In Texas, the public has limited access to juvenile records, though certain individuals and agencies are permitted to view them. To ensure maximum confidentiality, you may be able to have your juvenile record officially sealed by following the guidelines below. Generally, sealed juvenile records are treated as though they never existed. You are not required to disclose information about your sealed juvenile record to anyone -- for instance, to colleges or potential employers.
Does Your Juvenile Court Record Qualify for Sealing?
Your Texas juvenile record may be sealed in one of two ways. Certain records are automatically restricted from view by everyone but criminal justice agencies. You can also ask a court to seal your records, which provides more complete confidentiality.
Your record may qualify for restricted access if all of the following are true:
- you are at least seventeen years old
- you were not classified as a violent or habitual offender, and
- your case was not transferred to adult criminal court.
If you later commit a serious offense, your record will be removed from restricted access. Sex offender registration records and records related to criminal street gang activity cannot be restricted.
(Texas Family Code §§ 58.202 to 58.211.)
Asking a Court to Seal Your Record
In addition to the automatic restriction program, you can ask the court to permanently seal your record. Whether your record qualifies for sealing depends on the type of offense you committed.
Misdemeanor offenses. The court must seal your record if:
- at least two years have passed since the end of your case
- you have not been convicted of any other offenses, and
- no charges are pending against you.
Felony offenses. The court may agree to seal your record if:
- you are at least nineteen years old
- your case was not transferred to adult criminal court
- your record was not used in the punishment phase of a criminal proceeding, and
- you have not been convicted of another felony since the age of seventeen.
If you completed a drug court program. The court may agree to seal your misdemeanor or felony record if you completed a drug court program.
If you violated Section 43.261 of the Texas Penal Code. If, as a juvenile, you committed certain offenses having to do with the electronic transmission of material depicting a minor engaging sexual conduct, your record may qualify for sealing after you complete an approved education program.
Exceptions. Your record will not qualify for sealing if your juvenile court sentence extended into your adult years, you have a sex offender registry record, or you were classified as a habitual offender.
(Texas Family Code § 58.003.)
How to File
To formally seal your juvenile court record, you must file a petition with the court in the county where your case was handled. Contact the court clerk’s office for more information.
Getting Legal Help
Clearing a juvenile record can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for sealing in Texas -- or for help completing the necessary paperwork or presenting your case to the court -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.