Sealing Criminal Records in Houston, TX
If you have ever been charged with a crime in Texas, a background check will quickly reveal this information. Even if you were not convicted due to a successful completion of deferred adjudication probation, your criminal record may include details pertaining to your arrest, the investigation and the criminal case.
As soon as you apply for a job, loan or mortgage, your potential employer, lender or landlord is likely to run a background check and will gain access to this harmful information. Colleges and universities may also require disclosure of criminal backgrounds and records as part of the application process.
To avoid having to disclose this information, you may be able to seal your criminal record from public view, subject to several requirements and restrictions. The key is to consult with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney to determine if you qualify for this important legal process.
Petitioning for Nondisclosure of Your Records
Depending on several factors, including a successful completion of deferred adjudication probation, you may be eligible to seal your criminal record through a process called “nondisclosure.” Nondisclosure, which is covered under Section 411.081 of the Texas Government Code, applies only to someone who successfully completes deferred adjudication probation for certain offenses.
Depending on the offense, you may be able to seal your record as soon as you complete your deferred adjudication probation or there could be a short waiting period. The following highlights various offenses and the potential waiting periods you may encounter.
Offenses with No Waiting Period
- Criminal trespass
- Failure to provide ID to a police officer
- Evading arrest on foot
- Burglary of a coin-operated machine
- Resisting arrest
- Possession of marijuana
- Theft (misdemeanor)
Offenses with a Two-Year Waiting Period
- Assault (with no finding of family violence)
- Deadly conduct
- Discharge of a firearm
- Disorderly conduct
- Public lewdness
- Indecent exposure
- Unlawful carrying of a weapon
- Possession of a prohibited weapon
- Terroristic threat (misdemeanor only)
- Interference with an emergency phone call
Felony offenses that qualify for nondisclosure all have a five-year waiting period before a petition can be filed.
Once the waiting period has passed, you are ready to file a Petition for Nondisclosure. Our office can help you prepare and file the necessary Petition. A hearing will then be held and, if the Court approves the Petition, the Judge will issue an Order of Nondisclosure and your records will be sealed.
Once the Judge seals your record, most third parties will no longer have access to your records. With the Order of Nondisclosure, you can fully deny having a criminal record on any applications for loans, jobs, homes or schools. Law enforcement officers still maintain the ability to access sealed records, provided that it is part of a criminal investigation. Certain licensing boards and other Texas agencies may also have an ability to access and review your sealed records. Please call our office to obtain a full list of these agencies and licensing boards.
The Benefit of Sealing Your Record
Even if you complete deferred adjudication probation and do not receive a final conviction, all records regarding your offense are accessible through simple background checks. Someone reviewing your criminal record may not understand what happened in your case — they just see a criminal record, and this could result in negative consequences for your future. Even if you make a concerted effort to live life as a law-abiding, responsible person, past indiscretions can be a serious barrier to the second chance you deserve. Although the law is not perfect, sealing your criminal record is important to protecting yourself from harmful background checks.
Convictions Before September 1, 2015
If you were found guilty of committing a criminal offense prior to September 1, 2015 (through a plea-bargain, straight probation, and/or by a jury), you cannot seal your criminal record. This includes accepting a time-served conviction or entering a plea of no contest. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Convictions After September 1, 2015
If you were convicted after September1, 2015, you can now seek a Nondisclosure for some first-time, non-violent misdemeanor crimes (such as possession of marijuana and theft). This is a significant change in the law that helps first-time offenders avoid the harmful consequences of a criminal conviction. The new law only applies to convictions received after September 1, 2015. You are still subject to the Court’s discretion when submitting a Petition for a conviction, but this is a huge change in the law that could really help protect your future.
Offenses That Cannot be Sealed
Some criminal charges – no matter what happens in the case – may never be eligible for Nondisclosure. These crimes include the following:
- Indecency with a child
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Prohibited sexual conduct (such as incest)
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Compelling prostitution
- Sexual performance by a child
- Injury to a child
- Violation of a protective order
- Any offense involving family violence
- Possession or promotion of child pornography
- Unlawful restraint, kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping
- Murder and capital murder
- Attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the above offenses
What If a New Job Came Down to You and One Other Person?
What if a new job opportunity presents itself in the next few weeks? Will a criminal background check hurt your chances? What if that job came down to you – someone with a criminal history – and one other person who has no criminal history? The scale is likely to tip in the other person’s favor. Take advantage of the ability to clear your criminal record so you can avoid losing these important opportunities.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer to Help Get Your Records Sealed
Your past does not need to dictate your future. If you want to get your records sealed, we recommend you speak to a skilled criminal defense lawyer to find out if you may qualify for Nondisclosure. The Westbrook Law Firm has over 12 years of legal experience, and we sincerely believe that people deserve a second chance.
When you hire our firm, you can trust that we will work diligently to make sure you are given that opportunity. We will conduct an in-depth review of your criminal record and determine if you qualify for a Nondisclosure of your criminal records.
It’s extremely important to have a committed attorney working for you during this process. Retaining legal representation can dramatically improve your chances of getting your records sealed in the quickest time possible.
To learn more about the Nondisclosure process, please call our office today at 281-888-5581. We offer a free consultation at several office locations in and around Houston. Start protecting your future now.