Having a criminal record can be a major disability in many aspects of your life, such as career, education, housing and financial activities. Fortunately, Texas law allows certain individuals to obtain a court order of nondisclosure, which is effectively a sealing of records.
An order of nondisclosure prevents law enforcement authorities from releasing information about a particular criminal matter to inquiring members of the public. It also frees you from disclosing information about the offense that is the subject of the order, such as when you are applying for employment, loans, educational courses or other benefits. However, there a number of exempted entities which may disclose or discover your sealed record.
However, this relief is not available to all defendants or for all criminal offenses. You are entitled to obtain an order of nondisclosure only upon satisfying the following conditions:
- You must have received a deferred adjudication of your criminal case. This means you were not convicted of the offense charged. Instead, you were placed on a form of probation.
- You must have successfully completed your probationary sentence. This includes performing community service, paying fines and meeting any other conditions imposed. The court that ordered deferred adjudication should have issued an order of dismissal and discharge.
- You must have been charged with an offense under the Texas Penal Code that qualifies for an order of nondisclosure. Serious offenses such as murder, aggravated kidnapping, human trafficking or injuring a child are generally not eligible. Neither are offenses involving family violence or offenses that require registration as a sex offender.
- You must not have any disqualifying criminal history, which means you cannot have been convicted of any of the offenses listed above.
- You may have to wait a period of time after the court’s order of dismissal and discharge. If the offense charged was a felony, you may not file a petition for an order of nondisclosure until five years after your dismissal and discharge from probation. For certain misdemeanors, such as assault, disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, public lewdness, terroristic threats and unlawful carrying of a firearm, the period is two years. For most other misdemeanors, there is no waiting period.
- You must not have been convicted of, or placed on deferred adjudication for, any criminal offenses from the date you were placed on deferred adjudication until the date of your order of dismissal and discharge, plus any applicable waiting period.
A skilled criminal records clearance attorney can determine if you meet the eligibility criteria and can prepare and file a petition that makes a persuasive argument for relief. Your attorney can also work to overcome any objections to relief that may be raise by prosecutors.
At the office of Tylden Shaeffer, Attorney at Law, P.C. in San Antonio, I provide assistance to Texas residents seeking orders of nondisclosure and other forms of relief from the burdens of a criminal record. To schedule your free and confidential consultation, call (210) 227-1500 or contact me online.