Last year, we were invited to participate in the Juvenile Records Advisory Committee (JRAC), a group composed of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, court staff, probation officials, and others who are experts in the field of law, especially focused on juveniles in the court system. Our goal was to rewrite Chapter 58 of Texas Family Code, the chapter that deals with creating, sealing, and destroying juvenile records related to law enforcement and the courts. We spent a year meeting periodically and discussing every aspect of the current law and making decisions on how to update the law in a way that best protects children, communities, and the related records. A lot of what was discussed was way beyond our purview of records retention, but we were able to help when it came to rewriting the sections that established the retention periods for juvenile case records and similar records.
As you may be aware, managing juvenile records has been quite convoluted and difficult to do because of the way the laws were previously written. If you’ve ever looked up juvenile case records on Schedule CC, DC, LC, or PS, you would see that the retention period differed depending on when the offense was committed. There was one set of laws for any offense committed on or before August 31, 1987, a second set of laws for any offense committed between September 1, 1987 and December 31, 1995, and a third set of laws for any offense committed on or after January 1, 1996. Additionally, the retention periods were heavily based on the age of the offender, meaning that anyone doing disposition of juvenile records would be doing a lot of math and research before being able to determine whether something was eligible for destruction.
When we were rewriting Chapter 58, we recommended that any new laws established for retention periods be retroactive to apply to any offense committed at any time, thereby eliminating the need to know when the offense was committed in order to determine which set of laws to follow. You’ll still need to know the level of offense and the offender’s age, but this should make managing juvenile records a more easily attainable goal.
JRAC submitted our work to the Secretary of the Senate on March 3, 2017 and it became Senate Bill 1304. The bill was passed in the Senate on April 19, passed by the House on May 19, and signed by the governor on June 12. The new laws took effect on September 1, 2017. We are working now to incorporate the new requirements into Schedules CC, DC, LC, and PS. Please stay tuned to the blog for more information as we work on updates to these schedules.