Requirements for Expunction of Criminal Records in Texas

Not every mistake has to follow somebody around for a lifetime. Arrest records, trial transcripts, police interviews and more can all be erased. In Texas this process is called expunction, and for certain records in Harris County, following this process means that the records will be completely destroyed and their contents made legally deniable. However, not all records are eligible for expunction, and those that are may be subject to different waiting periods before qualifying for it.

What are the Waiting Periods?

Not all records that are eligible for expunction are subject to a waiting period. In cases where the defendant was found not guilty, later found innocent after a conviction, or pardoned, there is no waiting period needed before filing a petition for expunction. There is also no waiting period if the state’s attorney decides that the records will not be needed for reference in future legal actions.

There are three different waiting periods for the expunction of arrest records when no charges were filed. Class C misdemeanor arrests require a waiting period of 180 days before the petition can be filed. For example, if a person was arrested for shoplifting less than $50 in merchandise but was never charged with the crime, he or she would have to wait 180 days before the arrest record could be erased.

For class A and B misdemeanor arrests with no charges filed, the waiting period is one year. Some examples of class A and B misdemeanors are:

  • Possessing relatively small amounts of marijuana
  • Carrying a gun without having a permit
  • Pimping and/or promoting prostitution

Penalties and jail time for these types of misdemeanors can be extensive, so it is a relief to not be charged after undergoing an arrest. But the arrest records remain, and expunction is a good way to make sure that all negative points on a person’s record can legally be denied.

If arrested but never charged with a felony crime, the waiting period before filing for expunction is three years. Felonies, just like misdemeanors, fall into different classes. These are:

  • Capital felonies, such as homicide
  • First degree felonies like sexual assault against a minor
  • Second degree felonies like domestic violence
  • Third degree felonies including the sale of larger drug amounts
  • State jail felonies, or those felonies that do not fall into the first four categories.

Having an arrest for any of these types of felonies, especially capital and first degree felonies, could look very bad on someone’s record. It could potentially prejudice police or prosecutors if the person is arrested again, so it is in an individual’s best interest to have this record removed. While the waiting period is much longer in this case than for other types of records, the expunction petition should be filed as soon as the records are eligible for removal and destruction.

In all of the above instances, an expunction petition may also be filed on behalf of a deceased relative. All of the same waiting periods and limitations on expunction also apply, even when a third party family member files the petition.

Is Expunction Worth the Wait?

It is much better to have a clean record than one that is scarred by an arrest record, even if this did not lead to charges. In order to maintain and clear an individual’s name, there are few options like expunction that can not lead to the records being destroyed, but also allow the individual to legally deny that the arrest ever took place.

For all of the advantages of expunction, it is not necessarily an easy process for the average person. It is always a good idea to consult with or contract the services of the best legal counsel available. This will ensure that the proper procedures are followed and the no further delays occur after the waiting period has been met.

For more information about expungement and your eligibility contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today. Call (713) 868-6100 or email for a free, confidential consultation.