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CRIMINAL DEFENSE

Order Of Non-Disclosure

Order of Non-Disclosure (Sealing Your Record)

A criminal history can have a big negative impact on your life.  One way to remove your criminal records from the public eye is to have them “sealed”.  Sealing records is accomplished with an Order of Non-Disclosure.  It is similar to an expunction in that it removes your criminal history from the public record.  However, there are some very important differences, which I will outline here.

Eligibility For An Order Of Non-Disclosure

Non-Disclosures are available in different situations than expunctions.  Except in rare cases, expunctions are only available if the case has been dismissed.  Non-Disclosures are different and can be had for a wider variety of outcomes.  

If your charges are before 2019, you can get a non-disclosure only if you successfully completed deferred adjudication for certain crimes.  Deferred Adjudication is a special kind of probation where the judge does not find you guilty.  It’s a bit of a grey area and does not lead to a formal conviction, but does carry some of the consequences of a conviction.  

There are some cases where even if you successfully complete deferred adjudication, you are not eligible to seal your record.  Family violence cases or cases in which registration as a sex offender is required cannot be sealed.  Aggravated Kidnapping cannot be sealed.  Some other exceptions exist as well.

After 2019, some cases are eligible for an Order of Non-Disclosure even if there was a conviction.  This is a great step forward, but there are still many requirements and strings attached.  DWI cases in particular have a number of requirements that, if not followed, will hinder your ability to seal the criminal record.  

Whether you received deferred adjudication or were convicted, it is important to have an attorney examine your criminal history to determine if you are eligible before you proceed with the petition to seal your records.  Often people think that they can have their record expunged or sealed, but an inspection of the criminal history, unfortunately, reveals that it’s not the case.

 

Non-Disclosure vs. Expunction

Now that you know some of the situations in which Non-Disclosures and expunctions apply, let’s talk about what is the difference between the two.  When your criminal record is expunged, it is literally destroyed.  Agencies like DPS, the Court, and police are required by law to remove the records from their electronic database and destroy the physical records.  When done properly, no one has the records, and it’s as if they never existed.

This is not the case with an Order of Non-Disclosure.  When you petition the court to seal your records with a Non-Disclosure, you are not asking them to destroy the records.  They will still exist and would be accessible to law enforcement, prosecutors, certain employers (like schools and hospitals), and other State and Federal Agencies.  

The main benefit of non-disclosure is that the records are removed from the view of the general public.  Other than the exceptions listed above, most employers will not be able to find the record.  It won’t show up in criminal background searches done by the general public.  Snooping neighbors won’t be able to find anything.  You even have the right to demand that private company that aggregate records and mugshots remove your information (unscrupulous companies sometimes ignore these requests, but can usually be persuaded with some Court-ordered prompting.)

There are also downsides.  If your record is keeping you from getting a professional license, a license to carry a firearm, or a job with law enforcement, a hospital, or certain other employers, sealing the record will not help.  It also will not help you deal with immigration issues.  It is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney about the reasons for the Non-Disclosure before moving forward with it.

The Process Of An Order Of Non-Disclosure

If you think you are eligible for an Order of Non-Disclosure, the first step is usually to have an attorney review your criminal history.  In Texas, you can get your criminal history from a private company called Identogo.  You can make an appointment at www.Identogo.com.  After collecting information and documents regarding the original arrest and court case, a petition for Non-Disclosure is filed in the same court where the case took place.  The Court then sets a hearing to allow the prosecutor and agencies time to object.  Most courts do not require the defendant’s presence at the hearing, but some counties do.  Defer to your attorney if he or she tells you to be present.

Assuming the petition is filed correctly, the order is signed by the judge on the day of the hearing.  The entities with information regarding the charge are then informed of the Order and are required to seal the records – meaning they are removed from public view.  The entities have up to a year to comply, but usually do so within a few months or even sooner.

Should I Get My Records Sealed?

Whether you get your records sealed is a personal decision and depends on your individual circumstances.  I recommend that almost everyone who is eligible for an expunction does so.  Erasing the records from existence is a huge benefit.  On the other hand, an Order of Non-Disclosure is more limited in scope.

For many people, a sealed criminal history will not solve the problem they are facing.  It will not help them purchase a firearm or clear up their issues with immigration.  For others, it will keep employers in their field from viewing the record, and so can mean the difference in landing the job or remaining unemployed.  Beyond these reasons, there is peace of mind in knowing that the mistakes you made years ago are not out there for any John Q. Public to view.  For many, this alone is worth it.  We charge a flat fee of $1600 to Petition the Court for Non-Disclosure.  This includes all court fees that usually range between $400-$500.

Contact a Trusted Austin Attorney To Seal Your Records

If you feel that you may be eligible for an Order of Non-Disclosure, you should contact a proven Austin Order of Non-Disclosure attorney to handle this for you.  Although not required, it can be helpful to have a copy of your criminal history on hand when you call.  Once we have all your documents together, we can usually file the petition as soon as the next business day.

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