In 2017, there were over 800,000 juvenile arrests in the US.
Even though juvenile criminal records are not always public, they do not automatically go away when you become an adult.
However, one can have their juvenile record sealed. This will make this information inaccessible to entities that might make a search. Therefore, you will have a great chance of getting your life back on track.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at sealing records in Texas for juveniles.
If you have an arrest under your belt or have ever been the subject of a court case for delinquent behavior, you may have a juvenile record. Texas juvenile courts deal with criminal cases, including felonies, committed by persons under the age of 17.
Class A and B misdemeanors can leave you with a juvenile record to deal with in the future. Misdemeanors are criminal acts that are less serious than felonies. They are punishable either by fine or short jail time. Felonies may also create juvenile criminal records.
Felonies are serious crimes such as intoxication assault or manslaughter, burglary of a home, or serious property crimes. A new trend is for minors to be charged with felony sex crimes for sexting or making recordings of themselves while engaged in sexual conduct.
Class A misdemeanors include acts such as burglary of a vehicle, assault causing, resisting arrest, violation of restraining orders, and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Class B misdemeanors include acts such as criminal trespass, certain types of terroristic threats, prostitution, indecent exposure, graffiti and theft of property that exceeds $ 50 in value but less than $ 500.
One can also get a juvenile record for any conduct indicating a need for supervision (CINS).
These include class C misdemeanors such as drinking and running away.
Juvenile records can be a thorn when you are trying to secure housing or even employment.
As such, it is important to have them sealed as soon as you can.
Fortunately for the people of Texas, there is an automatic process that restricts access to juvenile records and seals them.
When records have restricted access, they will only be accessible to federal or state criminal justice agencies in pursuit of information as part of an ongoing investigation.
In Texas, this restriction happens automatically once you turn 17. When this happens, you are legally allowed to deny the alleged criminal conduct or arrest.
In such a case, any school administration or employers who look into you will not know you have a juvenile record.
Even if they ask if you have an arrest record, you can say no.
There are cases that do not permit the restriction of records. These include situations when a juvenile case finds its way into adult court or for a sexual offense.
Even with restricted records, it is important to have them sealed once you are eligible. As opposed to restricted records, sealed records are not accessible even by federal offices.
The process of sealing records can only begin once two years have elapsed since adjudication or discharge from a juvenile facility.
Also, the person must not have any other delinquent behavior charge or conviction for a crime within that period.
If your record is sealed, even federal criminal justice agencies are not able to access them. Those records will officially not exist.
There are instances where sealing juvenile records is not possible. These include:
• The person is a registered sex offender
• When a determinate sentence is issued for a case such as murder, sexual assault or indecency with a minor
• If the case took place in an adult court
• If the person qualifies as a habitual felony offender
Records can still be sealed for felony adjudications. The individual in question must be at least 19 years old, not have any additional convictions and not certified as an adult.
In addition, their records must not have used as evidence in any criminal proceeding’s punishment phase.
Once a juvenile record is sealed, it is considered to be non-existent. This means it can no longer be found on any criminal history database. If anyone conducts a criminal search for your name, nothing will come up.
However, there are situations that can lead to the opening of such records with the approval of a juvenile court. The following conditions can prompt such an approval:
• Your request to inspect your own records
• When you apply to become a licensed carrier of a concealed handgun
• You are the subject of another felony case
Sealed records will remain inaccessible to all unless your actions revive them.
Though sealed records are typically reported as non-existent, they are still available for review upon the approval of a juvenile court.
However, there is a way that all traces of juvenile records can be completely removed. This is through expunction.
In Texas, you will have to go through municipal and justice courts to have juvenile records expunged.
This is because minor offenses such as Class C misdemeanors, non-jail time, and juvenile cases fall under the jurisdiction of these courts.
Only cases of public intoxication are not included.
Texas law allows for certain juvenile offenses that are heard in municipal and justice courts to have expunction rights from juvenile records. For one’s records to qualify for expunction, the following conditions must be in play:
• The individual is at least 17 years old
• They committed the offense while at least 10 years old but not older than 17
• The individual in question must only have one conviction to his name that is punishable only by fine
There are offenses that have unique provisions for expunction. These include offenses such as possession of and consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and tobacco products. Truancy offenses also fall under this category.
Though there is a provision for automatically sealing records in Texas, it does not necessarily happen. Sealing records takes place at the discretion of a court. A prosecutor can object to the sealing of any records and request a hearing.
When this happens, the owner of the record will have the opportunity to make a case to have the records sealed. An experienced Texas juvenile law attorney can help make sure the process is done correctly and help you determine which path to take, according to your personal circumstances.
To ensure that your youthful shortcomings are removed from public records, you will have to demonstrate that you have changed and are now a valuable member of the community. Texas juvenile court lawyers can advise you about how you can prove to a judge that you deserve a fresh start.
Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC is a results-driven San Antonio law firm that prioritizes the interests of our clients, especially children and juveniles. Are you in need of legal representation or have further questions?
Contact us now for all the help you need in a personal consultation.