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Texas Juvenile Justice System: Understanding sealing and restricted access

Who has a juvenile record in Texas?

Anyone who was taken into custody or referred to court for delinquent conduct, which is generally Class A or B misdemeanor or felony offenses, or conduct indicating a need for supervision (CINS), including class C misdemeanors and conduct that would not be against the law if committed by an adult (like drinking or running away), or certain specific offenses such as prostitution and “sexting” has a juvenile record. Juvenile records are kept in probation, law enforcement, and court files as well as computer databases such as the Juvenile Justice Information System (JJIS) maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety

How do I protect my juvenile record?

While juvenile records are generally confidential, there are certain exceptions that allow police, prosecutors, probation officers, health and human services agencies, education entities, and other criminal and juvenile justice officials in Texas and elsewhere to have access. The records may
also be available to employers, educational institutions, licensing agencies, and other organizations when you apply for employment or educational programs. Treatment records (counseling, placement, drug treatment, etc.) are confidential and access to them is much more limited. Sealing and restricted access are important ways available by law to protect your records and limit who can access them. Expunctions are only available in justice and municipal courts.

What does it mean to seal a record?

Beginning on September 1, 2015, juvenile records may be automatically sealed. Sealing of records is a process that allows you to have your records “sealed” so that no one can access them. Records that are sealed are treated as though they never existed and you may legally deny that you were ever involved in the juvenile system. Records can be “unsealed” for very limited purposes. The most important change in the law is that you do not have to hire an attorney to help you file an application with the court. If your records were eligible for sealing before September 1, 2015, it will still be necessary to hire an attorney to apply to seal your records

What is restricted access?

Restricted access is the method of limited disclosure of juvenile records only to criminal justice agencies. These records are not destroyed but remain in place. Your records may be “unrestricted,” or removed from restricted access, however, for adult convictions or deferred adjudications that occur after age 17. If this happens, your delinquency history may once again become available to certain agencies and organizations that conduct background checks. Juvenile records that become eligible for sealing after you turn 17 will initially be placed on restricted access. Any new criminal history may also impact whether your records can be sealed later.

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