By Dallas ad Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy F. Rosenthal
Just like with Deferred Adjudication, many people make the mistake of assuming that juvenile arrests and juvenile arrest records simply go away on their own in Texas. They don’t. The laws controlling juvenile arrest and criminal records is just as complex as the expunction statutes — but fortunately they are a bit more forgiving too.
Juvenile Records are Generally Confidential in Texas
Generally speaking, juvenile records aren’t accessible to the public to begin with. When cases get filed (Class B Misdemeanors and above) they are filed in District Court but you won’t find those cases in online databases or other ways you can find most cases. This is because the pleadings are confidential under Texas Family Code 58.005.
Class C Misdemeanors get filed in municipal or justice Court and are expunged under similar proceedings in adult courts.
Juvenile pleadings in District Court — and I’m generalizing here — act as records that are non-disclosed in the adult world. This means that police, prosecutors, Courts, and certain governmental agencies have access to them but the general public does not (with exceptions being sex offender registration, gang affiliation, other other serious felonies).
Sealing Juvenile Records
Juveniles are eligible to have records of adjudications (convictions) sealed under the following conditions of Family Code Chapter 58.003(a); (1) two years have elapsed since final discharge of the person or since the last official action in the person’s case if there was no adjudication; and (2) since the time specified in Subdivision (1), the person has not been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or found to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision and no proceeding is pending seeking conviction or adjudication.
If the child was adjudicated to have engaged in felony conduct, then it is more difficult, if not impossible to get the juvenile records sealed. Here is Section 58.003 of the Family Code for the particulars on those situations. Those provisions are very complex and probably require the assistance of a lawyer.
Texas Family Code Section 58.201 controls restricted access to juvenile records and it provides an easier mechanism for the equivalency of having your records sealed. The Texas Youth Commission has information about it here and here. TYC promises a *fresh start, but I’ve included the asterisk because with most programs to “help” you done by law enforcement, it leaves them the opportunity to undo what they’ve given to you if they really want to badly enough (the records aren’t destroyed and law enforcement still has access to them… so we’ll call it semi-fresh start).
Records Can Be Unsealed
Upon motion in a future case, the State can petition the a Court to unseal juvenile records to use them in subsequent punishment proceedings.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about a specific situation you should directly consult an attorney.