It’s fair to say that most people make mistakes during their lives. Sometimes, those mistakes lead to criminal charges and certain penalties. When someone has been charged with a crime, faced their mistakes or bad behavior, and paid the price as required by the court system, they deserve a second chance.
If you live in or around the Fort Worth area and you meet certain requirements, you may have the right to petition for a nondisclosure order to seal your criminal records. Under Texas law, there is a procedure you can follow to have your criminal records legally sealed and hidden from public view.
Only certain people qualify for a nondisclosure order, and the process can be complicated. Keep reading to learn the basics about record sealing and whether you may be eligible to file a petition. However, for details about sealing your personal Fort Worth criminal records, contact a Fort Worth record sealing attorney at the Fulgham Law Firm today.
What Does It Mean to Seal Tarrant County Criminal Records?
When someone is accused of violating state law, they may be charged with a crime. If you are accused of committing a crime, the court system provides certain rights that govern how your case will proceed and the actions you can take.
Criminal cases can resolve in many ways, including:
- The state fails to file an official charge
- The case is dismissed by the court
- A not-guilty verdict or finding is entered
- A guilty verdict or finding is entered
- A conviction is ordered
- Deferred adjudication (also known as probation) is ordered
- Fines are assessed
- Jail or prison time is ordered, and
- Other possible outcomes.
Assuming your criminal case falls into one of the categories that make you eligible for a nondisclosure order (more on this later), one option provided by Texas law is to have your record sealed after your case is resolved. This means that a judge orders all documents related to your criminal case to be sealed and hidden from public view.
When your record is concealed in this manner, it cannot be viewed by potential employers, landlords, or others who could make adverse decisions based on its contents. As a result, you won’t lose a job or housing opportunity because of your criminal history.
However, some people or agencies will still have access to the criminal records that are included in the nondisclosure order. For example, law enforcement officials, state licensing boards, and court officials maintain access to sealed records.
Why Is Non-Disclosure Important?
Studies show that African-American and Hispanic applicants are more likely to be denied employment because of a previous criminal conviction or arrest. Research also reveals that it is more difficult for ex-offenders to secure jobs, find housing, finance education, or secure government services. Without these opportunities, ex-offenders will likely face additional challenges, including subsequent criminal charges.
If you have a criminal history, sealing your Tarrant County criminal records could be an extremely important step for you. Sealing your records will prevent potential employers or other decision-makers from viewing your file so that you won’t lose job opportunities or access to school loans or government services based on your criminal history.
What Are the Benefits of Receiving an Order of Nondisclosure in Texas?
According to a study entitled Barred From Employment, 64 percent of unemployed men aged 35 or younger have been arrested for a crime, and 46 percent have been convicted. The stigma of a criminal record can negatively impact a person for the rest of their life.
If potential employers do not have access to an applicant’s criminal history, they may have the opportunity to prove themselves as a trustworthy, dependable employee. Finding employment will affect their future significantly by reducing recidivism and increasing employability and earning potential.
Also, when someone with a criminal history is searching for a home to rent or buy, landlords will not reject their application based on a criminal background if they do not have access to this information. Certain financial benefits, such as school loans, may also become available once a criminal history is sealed from view.
What Does Non-Disclosure Mean For My Fort Worth Court Records?
If you file a request for nondisclosure, you are asking the court to seal your criminal record because you successfully completed deferred adjudication or other court-ordered requirements for an eligible offense. So, the first question must be: which offenses are eligible for nondisclosure orders?
The most common crimes that are not eligible for non-disclosure are:
- Capital Murder
- Sexual Offenses
- Aggravated Kidnapping
- Injury to children or the elderly
- Violation of a Protective Order, and
- Assault-Family Violence
In addition, certain eligible misdemeanors still require a two-year waiting period from your discharge date before you can file for nondisclosure. For felonies, there is a five-year waiting period before nondisclosure is available.
Do I Qualify For a Non-Disclosure Order?
Under Texas law, there are six requirements under the Government Code §411.081 to file for a non-disclosure, including:
- You were placed on deferred adjudication probation pursuant to article 42.12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- You were discharged and dismissed under article 42.12, §5(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- Your petition for nondisclosure was filed after the waiting period (if any).
- During your period of community supervision and the applicable waiting period, you were not convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication under article 42.12 §5 for any offense other than an offense punishable by fine only and
- You were not placed on deferred adjudication and were not previously convicted or placed on deferred adjudication for offenses under section §411.081 (e) of the Government Code.
- Non-Disclosure is in the best interest of justice.
As you can see, the law is complicated, and without a thorough understanding of each provision mentioned, you may not know if you qualify for a nondisclosure order. Talk to a Fort Worth record sealing attorney to learn if you may have your Tarrant County criminal records sealed.
How to File a Petition for Nondisclosure in Fort Worth
The State of Texas provides a way for people with certain types of criminal records to have them sealed from public access and to have those records hidden from public view.
To petition the courts to seal a criminal record in Fort Worth, Texas, a person must not have been convicted of any crime other than a Class C misdemeanor for the past five years.
A person cannot have been convicted of any other offense during this period. If you are currently on probation, you must complete all terms and conditions before petitioning the court to seal your record.
If the court grants your petition, your criminal record will be sealed, and a new non-public file will be created containing only a reference to the original offense, along with a note that the records have been sealed.
How Long Does It Take to Have Your Records Sealed in Fort Worth?
If you do qualify for non-disclosure, you should work with a criminal attorney in Fort Worth, such as the criminal attorneys with the Fulgham Law Firm, to file a petition for non-disclosure. If the judge signs the order, the clerk must send a copy of the order to the Crime Records Service of the Department of Public Safety within 15 business days.
The Texas Department of Public Safety must seal any criminal history information within ten days of receiving the order and send the order or information to state officials and entities. The State Officials and Entities must seal any criminal history record information within 30 business days of receiving the order from the court clerk. Texas Government Code §411.081 explains in detail the right to a non-disclosure.
What Is the Difference Between a Non-Disclosure Order and an Expunction of Tarrant County Criminal Records?
The primary difference between a nondisclosure order and an expunction order is that an expunction physically destroys all records associated with an arrest and criminal case, while a non-disclosure seals all records associated with the arrest and criminal case from public view.
How do you know which option you qualify for? It is crucial to consult with an attorney who understands this specific area of criminal law.
The primary determination of your qualification will be based on the specific charges you faced and how you resolved your criminal case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can tell you what each process entails for each type of case and make some suggestions about whether it’s worth pursuing either one of these options.
An important distinction between an expunction and nondisclosure is that even if your record is sealed through a nondisclosure order, there are some agencies and licensing boards that still may have access to your criminal file.
For instance, if your criminal record is sealed through a nondisclosure order, licensing boards (doctors/nurses/lawyers/real estate agents) and government benefits applications will still have access to the file.
As a result, they may take your previous criminal charges into consideration in granting or denying a license or government benefits. Otherwise, you may deny the charges ever existed if you successfully had your criminal records sealed through a nondisclosure order.
If your criminal case was dismissed or “no billed” by a grand jury, you may have the option of having your criminal records expunged. The process takes about three months after the appropriate forms are filed with the court, and there is an associated fee. If you don’t receive any other convictions during this time, everything should go smoothly.
What Are the Limitations of a Non-Disclosure Order or Expungement of Tarrant County Criminal Records?
Someone with a sealed criminal record usually cannot work in law enforcement, medical care, public education, or any other position requiring a state license because the state agency can see the record and may deny their application.
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) can deny an applicant’s teaching certification in Texas when that applicant has been convicted of certain crimes (class A misdemeanors and above), even if records have been sealed.
People with a criminal record sealed by a non-disclosure in Fort Worth, Texas, may still be prosecuted under federal law or laws of other states where they committed or were accused of committing the crime(s).
They also cannot seek specific licenses, such as becoming an attorney in the state of Texas. There are many jobs that people with sealed records cannot hold, including real estate brokers and security guards, among others.
Sealing and expunging records in Fort Worth, Texas, is not an easy process. An individual must do many things before a court will seal or expunge a criminal record.
Each state sets its requirements for sealing and expungement of criminal records. Even different counties within a state may have different rules regarding sealing and expunging criminal records.
Texas allows a record to be sealed if the criminal case resolved by deferred adjudication and if you successfully completed the terms and conditions of the deferred adjudication. Alternatively, you will qualify for an expunction if you are found not guilty at a criminal jury trial.
To Learn if Your Tarrant County Criminal Records Can Be Sealed, Talk to the Fort Worth Record Sealing Lawyers at the Fulgham Law Firm
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Fort Worth, Arlington, or Tarrant County and you completed deferred adjudication, you may be entitled to a nondisclosure order. If you want to know if you qualify for non-disclosure, reach out to the dedicated team at Fulgham Law Firm now.
Call us for your free and confidential consultation with our skilled nondisclosure attorneys.
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