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Second Chances: Sensible Expansion Of Non-Disclosure Orders Can Help Some Become Productive Citizens

 

In an attempt to ease the ability of individuals with certain minor criminal records to obtain a job or secure housing, the Texas legislature is currently deliberating on bills designed to expand the eligibility of such persons to petition the state for orders of nondisclosure (OND).

An OND seals a criminal record regarding a specific offense from the public at large, while maintaining visibility of those records to members of law enforcement, prosecutors, and other entities that work in sensitive industries, such as health care, finance, and education. Records are not destroyed as in expunctions; they are just shielded from the majority of public view.

Under current law, an OND can only be obtained for those individuals who have completed  deferred adjudication. The bills moving through the legislature would expand the eligibility of an OND to those charged, for their first offense only, with certain low/non-violent, non-sexual, non-family violent offenses. Additionally, these individuals would only be able to make a petition for an OND after having successfully met all the terms of their sentence, and have stayed clean during certain prescribed waiting periods.

These new changes don’t apply to everyone. Those individuals previously convicted or placed under deferred adjudication for another offense–other than a minor traffic offense–are not eligible for an OND. In other words, this is a one-time second chance. Additionally, individuals who have ever been convicted or given deferred adjudication for the following are ineligible for an OND under these proposals:

  • Murder or capital murder
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Injury to a child, elderly person, or a disabled person
  • Offenses requiring registration as a sex offender
  • Stalking
  • Child endangerment
  • Violating certain court orders or conditions of bond in family violence cases

Also, there can be no affirmative finding of family violence or human trafficking for offenses in which an OND is sought. Organized crime and DUI/DWI offenses are also ineligible.

There are currently limited opportunities for certain offenders to obtain an OND, which can allow an ex-offender to avoid secondary consequences of their crime, such as issues with joining the workforce or finding a place to live. These new proposals for expanding the eligibility of certain individuals to obtain an OND afford low-level offenders the opportunity to overcome a past mistake and become productive members of society. They can help lower recidivism rates by reducing barriers to re-entry into society, potentially help millions lead better lives, and make Texas safer.

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