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Sealing Records, Nondisclosures/Expunctions



Questions

What are the different ways I may be able to seal my criminal record?

What is the difference between a nondisclosure order and an expunction order?

Does your firm do nondisclosure orders and expunctions?

If I received a conviction, can I get my record sealed or expunged?

Do I qualify to get my record sealed by a nondisclosure order?

What if I got deferred adjudication probation and completed it okay and then got in trouble again?

Once I complete deferred adjudication probation, is there a waiting period before I can apply for the order?

How long does it take to get the nondisclosure order and to seal the record?

What is the general process?

Does the Judge have to grant me a nondisclosure order to seal the record?

Does the District or County Attorney (where applicable) get involved?

Do I need to come in for an office visit?

Will I need to appear in court?

Do I have to do anything besides pay the fee, court costs, and provide basic information?

What are the payment plan s?

Do you accept major credit and debit cards?

Do you work in counties other that Dallas or are you Texas wide?

Who does the nondisclosure order seal the record from?

Who doesn't it seal the record from?

What about organizations such as Publicdata.com?

How will it benefit me?

What do I do next?



What are the different ways I may be able to seal my criminal record?

If you got in trouble as a juvenile and did not get in any additional trouble, you may be able to get that record sealed. If you do not, it can still be viewed by law enforcement which includes prosecutors. The general public cannot see it even though it is not sealed because it is a juvenile record.

Another way is to get an expunction. An expunction wipes the information from all public records.

Another method is obtaining a nondisclosure order. This order makes the records unavailable to the general public and allows you to legally deny that the offense ever occurred.

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What is the difference between a nondisclosure order and an expunction?

A nondisclosure order instructs courts and law enforcement agencies not to release information regarding your case to the general public. The general public is places like Home Depot, apartment managers, and banks when requesting a loan. The records still exist and law enforcement and certain agencies can still view the information. Once getting a nondisclosure order, you can legally deny the incident ever occurred. If you received a type of probation termed Deferred Adjudication, you most likely are qualified.

An expunction order causes all records connected with the case to be wiped from the record. Unfortunately, the eligibility to get this type of order is much more restrictive and narrow. If you went to trial and were found not guilty, you are entitled to it; in fact your attorney has a responsibility to get the order for you. If your case was dismissed or you were "no billed" by the Grand Jury and the statute of limitations has elapsed, you may be eligible for an expunction. Some people think you can get one if you received deferred adjudication probation. This is only true on most Class C misdemeanors. A Class C is at the level of a traffic ticket. If you received deferred adjudication on anything above a Class C, you cannot get an expunction. Another situation where you may be able to get an expunction is if you successfully completed a Pre-Trial Diversion program. In this case, you may be able to expunge the record right after completing the program. Call us for more information on this.

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Does your firm do nondisclosure orders and expunctions?

This firm does nondisclosures and expunctions. This area of the web site concentrates on nondisclosure orders. Call us for more detailed information on expunctions.

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If I received a conviction, can I get my record sealed or expunged??

If you received a conviction, you cannot get your record sealed or expunged.

However, if you received a conviction and the sentence was probated, you may be eligible to request Judicial Clemency which would, in effect, set aside the conviction. You must still be on probation to request this. There is no guarantee that it would be granted. Call us for more information.

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Do I qualify to get my record sealed by a nondisclosure order?

Generally speaking, if you received deferred adjudication and completed it satisfactorily, you may be qualified to get a nondisclosure order. However, there are certain types of cases where you cannot get a nondisclosure order. For example, if you have ever been convicted, put on probation, deferred or otherwise, for a family assault case and certain sex offenses, you cannot get a nondisclosure. This means, for example, that if you got put on deferred adjudication for assault family violence and lived it out okay, you cannot get the order for that case or any other case. Feel free to contact our office for a discussion on whether or not you qualify. The offenses that you cannot get a nondisclosure order for include the ones listed below.

  1. An offense requiring registration as a sex offender under Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures. This does not include Public Lewdness or Indecent exposure unless your are required register as a sex offender.
  2. Aggravated Kidnapping.
  3. Murder.
  4. Capital Murder.
  5. Injury to a child, elderly, or disabled person.
  6. Abandoning or endangering a child.
  7. Violation of a protective order or Magistrate's order.
  8. Stalking.
  9. Any offense involving family violence.

Please note that a conviction, probation, or Deferred Adjudication on any of the above offense precludes getting a nondisclosure order on any other offense.

Please call if questions or any of the above is not clear or if you are unsure.

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What if I got deferred and completed it okay and then got in trouble again?

It depends on what the new case was and did you get the new case while in the waiting period to be eligible for the nondisclosure order. Once you get off of probation, some cases require a waiting period before you can apply for the nondisclosure order. If you get in trouble during the waiting period, you may not be eligible. Call us and we can discuss it with you.

 

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Once I complete deferred adjudication, is there a waiting period before I can apply for the order?

For many misdemeanor cases there is not a waiting period. For example, theft, possession of marijuana and many others do not have a waiting period. Some misdemeanors, such as unlawful carrying of a weapon, do require a two year waiting period. All felonies require a five year waiting period. This waiting period, if there is one, begins after the probation is satisfactorily completed. Please feel free to call us for information on the cases that have a waiting period and those that do not.

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How long does it take to get the nondisclosure order and to seal the record?

Once we are hired to get the nondisclosure order for you, it will take about six weeks, more or less, to get the order (assuming the Judge grants it). It will take several months more for all of the agencies to be notified that the record is not to be disclosed.

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What is the general process?

Once you provide us with the information we require and the down payment toward the fee, we prepare and file a legal document asking the court for the nondisclosure order. We also prepare the order itself. We also notify the state and furnish them a copy of the above paperwork. We next schedule a court date. We communicate with the state and ensure that they have no problem with the nondisclosure. Ninety per cent of the time they do not but if they do, a hearing may be necessary. On the court date, which is normally about six weeks to a month after we file the paperwork asking for the order, I appear for you and discuss the case with the Judge. Ninety per cent of the time, the judge will sign the order. Next, the court clerk will send a certified copy of the order to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). They will then send the certified copy to all of the agencies and courts that have information and records on the case ordering them not to disclose any information on the case. This latter process takes the most time and could take months. We also provide you with a certified copy for your records.

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Does the Judge have to grant me a nondisclosure order to seal the record?

The Judge has discretion to grant or not grant the request for the order. His determination is based on whether or not it is in the best interest of justice to grant it.

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Does the District or County Attorney (where applicable) get involved?

They do get involved. The request for the nondisclosure order along with your record and possibly other factors are reviewed by them. They almost always have no problem and will agree to the request. If they do agree, the judge will most likely sign the order. If they do not agree and have some problem with the request, a hearing requiring the person requesting the order to appear may be necessary. At this hearing, the attorney handling the request for the nondisclosure order will attempt to show that it would be in the interest of justice to grant the nondisclosure order. It is worth noting that of the many nondisclosures that this office has done, none have required a hearing.

 

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Do I need to come into the office for a visit?

An office visit is not necessary and, in fact, is discouraged since it serves no purpose.

We will get information from you and from looking at your criminal record. From this, along with our knowledge of the law, will provide us with sufficient information to ascertain if you are eligible and with what we need to go forward with requesting the nondisclosure order.

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Do I need to appear in court?

This office has done many nondisclosures and, as yet, the client did not have to appear in court. We appear for you and discuss the case with the judge and almost always he signs the order. If the request for the petition is contested by the District or County attorney, you may have to appear to answer some questions by the judge, the prosecutor, and your attorney. The purpose of the hearing would be to convince the judge that it is in the best interest of justice to grant the request.

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Do I have to do anything besides pay the fee, court costs, and provide basic information?

Normally you do not. Once we receive the fee (or down payment) and some basic information, we take it from there. You are free to call occasionally to check the status of the effort. The process is painless as far as you are concerned. We do the work. Once we have obtained the order, we send you a certified copy. If for some reason, we cannot obtain a nondisclosure order, we will tell exactly why we could not. This is rare, because we check the case(s) out before we take your money to ensure, as much as we can, that you are eligible.

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What are the payment plans?

For a petition for a nondisclosure, we require one third of our fee up front. The fee for a misdemeanor nondisclosure is $1200 per case. The fee for a felony is $2100 with $700 up front. There is also a court filing cost which we pay out the fee you pay us. The court costs vary from county to county but are usually around $300. The court costs are included/absorbed in our fee. We start on your case as soon as we receive the down payment. We do not wait until the entire fee is paid before starting. This allows us to get your petition in the system faster. We give you two months to pay the remainder of the fee. For example, you want to get a misdemeanor theft case sealed (ie nondisclosure order) you would pay us $400 up front to start on the case. This $400 includes the court filing cost. Upon receiving the $400, we start immediately on the process. We do not wait until we are totally paid to start the on the case. On or before two months is up you will need to pay the remainder of the money, which in this case would be two payments of $400 monthly. So the total amount you will have paid is $1200. Another example, If this was felony, you will have paid $700 up front and the remainder of $1400 on or before two months for a total of $2100. Note these fees are subject to change. Also, money received is considered money earned. Please feel free to call our office to discuss your situation. Bear in mind, we do accept credit and debit cards and will work with you as much as possible on the payment arrangement.

For a petition for an expunction, the fee and payment arrangement is the same for both a misdemeanor and felony as the felony nondisclosure fee above. That is, $2100 for the fee which includes court costs. One third is required up front and the remainder within two months. Also, money received is considered money earned. We start on your case as soon as we receive the down payment. Again, we do accept major credit cards and debit cards and will work with you as much as possible on payment arrangements.

As stated above, we will work with you on the payment plans. We try to be flexible and try to do our best to work with you on your money situation to allow you to get your record sealed or expunged, whichever the case may be.

 

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Do you accept major credit cards and debit cards?

We accept all major credit cards and debit cards: Master, Visa, American Express, and Discover. A point to consider here is that you may not have a major credit or debit card, but you may have a relative or friend that does. It may be worth it to ask them to help you with their credit or debit card and you then pay them off. The end result is that it may help you get a better job and consequently make more money.

 

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Do you work in counties other than Dallas or are you Texas wide?

The practice of this office is primarily criminal law. We practice criminal law in Dallas and all surrounding counties and in Hunt and Van Zandt. However, we can do nondisclosures in every county in Texas.

 

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Who does the nondisclosure order seal the record from?

It is sealed from the general public. For example, it is sealed from potential employers such as Home Depot, Lowes, McDonalds, Microsoft, Dell, Piper Aircraft Company, and similar companies. It is sealed against apartment managers and landlords. It is also unavailable when requesting a loan. Generally it seals the record against the majority of companies and organizations. For most of the population, this seems to be sufficient.

 

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Who doesn't it seal the record from?

Critical occupations such as law enforcement, the fire department, nurses, much of the medical profession, teachers, attorneys, and other similar professions for obvious reasons. There are also a number of state agencies that can still view the record. There are 23 of these agencies and they are listed below: (1) The State Board of Educator Certification; (2) a school district, charter school, private school, regional education service center, commercial transportation company, or education shared service arrangement; (3) the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners; (4) the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; (5) the Board of Law examiners; (6) the State Bar of Texas; (7) a district court regarding a petition for a name change under Subchapter B, Chapter 45, Family Code; (8) the Texas School for the Deaf; (9) the Department of Family and Protective Services; (10) the Texas Youth Commission; (11) the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services; (12) the Department of State Health Services, a local mental health service, a local mental retardation authority, or a community center providing services of person with mental illness or retardation; (13) the Texas Private Security Board; (14) a municipal or volunteer fire department; (15) the Board of Nurse Examiners; (16) a safe house providing shelter to children in harmful situations; (17) a public or nonprofit hospital or hospital district; (18) the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission; (19) the securities commissioner, the banking commissioner, the savings and loan commissioner, or the credit union commissioner; (20) the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy; (21) the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation; (22) the Health and Human Services Commission; and (23) the Department of Aging and Disability Services.

 

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What about organization like Publicdata.com?

These companies will have to timely update their information. If they do not and there are complaints it is possible the state can prevent them from getting the data at all. This gives them an incentive to keep the records current else they lose their bread and butter.

 

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How will it benefit me?

In many situations it will make the difference between getting a job and not getting the job. For example, let's say that someone had been put on deferred adjudication for a theft case and applied for a job at Lowes. This person was probably told by his attorney that when he completes the probation his case would be dismissed. There are two problems with that statement. First, the case may not even be dismissed because, although the judge has to dismiss the case, he does not have to initiate the dismissal process. Many counties never dismiss a case when a person completed the probation, although some counties, such as Dallas, do automatically dismiss them. This can cause problems because the applicant may tell the potential employer that the case was dismissed when it wasn't making the applicant look dishonest. Additionally, if the applicant answers on the application that he does not have a conviction, which he does not if he completed deferred adjudication okay, and the employer checks the record and sees that the applicant was put on probation, the employer will think the applicant lied to him and exclude him from further consideration. The applicant probably will never get a chance to explain. If he had got a nondisclosure order, he could legally deny the charge and if the employer did a criminal background check, the information would not show up because the agencies with the information would have a nondisclosure order forbidding them to disclose the information. Consequently, the applicant may be hired whereas before, he definitely would have been excluded. If the offense was a felony theft case and the person had obtained a nondisclosure, he would be greatly and doubly benefited because he can legally deny the offense, therefore the fact he had a theft case is hidden and, very important, the fact that he had a felony is hidden.

It can also make the difference between getting or not getting an apartment. For example: a person wants to move into an apartment. He has been put on probation for possession of marijuana and received deferred adjudication. The apartment manager will do a criminal background check and the offense will show up. The manager will probably not rent to that person. However, if he got a nondisclosure order, he can deny a drug charge and, when the background check is done, the information will not show up and he will probably be accepted. If he had been put on probation for a felony drug possession charge and had received a nondisclosure order, one can see how much this order would help in this situation and the above employment example.

 

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What do I do next?

Refresh your memory on when you were put on probation, what for, what county, and if you have been in any other trouble with the law. Figure out how you will pay the fee. Call us and a polite, patient, courteous, and knowledgeable person will discuss your situation with you. You will not be rushed, your phone calls will be answered, and you will not be charged for a consultation.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read through this information. Hopefully it has been helpful.

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