Can an Order of Nondisclosure Seal Your Criminal Record?

Can an Order of Nondisclosure Seal Your Criminal Record_ Image

Understanding the law around sealing your criminal record in Collin County and surrounding areas can be confusing. Can an order of nondisclosure seal your criminal record? The good news is that an order of nondisclosure can significantly protect your privacy. While this legal step doesn’t erase your past, it can help remove your criminal record from public view and is a big step toward getting a fresh start after a criminal conviction.

What Is an Order of Nondisclosure?

An order of nondisclosure is a legal decree in Texas that restricts public access to certain criminal records. This order doesn’t erase records, but shields them from the public, allowing individuals to move forward with less stigma attached to their past.

In Texas, an order of nondisclosure is generally available to those who have completed deferred adjudication probation for specific offenses.

Eligibility for an order of nondisclosure and the associated waiting periods vary based on the level of the offense:

  • Misdemeanors – Most nonviolent misdemeanors qualify for nondisclosure immediately upon the completion of probation.
  • Felonies and Certain Misdemeanors – More severe cases, including felonies and charges like domestic violence, require a waiting period ranging from five to ten years post-probation.

The effect of an order of nondisclosure is to limit how public entities such as courts and police departments can disclose someone’s criminal record. This particularly impacts private background checks related to employment, housing, or other vital services.

Who Can See My Sealed Record After an Order of Nondisclosure?

An order of nondisclosure provides a layer of privacy and acts as a bridge to a more normal life, allowing individuals to pursue opportunities without the full weight of their past mistakes. This legal measure is vital for eligible individuals looking to advance their personal and professional lives. However, specific entities still retain access to these records, including:

  • State licensing boards
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Schools and educational institutions
  • Public officials and agencies involved in legal proceedings or investigations

What is the Difference Between Expungement and Nondisclosure?

Understanding the distinction between expungement and nondisclosure in Texas is essential for those looking to manage their criminal records. While both legal tools aim to improve an individual’s privacy and ability to move forward in life, their qualifications and effects differ significantly.

Qualifications

Expungement, or expunction, is available under very specific circumstances. It typically applies when an individual:

  • Was arrested but never charged
  • Had charges dismissed
  • Was acquitted of charges

This path completely clears an individual’s legal slate as if the incident never occurred. The eligibility for expunction is strictly outlined and does not extend to cases where the individual was found guilty or took a plea deal, except under rare statutory exceptions.

Nondisclosure, on the other hand, is more about concealing records from the general public and less stringent industries rather than erasing them. It applies primarily to those who have completed deferred adjudication for certain offenses and have successfully adhered to their probation conditions. Unlike expunction, nondisclosure does not destroy the records; it simply restricts access to them.

Effects

The effects of expungement are more comprehensive than those of nondisclosure. Once a record is expunged, government agencies must destroy all the information. The individual can legally deny the occurrence of the arrest and any ensuing legal proceedings. This total erasure offers a clean slate in almost all aspects of life, including full eligibility for most types of employment and clearances.

Nondisclosure, while beneficial, does not offer the same level of obscurity. While it restricts most employers and private entities from viewing criminal records, expunged records are inaccessible even to most governmental agencies. Exceptions in nondisclosure still allow certain authorities, such as police departments and state licensing boards, to access the records when necessary for public safety or regulatory purposes.

How Do I Get My Record Sealed?

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Obtaining an order of nondisclosure in Texas involves several steps to seal eligible criminal records from public access. This process can enhance your ability to secure employment, housing, and other opportunities without the shadow of past legal issues looming over you:

  • Consult an Attorney – Consult with a local attorney focusing on criminal law in Collin County. An attorney can provide a detailed assessment of your case to determine if you qualify for nondisclosure.
  • Determine Eligibility – You must have completed deferred adjudication for a qualifying offense and fulfilled all terms of your probation. This means you’ve met all the required waiting periods, which vary depending on the severity of the offense. Misdemeanors often require no waiting period, whereas felonies might require a waiting period of several years.
  • Prepare and File a Petition – Your attorney will help prepare a petition for nondisclosure to file with the court that handled your case. The petition includes your personal details, the offense, and documentation proving your eligibility and compliance with all legal requirements.
  • Serve Notice – Your petition must be served on the prosecutor’s office. This allows the state to contest the petition if it believes it is not in the best interest of public safety.
  • Attend a Hearing (if required) – A hearing may be necessary if the state challenges your petition. A judge will hear evidence and arguments from both sides during the hearing.
  • Obtain the Order – If the court grants the order of nondisclosure, it will issue an official order to seal your records. This order instructs all relevant public entities, such as courts and police departments, to seal your records from public access, except to certain governmental bodies as specified by law.
  • Monitor the Order – Once you have the order sealing your record, monitor compliance by periodically checking with public record databases to verify that the information is not publicly accessible.

Contact Our Collin County Nondisclosure Attorneys Today

Securing an order of nondisclosure can be a pivotal step toward a brighter future. Contact the Collin County criminal defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian for knowledgeable guidance and a detailed assessment of your situation. Contact us by phone at (972) 369-0577 or online for help understanding your options and starting anew.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : June 10, 2024