Texas Juvenile Records: Who Has Access? Can They Be Sealed?

What information is in a Texas juvenile record?

Texas juvenile records contain documentation filed during a youth’s time in the juvenile justice system. These records pertain to juvenile offenders and proceedings brought under the Juvenile Justice Code. They do not include names of child witnesses or victims, records from municipal or JP courts, or records of non-juveniles which generally means before the age of 10 or after 17 in most cases. Juvenile records typically include: 

  • Basic information such as birthdate, home address
  • Reports of arrests, charges, and detention
  • Court documents
  • Disposition status
  • Treatment records
  • Academic records

Who has a juvenile record in Texas?

Anyone in Texas charged with a Class A or B misdemeanor criminal offense or any felony offense between ages 10 and 16 has a juvenile file and record in the county for which the offense occurred. 

If you were charged with specific Class C misdemeanor offenses, and the original court transferred the case to a juvenile court, you have a juvenile record.

Sealing Juvenile Records

Everyone deserves a second chance. This is especially true for children, who often must make mistakes – even big ones – to learn valuable lessons about behavior and society.

That is why keeping juvenile records as private as possible has become a priority for Texas. In this article, our attorneys will explain Texas juvenile records, including what they contain, who has access to them, and how to make sure they’re sealed. 

The good news is some people who have juvenile offenses in their past have their juvenile records automatically sealed on the day they turn 19, provided they meet specific requirements.

Finding the Right Juvenile Attorney

It’s possible to seal a child’s juvenile record much sooner with the help of an experienced juvenile attorney.

If your child has been taken into custody, it’s important to retain an attorney immediately to ensure the child’s Texas juvenile record is sealed. Varghese Summersett’s Lisa Herrick is one of only three Board Certified juvenile attorneys in Tarrant County. She is ready to defend your child’s future.

When Tarrant County’s Juvenile Court May Not Seal Records

Tarrant County’s juvenile court may reject the sealing of juvenile records if the person has:

  • Received a determinate sentence for engaging in serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and aggravated robbery
  • Habitual felony conduct as described by Section 51.031
  • Required to register as a sex offender
  • Was committed to Texas Juvenile Justice Department or to a post-adjudication secure facility unless the person has been discharged from TJJD.

Who can access Texas juvenile records?

Texas juvenile records are confidential, with some significant exceptions.

Law enforcement officials, prosecutors, probation and corrections officers, and juvenile justice officials have access to juvenile records that have not been sealed. Sensitive information in juvenile records, including counseling history or drug treatment, is available only to authorized personnel. The exceptions, by Texas law, include:

  1. Military personnel, with permission of the juvenile offender
  2. Criminal justice agencies
  3. Noncriminal justice agency authorized by federal statute or federal executive order to receive juvenile justice record information
  4. Juvenile justice agency
  5. Texas Juvenile Justice Department;
  6. Office of the independent ombudsman of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department;
  7. A district, county, justice, or municipal court exercising jurisdiction over a juvenile

What are the benefits of sealing Texas juvenile records?

The person can lawfully deny any juvenile offenses if their records have been sealed.

According to Texas law, the information in the records, the fact that the records existed, or the person’s denial of the existence of the records or the person’s involvement in a juvenile matter may not be used against the person in any manner, including in:

  1.  A perjury prosecution or other criminal proceeding
  2.  A civil proceeding, including an administrative proceeding involving a governmental entity
  3. An application process for licensing or certification
  4. An admission, employment, or housing decision

Why is sealing Texas juvenile records important?

Without records sealing, anyone with a history in the juvenile justice system has a criminal record with Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI. 

Without sealing, an individual could be required to report existing juvenile records when applying for employment, school, or other applications. This could be an issue with college admissions, military enlistment, or obtaining financial aid or housing.

To be clear, however, juvenile records are not accessible to the general public the same way adult records are. But without a seal, multiple agencies have access, including criminal and juvenile justice agencies, school districts and schools where the person attends, governmental agencies if the disclosure is authorized by law, the Department of Family and Protective Services, and any person, agency, or institution having a “legitimate interest” in the matter, if they obtain permission from the court.

Your juvenile records are sealed automatically at age 18 if …

If you were referred to juvenile court for conduct in need of supervision (or CINS) and never referred for delinquent conduct, your records are sealed when you turn 18, as long as you do not have an adult felony conviction or any pending adult charges.

What if I don’t qualify for automatically sealed juvenile records?

If you were adjudicated for a felony or don’t meet the criteria for automatic sealing, you can apply to the court requesting that your records are sealed. The court could order the records sealed with or without a hearing. The court, in any instance, can’t deny an application for sealing without first hearing an argument. An attorney is advisable during this process. 

To qualify, you must:

  • Be at least age 17, or at least one year since the last court action or discharge from probation
  • Have no adult felony convictions or pending adult charges (other than Class C misdemeanors)
  • Was not transferred by a juvenile court to a criminal court or certified
  • Are not currently required to register as a sex offender and are not currently committed to TJJD
  • Received a determinate sentence adjudication

Why is it important to check if your records are sealed?

Although state law requires Texas juvenile records to be automatically sealed for qualifying persons, errors and delays occur. Some counties have a backlog of cases and are slow to process sealing. Also, cases that included felony adjudication are not eligible for automatic sealing, and an application to request a  seal is required. It is wise to have your attorney request that the juvenile court seals the records as soon as you are eligible.

Can Texas juvenile records be unsealed?

Yes, if you request that a court unseal your records or if a prosecutor asks for access for limited purposes, including a future prosecution for a capital offense or a future prosecution for an offense for which punishment can be enhanced based on your juvenile record.

When are Texas juvenile records destroyed?

The court can destroy juvenile records if no probable cause is found at intake or by a prosecutor. Destruction of juvenile records may be authorized by the juvenile board, the head of any law enforcement agency in the possession of records, or the prosecutor if:

  • At age 18, if the conduct in need of supervision was the most serious referral, whether or not the case was adjudicated
  • At age 21, if the most serious conduct adjudicated was a misdemeanor, or if a felony or misdemeanor referral, not adjudicated 
  • At age 31 if adjudicated for a felony

The above stipulations apply to all juvenile records, no matter when they were created but does not include records kept by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for statistical purposes. Destruction of records also does not apply to juvenile court records or juvenile clerk’s records.

Is it possible for Texas juvenile records to be sealed automatically and immediately?

Texas Code section 58.2551 requires that juvenile records are automatically and immediately sealed upon a finding of not true. But for this to happen, it’s imperative to have an experienced juvenile attorney by your child’s side to have the best possible opportunity to receive a “not true” finding. In juvenile court, a not-true finding is comparable to a not-guilty verdict for adults.

Are juvenile records automatically sealed in Texas?

The Texas Juvenile Justice Code Section 58.253 provides that the state automatically seals juvenile records if the person meets the following requirements:

  • The person is at least age 19
  • No adjudication occurred after any misdemeanor or felony referrals
  • If adjudicated for a misdemeanor offense only
  • No pending delinquent conduct matter
  • Has not been certified to stand trial as an adult
  • No convictions of a misdemeanor or felony punishable by confinement in jail as an adult
  • No pending charges as an adult for a misdemeanor or felony offense punishable by confinement in jail

What are the requirements to apply to seal juvenile records in Texas?

The Texas Juvenile Justice Code Section 58.256 allows the juvenile court to order records sealing for anyone meeting the following criteria:

  • The person is age 17, or if younger than 17, at least one year has passed since the date of final discharge from the Juvenile Probation Department, and is accompanied by a parent or guardian at the hearing
  • No delinquent conduct matters pending with any Juvenile Probation Department or Juvenile Court
  • Has not been certified to stand trial as an adult
  • Has no felony convictions as an adult
  • Has no pending charges as an adult for misdemeanor or felony offenses punishable by confinement in jail.
  • Did not receive a determinate sentence adjudication
  • Is not currently required to register as a sex offender
  • Was not committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department until the person has been discharged from that commitment

How do you apply to seal juvenile records in Texas?

An experienced juvenile attorney at Varghese Summersett will complete and file the correct paperwork. The application must be filed with the Tarrant County District Clerk’s office at 2701 Kimbo Road in Fort Worth.

Are gang or sex offender records confidential for Texas juveniles?

The Texas Department of Public Safety holds gang information, and these records are limited to criminal justice officials for law enforcement purposes.

Juvenile sex offender records are exempt from the restricted access system. But if your court-appointed obligation to register as a sex offender expires, you might have the right to have your records sealed.

Texas DPS Reviews Juvenile Records for Sealing

Since 2015, Texas DPS has overseen which juvenile records are eligible for sealing. In some cases, a prosecutor may object to the sealing and request a hearing. In that event, a notice would be sent to the owner of the sealed record, who would have the chance to make a case for sealing their records. DPS can share Texas juvenile records with the following:

  • Military, with permission of juvenile
  • Criminal justice agency
  • Noncriminal justice agency if authorized by federal law or executive order to receive
  • Juvenile justice agency
  • Texas Juvenile Justice Department
  • Office of Independent Ombudsman
  • Court exercising jurisdiction over a juvenile
  • Department of Family and Protective Services for background checks for placement Purposes

Need a Texas juvenile record sealed or destroyed? Call us.

If your child qualifies, having a Texas juvenile record sealed or destroyed might be necessary. This process requires a hearing, and an experienced attorney will help you get the desired outcome. Call Lisa Herrick for a free consultation at 817-203-2220.

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About the Author Board Certified Lawyer Benson Varghese

About the Author

Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has successfully handled thousands of state and federal cases, ranging from misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases to capital offenses, showcasing his commitment to preserving justice and upholding the rights of his clients. His firm covers criminal defense, personal injury, and family law matters. Benson is also a legal tech entrepreneur. Benson is a go-to authority in the legal community, known for his ability to explain complex legal concepts with clarity and precision. His writings offer a wealth of in-depth legal insights, reflecting his extensive experience and his passion for the law. Not only is Benson an accomplished litigator, but he is also a dedicated advocate for his clients, consistently striving to achieve the best possible outcomes for them. His authorship provides readers with valuable legal advice and an understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. CriminalPersonal InjuryFamily Law Contact
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