Texas Attorneys Discuss Sealing Misdemeanor Records
Texas Attorneys Discuss Sealing Misdemeanor Records
Having a misdemeanor on your record in Texas can cause all kinds of problems — it can make it harder to get a job, rent an apartment, or get approved for loans. That’s why many folks with misdemeanors want to get their records sealed. Sealing a criminal record in Texas is called “non-disclosure,” and it limits access to your criminal history so most people can’t see it. Here’s what Texas attorneys say about the process of sealing misdemeanor records in the Lone Star State.
What is non-disclosure in Texas?
Non-disclosure, or record sealing, prevents the public and most private entities from being able to view your criminal record — but it doesn’t destroy the record altogether. Law enforcement agencies and Texas occupational licensing agencies can still access sealed records with a court order. So sealing a record doesn’t make it disappear completely, but it does provide more privacy.
“Non-disclosure limits access to criminal records, so background checks won’t turn up sealed arrests or convictions,” explains Austin defense attorney Kevin Bennett. “For most purposes, it’s like the offense never happened.”
Who is eligible for misdemeanor record sealing in Texas?
In order to seal a misdemeanor in Texas, you must meet certain eligibility requirements:
- You completed deferred adjudication probation successfully
- You have no prior felonies or misdemeanor convictions
- At least 1 year has passed since you completed probation (2 years for DWI)
- You have never received deferred adjudication for a felony
“Only misdemeanors handled through deferred adjudication can be sealed,” says Fort Worth attorney Barry Sorrels. “If you pled guilty or no contest and were convicted, record sealing is not an option.”
Dismissed cases can potentially be expunged in Texas, but expunction is a different process than non-disclosure. Talk to a lawyer to explore your options.
How much does it cost to seal a misdemeanor in Texas?
Filing fees for non-disclosure petitions range from $250-$500 depending on the county. You’ll also have to pay to serve notice to relevant agencies. Some counties may charge an additional fee to actually seal the records.
“Court costs vary widely, so call the clerk’s office to find out the specific fees in your jurisdiction,” advises Houston attorney Philip Gommels. “If you can’t afford the fees, ask the judge to waive them.”
What’s the process for sealing misdemeanors in Texas?
Here are the basic steps to seal a misdemeanor in Texas:
- Determine eligibility for non-disclosure
- Obtain certified copies of relevant court records
- Prepare and file the petition for non-disclosure
- Serve notice to relevant agencies
- Attend the hearing
- Ensure the court issues the order to seal
“The process involves filing the right paperwork and serving notice to the arresting agency, DA’s office, and DPS,” says Dallas attorney Michael Lowe. “An attorney can handle all of this for you to improve the odds of success.”
How long does it take to seal a misdemeanor in Texas?
The non-disclosure process takes 2-6 months on average. The waiting period after probation ends, obtaining certified court records, serving notices, waiting for a hearing date, and the court’s processing time all factor into the timeline.
“From start to finish, expect sealing a misdemeanor in Texas to take around 6 months,” notes San Antonio lawyer Tylden Shaeffer. “Having an attorney can help speed things along.”
Can you get a misdemeanor sealed immediately in Texas?
No, you cannot get a misdemeanor sealed immediately after the case ends in Texas. You must wait at least 1 year after completing deferred adjudication probation to file the petition. The soonest you could get a misdemeanor sealed is around 18 months from the end of probation.
“I wish I could tell my clients their record will be sealed right away, but that’s not how it works,” says El Paso attorney John Gonzalez. “There is a mandatory waiting period before you can even request non-disclosure in Texas.”
Does sealing a misdemeanor in Texas remove it from your record?
No, sealing a misdemeanor does not completely erase it from your record in Texas. The records still exist but become confidential. The offense will still show up on background checks run by law enforcement or licensing agencies.
“It’s important to understand that non-disclosure seals records from public view, but does not destroy them,” cautions Brownsville lawyer Amy Sanchez. “Government agencies can still access sealed misdemeanors in Texas with a court order.”
Does a sealed misdemeanor show up on background checks in Texas?
For most background checks run by employers or landlords, a sealed misdemeanor will not show up. However, the offense will still appear on fingerprint background checks since law enforcement has access to sealed records.
“Sealing a record won’t prevent it from appearing on an FBI fingerprint check,” says Waco attorney David Moore. “But it should no longer show up on most routine criminal background checks done by employers.”
Can a sealed misdemeanor be used against you in Texas?
In most cases, no. The whole point of sealing records is to prevent past misdemeanors from being used against you. However, in limited circumstances, a sealed offense can still be considered:
- In subsequent criminal proceedings to determine punishment
- By law enforcement and occupational licensing agencies
- For enhanced sentencing if you commit another crime
“While rare, there are certain situations where a sealed misdemeanor could resurface and be used against you,” warns Lubbock lawyer Greg Stevens. “That’s why hiring an attorney is so important – they can advise you on any potential risks.”
Does sealing a misdemeanor restore your gun rights in Texas?
No, sealing a misdemeanor conviction does not restore your firearm rights in Texas. The only way to regain gun rights after a misdemeanor conviction is through a pardon or relief from disabilities granted by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Don’t expect sealing a misdemeanor to reinstate your Second Amendment rights,” says Abilene attorney Amanda Smith. “You’ll need to apply for separate relief to have your gun rights restored in Texas after a conviction.”
Can you seal a misdemeanor DWI in Texas?
Yes, you may be able to seal a misdemeanor DWI offense in Texas. The eligibility requirements are stricter compared to other misdemeanors:
- 2 year waiting period after probation ends
- First-time DWI offense
- Blood alcohol concentration below 0.15%
- No injuries or accidents resulting from the DWI
“Misdemeanor DWIs are eligible for non-disclosure if you meet all the requirements,” confirms Dallas DWI lawyer J. Michael Price. “An attorney can review your specific case details to advise if you qualify to seal a DWI misdemeanor.”
Should you hire a lawyer to seal a misdemeanor in Texas?
Yes, hiring an attorney is highly recommended when applying for misdemeanor record sealing in Texas. An experienced lawyer can:
- Determine eligibility based on your unique case
- Navigate the complex filing process
- Draft persuasive legal petitions and filings
- Communicate with the court and district attorney
- Advocate for you at the hearing
- Improve chances of getting approved
“Trying to seal a record without an attorney is risky and not recommended,” says Austin expungement lawyer Amy Bresnen. “The legal system is complex, and lawyers have the expertise to guide you through the process successfully.”
For the best chance at sealing your Texas misdemeanor, consult with a local criminal defense or expungement attorney. The law offers many residents a second chance to move on with their lives – with the help of a lawyer, you may be able to clear your record and overcome the barriers of a past mistake.