In this post, we discuss the requirements for clearing your criminal record by expungement in Texas.
Expungement, also called an expunction, is a judicial order that directs numerous recordkeeping agencies to remove an individual’s arrest and/or prosecution records. Because today’s business world is highly competitive, and because potential employers may access an individual’s criminal background records, expungement may allow some individuals to clear their criminal background records and maintain a pristine reputation.
Criminal history may be used by credit reporting agencies, government agencies, apartments, schools, or employers to make decisions about individuals. Those with a criminal record may be denied admission to schools, denied credit, rejected for certain jobs, or refused housing.
In Texas, expungement removes the individual’s arrest or prosecution records from prosecutors’ files, police departments, prison inmate records, and police departments. Criminal history may be used by credit reporting agencies, government agencies, apartments, schools, or employers.
Who is Eligible for an Expunction in Texas?
Not all crimes are eligible for expungement. Under the Texas Penal Code, the basic requirements for expungement in Texas include:
- The individual’s trial resulted in an acquittal.
- His or her arrest didn’t lead to an indictment.
- The individual was convicted, released or later pardoned.
- The indictment was either dismissed or quashed in court.
- An appellate court entered an order of acquittal.
- The defendant entered a pretrial diversion program instead of an indictment.
Importantly, an individual with pending charges (even after acquittal) or a serial criminal might not be permitted to expunge their records in Texas.
If you were charged with a crime, you were found not guilty, or your case was dismissed, you may be eligible for an expunction.
How Does Expungement Clear Your Good Name?
If you were wrongfully arrested, your criminal record may continue to follow you for years in the future. Unfortunately, many people are arrested by mistake. They’re later declared innocent or the charges against them are dropped.
Others successfully complete drug counseling, anger management, or enroll in court-managed classes or counseling to have charges against them dismissed. After dismissal, these individuals don’t yet have a clean record.
That’s because information about their arrest remains part of the public record. Anyone who performs a background check may access this information.
It may be more difficult to get a good job, get a mortgage or other loan, enroll in college, or lease an apartment if the individual has a criminal record.
Why Pursue an Expunction?
An expunction allows many of the individual’s offenses to be legally removed from public records. When an individual is acquitted, not prosecuted, or his or her case was dismissed, expungement may be an option. After he or she is granted an expunction in Harris County, his or her records are made legally deniable. He or she may legally state that he or she has never been arrested and never convicted of any crime.
Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows the individual to expunge an arrest record that didn’t lead to his or her conviction, community supervision, or any Class C misdemeanor that resulted in community supervision (deferred adjudication) in Texas. Unless the individual is questioned under oath in a courtroom, he or she may deny an arrest occurrence, including when applying for a law enforcement or government job.
After expungement, the use, release, or dissemination of expunged records by an agency is prohibited.
If an individual qualifies for an expungement of their criminal record, he or she may erase or remove the arrest from local, state, and federal records.
When an expunction is granted to you in Texas, any arrest record, fingerprints and/or DNA samples, and jail detention are destroyed. The individual’s record is completely clean, as though the event never happened.
Identity theft may involve more than lost time and money. If an identity thief committed a crime and was arrested, you may have a criminal background. An expunction may clear this record to provide a new start.
What are the Waiting Periods?
Not every record that’s eligible for expunction is subject to a waiting period in Texas. If the individual was found not guilty, or later deemed innocent after his or her conviction, or was pardoned, no waiting period is necessary before filing the petition for expunction in Texas.
There’s no waiting period needed if the state’s attorney determines that the individual’s records won’t be required for later reference in any future legal actions.
It’s necessary to wait one year in a Class A or B misdemeanor in which no charges were filed. Examples of Class A and B misdemeanors include:
- Promoting prostitution and/or pimping
- Marijuana possession (relatively small amounts)
- Carrying a firearm without a permit
Even when the accused facing a Class A or B misdemeanor is deemed innocent of the charges, his or her arrest records remain. Expunction is an effective way to ensure that any negatives on the individual’s record are legally deniable.
If an individual was arrested but has never been charged with a felony crime, his or her waiting period to file an expunction in Texas is three years. Felonies fall into different classes, such as:
- Capital felonies, e.g. homicide
- First-degree felonies, e.g. sexual assault against a minor
- Second-degree felonies, e.g. domestic violence
- Third-degree felonies, e.g. sales of larger drug amounts
- State jail felonies, i.e. felonies that aren’t included in the above four categories
An arrest for any felony, especially a capital and/or first-degree felony, has the potential to prejudice prosecutors or law enforcement agents if he or she is arrested in the future. In this scenario, it’s in the individual’s best interest to file an expunction petition to make these records eligible for removal and destruction.
Is Expunction Worth the Wait?
Most people believe it is worth the wait because it is always better to have a clean record than a blemished arrest record—even one that didn’t result in charges.
Although expunction offers many positive benefits, it’s not an easy or do-it-yourself process. Consult with an experienced expunction lawyer to ensure the best outcome after the expunction waiting period has been met.
What’s a Petition for Expunction?
An expunction of an individual’s criminal record involves that process that can clear a variety of arrests, such as a DWI/DUI arrest, from the individual’s legal record.
The benefits of having an individual’s Texas record expunged include:
- The ability to tell a prospective or current employer or friends and family that you weren’t convicted of a crime
- Eligibility for student loans and educational programs
- Potential eligibility for mortgage loans and/or housing rentals
- Obtain a clean background check
- Potential eligibility for various certificates and/or professional licenses
Expunction is a very beneficial and powerful tool, but not everyone qualifies. In Texas, qualifying situations include 1) the individual was arrested but the matter didn’t go to court, 2) the charges were dropped, 3) charges against him or her were dismissed, 4) he or she was found not guilty, 5) he or she was no-billed by the grand jury, 6) he or she won on an appeal, or 7) he or she was pardoned by the Texas governor.
What are the Eligibility Criteria to Have a Record Expunged in Texas?
You may be eligible for expungement if the following criteria exist:
Class C misdemeanor
If the individual has successfully completed deferred adjudication and he or she was not convicted of a felony crime in the five-year period preceding the date of arrest.
Felony, Class A, and Class B misdemeanors
If the individual was acquitted in a trial or he or she was convicted but later pardoned, or the charges against him or her was dismissed (and the statute of limitations expired, unless the dismissal occurred due to a mistake, no probable cause, or false information), and he or she was not convicted of a felony crime in the five-year period preceding the date of arrest.
You may be eligible for an expunction but, if you fit into an exception category, the expunction may be denied.
How Long Does It Take to Get My Record Expunged?
In most instances, it takes about 30 days to schedule a hearing date after the petition for expunction is filed. The entire process usually takes from four to six weeks.
If the court grants an expungement, it usually takes up to 180 days for local, state, and federal agencies to destroy their records.
Getting a criminal record expunged, or receiving an order of nondisclosure, is often a confusing and complex process for the individual acting on his or her behalf.
Provide yourself with the best chances of a prompt hearing date and grant of expungement by working with an experienced Texas expungement lawyer.
Is There a Difference Between Expungement and an Order of Nondisclosure?
Yes. Expungement and record sealing entail two different processes:
When a record is expunged, most potential or current employers are completely prohibited from accessing information about an arrest or acquittal. In most cases, an expungement means you aren’t legally required to disclose it. You may deny that an arrest happened unless you’re put under oath in a criminal trial. In that event, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 55.03 says you’re only required to state that the record was expunged.
In contrast, record sealing under a Texas Order of Nondisclosure means that most members of the public won’t be able to access your criminal record. However, certain criminal justice agencies continue to have access to these sealed records. They may disclose the information to other criminal justice agencies, employment or licensing entities as specified by law. For instance, if you apply for employment at a school, you’d be required to tell the prospective employer about the sealed record if it asks for this information as per Texas Government Code §§ 411.076 and 411.0765.
What Does the Process of Expungement Involve?
Contact an experienced Texas expungement lawyer. He will guide you through the expungement process.
Your attorney will file the proper expungement documents with the court. He will request a hearing to decide if an expungement may be granted. He will prepare the necessary documents and deliver these for signature. He will have the documents notarized and will file them with the courts.
Contact an Experienced Expungement and Record Sealing Lawyer
The laws concerning expungement and record sealing are complex in Texas. To learn if your criminal record may be eligible for an expunction, or to learn more about the law, call Matt Sharp at 713-999-4634 to request an initial case evaluation. The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp stands ready to file a petition for expunction if your case was declined, dismissed, or you were deemed not guilty of any offense in Texas.