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What Is a Sealed Record?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Is a Sealed Record?

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A criminal record can create issues throughout your life. It’s a high price to pay for a mistake; you may have trouble finding a job or even a place to live. Remember, your criminal record shows not just convictions but also arrests. 

However, under the right circumstances, you may have an option that can keep the public from accessing your criminal record. It’s called nondisclosure, also popularly called a sealed record. Not everyone with a criminal record is eligible for a nondisclosure order, which isn’t the same as an expungement. Here is what you need to know about a sealed record.

How Does a Sealed Record Function?

A sealed record hides particular offenses from public view or disclosure, and government agencies are prohibited from providing information about your offense to unauthorized parties. Also, you are not required to disclose the sealed information on job applications or anywhere else.

The record is still available to criminal justice and licensing entities and some government agencies. The offense remains on your record.

Sealing your criminal record is not the same as expunging or deleting that record. In an expungement, your arrest or conviction is cleared from your criminal record. As with nondisclosure, not all convictions qualify for expungement — the jurisdiction determines if a particular arrest or conviction is eligible.

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The State Determines Nondisclosure Eligibility

A record’s ability to be sealed varies from state to state. It depends on the type of offense and community supervision assigned. 

In Texas, offenses ending in conviction or “regular” community supervision are never eligible for expungement but may be eligible for nondisclosure. You cannot seal your record if you have ever been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for these offenses:

  • An offense requiring registration as a sex offender under the Criminal Procedure Code Chapter 62
  • Aggravated kidnapping as defined in the Texas Penal Code Section 20.04
  • Injury to a child, disabled person, or senior citizen
  • Human trafficking
  • Abandoning or endangering a child
  • Stalking 
  • Violation of court orders or conditions of bond for family violence, sexual assault or abuse, or trafficking cases
  • Any offense involving family violence defined in Section 71.004 of the Family Code

To be eligible for a sealed record, you cannot be convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offenses from the date you were put on adjudication until your discharge or dismissal date.

Finally, the judge must rule that sealing your record would be in the interest of justice to grant.

Conditions for Nondisclosure

You must meet six conditions to be eligible for a sealed record.

  • You must be placed on deferred adjudication, showing you were never considered convicted for the crime.
  • You must complete your deferred adjudication successfully without violating any terms and conditions resulting in jail time or “regular” probation.
  • Your offense must qualify under Texas criminal law.
  • You cannot have any ineligible offenses on your criminal record, even if you aren’t seeking to seal those records.
  • You must wait for specified periods before applying, depending on the level or class of crime.
  • You cannot be convicted or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offenses from the date of your deferred adjudication until your discharge or dismissal date.

Nondisclosure vs. Expungement

An expungement clears your record of a conviction or arrest. Texas makes expungement available for Class C misdemeanors that result in deferred adjudication and offenses that do not result in a conviction, regardless of criminal level.

Expungement is also available when charges are not filed or if they are dismissed. A person who is acquitted or pardoned may also file for expungement. You must wait 180 days to apply for expungement of Class C misdemeanors, one year for Class A and B misdemeanors, and three years for felonies.

If charges were brought, the statute of limitations must expire for every crime you were arrested for. To file for expungement, you may be required to wait for a sufficient time since the indictment or conclusion of your case and not acquire any additional criminal history in the meantime. 

A sealed record makes it look like the arrest or conviction is gone, but they are still there and accessible by court order and to some agencies. Nondisclosure makes the record unavailable to the general public and unauthorized entities. 

If you have multiple arrests, convictions, or cases you want sealed, they must all be from the same criminal episode and have been legally treated and resolved the same way. 

Juvenile criminal records are typically sealed once the individual turns 18, but the records remain available.

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When to File for Nondisclosure

Anyone who accepts or receives deferred adjudication probation for domestic violence cases and sex-based offenses cannot file for nondisclosure even if not considered convicted under the law. 

Otherwise, some misdemeanor arrests or convictions are eligible immediately or soon after the sentence or deferred adjudication is complete. 

  • You must wait two years for misdemeanors covered by Texas Criminal Code Chapters 20-22, 25, 42-43, and 46.
  • You must wait five years to apply for sealing a felony arrest or conviction.
  • You must wait two to five years to seal a DWI, depending on whether it is a felony DWI or if you must place an ignition lock (breathalyzer) on your car.

Many first-time misdemeanors are eligible for automatic nondisclosure. The court is supposed to file for you, but you may need to remind it to take this step. Don’t assume the deed is done!

Only first-time misdemeanors other than traffic fines discharged or dismissed after August 31, 2017, are eligible for automatic nondisclosure. You must meet all legal requirements, and the judge must order the nondisclosure once six months have passed since the date on the deferred adjudication order.

To file for a nondisclosure when it is not automatic, you must file a petition for all eligible offenses. 

The Right Attorney Can Help

Greg Tsioros has experience across the entire breadth of criminal law, including sealed records or nondisclosure requests. If you believe you are eligible for a sealed record, contact our office to schedule your free consultation. We can also assist you with filing or petitioning the court for nondisclosure and expungement if applicable.

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