2019 Legislation: Improvements to Juvenile Court Processes & Expansion of Record Sealing

When kids come into contact with the youth justice system, their future opportunities are impacted, which can in turn lead to escalating system involvement. The bills below will expand juvenile record sealing – which reduces future barriers to education, employment, housing, and other services – as well as create uniformity in how judges address certain issues in juvenile proceedings, which can improve outcomes for more kids.

HB 1760 (Authors: White, Wu | Sponsor: Perry), Relating to the confidentiality, sharing, sealing, and destruction of juvenile records and certain records of at-risk youth. A person referred to juvenile court (vs. a juvenile probation department, per previous law) for a “conduct indicating need for supervision” (CINS) violation is entitled to have all relevant records sealed without applying to the court if s/he meets existing statutory requirements and the records relating to the conduct are filed with the court clerk. A juvenile court, on the court’s own motion and without a hearing, must immediately order the sealing of all records related to alleged conduct if the court enters a finding that the allegations are not true. Furthermore, a juvenile court can order the sealing of records related to all matters for which the person was referred to the juvenile probation department if the person is at least 17 (vs. 18, per previous law), or is younger than 17 (vs. 18) and at least one year has passed (vs. two years passing) since the final discharge in each matter; that person must also meet other existing statutory requirements.

The court must order the destruction of records relating to conduct for which a child is referred to juvenile court without being taken into custody if no probable cause exists to believe the child engaged in the conduct.

Separately, this bill expands the list of entities to whom a juvenile’s facility records and information can be disclosed, and it also expands the list of entities who can inspect or copy a juvenile’s probation department, prosecutor, and court records; both lists now include individuals or entities helping to transition the child to the community after release or discharge from a juvenile facility. On the other hand, the records related to a youth who was provided prevention and intervention services by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department are confidential and can only be inspected or copied by an individual or entity to whom the youth is referred for treatment or services. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

HB 2737 (Authors: Wu, Dutton, White, Leach, Frank | Sponsor: Johnson), Relating to judicial guidance related to child protective services cases and juvenile cases. The Texas Supreme Court – in conjunction with its Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families – must annually provide guidance to judges who preside over juvenile cases to establish greater statewide uniformity in the following issues: placement of kids with severe mental health issues, release of kids detained in juvenile detention facilities, certification of juveniles to stand trial as adults, a kid’s appearance before a court in a judicial proceeding (including the use of restraints and clothing worn during the proceeding), and commitment of kids to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019