One of the most common questions I'm asked as a juvenile law attorney is how to seal juvenile records. Unfortunately, the answer isn't always easy, and like many things in law, it depends.
Parents and young adults rightly worry about the long-term consequences of a juvenile arrest, juvenile record, or formal adjudication. These can potentially impact future educational, employment, or housing opportunities.
Let's start with a foundational premise of juvenile law: young adults are not convicted of a crime, but they may be adjudicated as a delinquent child. An adjudication is a juvenile version of a conviction – but it has a different meaning and different consequences. But even if a juvenile avoids adjudication, the record still exists.
Who Can Look at a Juvenile Record in Texas?
Generally, the public-at-large is not allowed to view juvenile records because they are confidential. However, some serious juvenile adjudications (like a Determinate Sentence) can become public record.
Even though juvenile records are generally not viewable by the public, there are different government offices that can legally view juvenile records. Law enforcement, prosecutorial offices, adult probation, child protective services, DPS, and courts can all view juvenile arrests and records.
How to Stop People From Viewing a Juvenile Record in Texas
Most juvenile records can be sealed in Texas. Sealing means that the record does not exist, except for very limited purposes. Juvenile records are sealed in three ways:
1. If a Judge (or Jury) determines the allegation against you is Not True, the juvenile record should be sealed immediately.
2. Upon turning 19 years of age, a juvenile record is automatically sealed if the following conditions have been met:
a. Not adjudicated of a felony
b. No pending juvenile matters
c. Case not transferred to adult court
d. No adult convictions (excluding Class C misdemeanors)
e. No pending adult charges (excluding Class C misdemeanors)
f. Did not receive a Determinate Sentence
g. Not committed to TJJD
3. Apply to Seal Your Record.
How to Apply to Seal a Juvenile Record
A Texas juvenile record can be sealed upon application if:
1. At least 17 years old
2. Not in jail or prison
3. Not required to register as a sex offender
4. Did not receive a Determinate Sentence
5. No Pending juvenile matters
6. No pending adult charges punishable with jail time
7. Not transferred to adult court
8. No adult felony conviction
9. Not committed to TJJD
Young adults under the age of 17 can still have a juvenile record sealed if they meet the requirements above and at least one year has passed since the end of the case, probation, or commitment ended, whichever occurred last.
Benefits Of Sealing A Juvenile Record
Sealing a juvenile record results in a complete and permanent removal of the record. Once the record is sealed, you or your child can deny that the record ever existed as well as the events that led up to having a record. Whether it was an arrest, prosecution, or adjudication, it's as if it never happened.
A criminal record can impact your ability to find a job, rent an apartment or home, as well as for applying to educational or occupational licensing programs. During these applications, the other party may ask if you have a criminal record which you must answer truthfully. However, by sealing a juvenile record, it isn't necessary to report your record to landlords, employers, or other parties.
Need Assistance Sealing a Juvenile Record in Texas?
If you are interested in sealing your juvenile record or your minor child's record, it's essential to seek guidance from a knowledgeable attorney.