I am eligible for order of nondisclosure for deferred adjudication and dont want to hire an attorney, so I found Texas Fresh Start on the internet and was wondering if this would be alright to do instead.
Ask your school counselor. I thought the Texas Fresh Start program had to do with starting your degree with a clean slate. I am not aware that it has anything to do with your criminal record. If you want to get a non-disclosure order, hire an attorney. Schools can still see your record though.
Criminal Defense Attorney
Sure you can, but would you trust a business that sells dental gear to prepare you to perform your own root canal? Non-disclosures and expunctions are procedurally tricky, and if not done properly, you will have wasted your time and money. You must pay a filing fee, prepare the petition properly, name all necessary agencies and entities that have information regarding your alleged offense, plead the proper statutory authority for the relief you seek, prepare an order, set it for hearing, give notice of the hearing and then explain to the court why the relief you seek is in the best interest of society. Just because you're eligible doesn't mean you're entitled. There are more steps than the above, but that is an idea of what you're looking at. Moreover, and nothing against the company you reference, but there were major changes to the Non-Disclosure and Expunction statutes that took effect in Sept 2011. A quick look at the fresh start website shows the most recent update as 2007. Major changes that many lawyers are still trying to comprehend were passed but it does not appear that the website recognizes this. That would scare me.
So again, you can do it, but if you do it wrong, your the one that has to either try and redo it if allowed, or deal with the fact that by trying to save a few hundred dollars you hurt yourself in the long run. I suggest hiring an attorney rather than messing with an outstate company that may or may not prepare you to properly get the relief you desire.
Good luck and feel free to contact me regarding non-disclosure issues to educate yourself.
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Criminal Defense Attorney
I know it's tempting to try to save a little money by doing this, but as Mr. Soechting pointed out, you may very well end up wasting your money altogether, either because it could turn out you're not eligible after all or the judge could get irritated that something wasn't done right and deny your request. I also handled nondisclosures and expunctions as a prosecutor, and I can tell you that it was very uncommon to find a petition prepared without an attorney that was actually done correctly. Sometimes the problems were fixable, and sometimes they weren't, but regardless, the petitioners had to invest a fair amount of time and money for court costs without any guaranteed return or way to get their money back if things didn't work out.
I looked briefly at the information given on the TexasFreshStart.com site, and there is a lot of information there that is actually correct. But there are also quite a number of things on there that are very definitely NOT correct, and without the guidance of an attorney who has actually handled real nondisclosure cases in real Texas courts, and is familiar with current Texas law, you may or may not end up with the result you're looking for. For example, despite their claims of providing updated information about changed in relevant Texas laws, neither of their pages on "current" expunction and nondisclosure laws actually reflect current Texas law. It's actually considerably worse than Mr. Soechting's observation about the last site update being in 2007, which was scary enough. They claim to provide you with current nondisclosure and expunction law so that you can "do your own research", but the expunction statutes shown on their site appear to be the 2005 version. In real life, those statutes have been amended extensively by the Legislature three times since then, in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Texas Fresh Start's version of the nondisclosure statute is even worse--it's the 2003 version, and the statute has actually been amended four times since then, in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. This means that what the law says now, and would've judge would apply to a nondisclosure case filed now, is very definitely NOT what this company is representing it to be. Unless you hapoen to be a law school student working on some law review article about the progression of Texas record-clearing laws over the years, I kind of doubt you much care what the nondisclosure provisions were nine years ago.
If you want to spend your money on something of such questionable caliber, you certainly can, but you might first want to stop and consider that it's usually true that you get what you pay for. Good luck.
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After reading my colleagues answers, I now see that you were asking about a private company and not the official "fresh start" program run by the State. I would like to add that not only is their information outdated and wrong, but even the paperwork people get at some courthouses is fraught with errors and omissions. I have spent years perfecting the forms, especially the list of suggested agencies to serve. Every list I have ever seen had a ton of errors and was not complete.
Also, I just took a look at the prices for providing you with "paper" and wow!!! For the completed packed, $199.95 for a non-disclosure and $249.95 for an expungement. Number one, completing a legal form for you to file at the courthouse, I believe, is practicing law without a license and is not legal. Number two, what the site is not telling you is that the average cost at the courthouse is going to be around ($450.00, which is the filing fee plus the add-on fees for each agency you list). Let's take a look at the expungement example by way of price....$249.95 plus $450.00 = $700.00. Now you spent $700.00 and you don't have a lawyer, you probably missed an important agency to notify (which will cause you problems down the road) or you did something incorrectly, which will delay things for you or cause you problems down the road. Are all of these problems really worth it to you just to save a couple of hundred dollars?
Finally, I don't see why their prices for a non-disclosure are different than their prices for an expungement when it's the same amount of work involved and the amount of "paper" they send to you should be the same. If you're determined to do it yourself, than good luck. You're going to need a lot of luck to get this right without a lawyer. Be smart, hire a competent lawyer that has experience doing non-disclosures and expungements.
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