Despite popular belief, a juvenile's record is not automatically sealed upon turning the age of 18. This means that anyone of a "legitimate interest," such as potential employers, college admissions personnel, law enforcement agencies, and potential landlords are readily able to search and discover an individual's juvenile record. In order to give individuals the opportunity to have this information sealed, the law has granted the juvenile courts the power to seal records under section 53.045 of the Texas Family Code, which will be discussed below.
Who is not eligible?
The quesiton should actually be "who is not eligible?" as the code describes who is precluded. If a juvenile does not match the following criteria, then the code has not precluded them from petitioning to have their record sealed.
The first rule is if you received a "determinate sentence" adjudication, meaning the prosecutor took the case to a grand jury and received permission to raise the stakes of penalty for the juvenile offender. This typically means that the juvenile could have been transferred to the Texas Department of Corrections upon their 19th birthday. Determinate sentencing is only applicable if the juvenile is charged with one of the following offenses:
The juvenile is also disqualified from having record sealed if the case was moved from juvenile court to an adult court or if the juvenile is obliged to register as a sex offender.
The second rule depends on the number of offenses the juvenile has been adjudicated on. A habitual offender, one who has been convicted of three or more third degree or higher felonies.
Drug Court Progam Graduates - Eligible.
The code specifically takes mention of those juveniles who were sentenced to a drug court program under Chapter 469 of the Texas and Safety Code. When a juvenile completes sucha program, the juvenile court has the option to seal the records immediately and without a hearing, or hold a hearing to determine sealing the juvenile's record.
Timing and Eligibility
Generally speaking, if there was no adjudication, an individual must wait 2 years from the date of final discharge and must not have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime of moral turpitude (theft, false ID, filling a false police report) from the court before they are eligible to petition for a sealed record. The also may not petition if there are any pending cases.
What to do if a juvenile qualifies
If it appears that a person qualifies to have their juvenile record sealed, it is in their best interest to have that information sealed. It will prevent looking eyes from seeing childhood mistakes, and it will limit the ability for law enforcement and prosecution to use this record against them in future criminal proceedings.
The Law Office of Matthew Ryan Montes represents juveniles seeking to seal their records in all major metropolitan areas in Texas, and other smaller counties by request. Feel free to contact Mr. Montes for a free consultation through his avvo.com profile.