TYSK: Changes to Texas Petitions for Nondisclosure are Coming

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It wasn’t so long ago (February 26, 2015, to be precise) that I mentioned that people who did some sort of straight probation (rather than getting a deferred adjudication) were out of luck when it comes to sealing their criminal records in Texas.  (Which of course causes people to ask “How do they expect me to live and not steal stuff if I can’t get a job?!?!”  Perhaps not the most ethically responsible question to ask, but it’s at least understandable and does form the basis for the change…)

And when I speak to people in those situations, I always whimsically mention that maybe the Texas legislature will surprise all of us by giving people some sort of relief, even with a conviction, but until then… well.

Turns out, the Texas legislature has surprised us.

On September 1, 2015, the regime governing petitions for nondisclosure will change, opening up new opportunities for certain individuals to put mistakes behind them and try to get ahead in life.

Five Things You Should Know

  • 1. Senate Bill 1902 was signed by Governor Abbott on June 20, 2015, and the law will take effect September 1, 2015.
  • 2.  The Senate Research Center’s Bill Analysis addresses the need for such a change to the nondisclosure regime:
    • A criminal record can be a crippling barrier to obtaining employment. Studies show that ex-offenders who are gainfully employed are much less likely to re-offend. Thus, a responsible, limited expansion of current nondisclosure law is important in giving reformed offenders a second chance, creating a safer Texas, and increasing the workforce with individuals who are no longer limited by their minor criminal histories.
  • 3. An Order of Nondisclosure is not for everybody.  As the Bill Analysis states, in part: “S.B. 1902 maintains current law which exempts serious violent offenders, sexual offenders, and family violent offenders from ever receiving an OND.” There are other exceptions to receiving an OND.
  • 4. The procedure and eligibility information for Orders of Nondisclosure is transferred from Tex. Govt. Code § 411.081(f) to Tex. Govt. Code § 411.0715 et seq.  The new regime is fairly convoluted (not that the old system wasn’t) and, as is typical for Texas statutes, contains a lot of cross-references.
  • 5. There are 4 classes of individuals who are eligible for an Order of Nondisclosure:
    • First-Time Non-Violent Misdemeanor Offenders placed on Deferred Adjudication (Texas Govt. Code § 411.072)
    • “Traditional” Nondisclosure Petitioners (Tex. Govt. Code § 411.0725)
    • Non-Violent, Non-Sexual, Non-Alcohol Misdemeanor Offenders placed on “Straight” Probation (Tex. Govt. Code § 411.073)
    • Non-Violent, Non-Sexual, Non-Alcohol Misdemeanor Offenders who serve a period of confinement (Tex. Govt. Code § 411.0735)

There are indubitably some downsides to the new nondisclosure regime. For example, certain law enforcement, educational, and licensing agencies are still entitled to review one’s criminal record.  In addition, banks and other financial institutions, along with facilities that handle dangerous materials, will be allowed to review the criminal record in certain situations.

I’m still wading through the legislation, but if you have any questions regarding petitioning for an order of nondisclosure, please feel free to contact me.