order of non-disclosure, an individual must wait the required amount of time and then file a petition with the court where the offense was handled. A court fee which varies from one county to the next is also required.

Just because someone meets all the criteria for non-disclosure does not necessarily mean he or she will be granted it. The petition will be reviewed by a judge, who will decide whether or not granting it is in the best interest of the public. This may require a hearing to allow the judge to hear both sides of the story. Written notification will then be provided to the defendant letting him or her know the outcome.

After Receiving an Order

Upon granting an order, a judge will notify the Texas Department of Public Safety, who will then ensure that other law enforcement agencies are aware of it. The order even applies to online databases that provide background checks for a fee. If the operators of these databases violate an order, they may be fined accordingly.

Benefits of Non-disclosure

There are many benefits to obtaining an order of non-disclosure, including:

  • Being able to answer “no” when asked about previous arrests on a job application
  • The ability to obtain clean background checks
  • Increased employment opportunities
  • Shaking the social stigma that comes with having an arrest record

Speak with an Attorney

Those who believe they may be eligible for an order of non-disclosure should speak with an attorney for assistance. There can only be one attempt to seal records and ensure your future is not hampered by your criminal past. An attorney can help you show yourself in a positive light so the odds of being successful are greatly increased.

Contact the Law Office of Greg Tsioros today to see if you’re eligible for non-disclosure!

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