Everything you need to know about filing for expungement in Texas
When you are released from prison, found not guilty or had your charges dismissed, you might believe that your punishment is over and that you can return to a normal life. However, having a criminal record can follow you everywhere and prevent you from getting a job or obtaining a loan.
The good news that there are some circumstances where you could legally have your criminal record cleared.
Even being found not guilty or having your charges dismissed is not enough reason to remove your criminal record from public databases according to Texas law. Therefore, you must seek either expungement or order of nondisclosure petition.
Expungement vs. orders of nondisclosure
The 2 ways to clear your criminal record are expungement and orders of nondisclosure. When you are awarded either of these options, your criminal record will be deleted from your record and the public will no longer be able to access these records.
However, there are some small (but important) differences between these 2 options.
With an expungement, also known as an “expunction,” the record is completely removed from all criminal databases. Police officers, prosecutors and even the courts will no longer have access to your criminal record and you will be given an entirely fresh start. An expungement is considered stronger than a nondisclosure order, but both options could greatly benefit you.
A nondisclosure order, on the other hand, gives you the right to not disclose prior arrests for which you were pardoned or acquitted. Also, if the courts provide you with conditions to satisfy such as parole, counseling and/or community service, you may be qualified for an order of nondisclosure. The offense might still be on your criminal record, but it would not be accessible to certain parties.
Automatic vs. petition orders of nondisclosure
Prior to September 15, 2015, the only way to obtain an order of nondisclosure was to file a petition. However, there is now an automatic order of nondisclosure for certain offenses. The defendant must have successfully completed an adjudication, paid the $28 fee to a clerk, and the court must make a finding that the nondisclosure is in the best interest of justice.
Offenses that are eligible for automatic nondisclosure must not involve sexual offenses or involve public indecency, kidnapping or unlawful restraint, family violence, assault, disorderly conduct or organized crime. You also must not have been previously convicted or placed on deferred adjudication for a criminal offense.
In other circumstances, you must explicitly seek out an order of nondisclosure through a petition. The petition must be filed under Section 411.0735.
Expunction and nondisclosure eligibility requirements
There are different eligibility requirements depending on if you are applying for an expungement or an order of nondisclosure. You will be eligible for expungement if you were acquitted, if you were found guilty and then pardoned, if you were found guilty and then exonerated, or if you were arrested and not formally charged.
For an order of nondisclosure, you must have received deferred adjudication probation. In this situation, the judge has not specifically found you guilty of the offense but did find enough evidence that a finding of guilt could have been made.
While these are the general requirements for both an order of nondisclosure and expungement, there are additional requirements that must be met for those who haven’t been acquired, pardoned or found to not be guilty.
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor but not charged, you must not have been charged with any felonies that were related to the incident in which you were charged. You must then wait until the statute of limitations has run out for the incident before you can seek an expungement.
If you were charged with a Class C misdemeanor that was dismissed through a deferred adjudication, you may seek expunction within 180 days of the arrest. This only applies to offenses where you were originally charged with a Class C misdemeanor and not offenses where the crime was reduced to a Class C through negotiation.
If you are filing a petition for the order of nondisclosure, you must not have been charged with anything else other than a traffic ticket, you must have never been revoked and you must have passed the time limit relevant to your case. Your offense must also have not been an offense barred by law.
The time limit for nondisclosure petitions is typically 2 years for misdemeanors and 5 years for felonies, but it can vary from case-to-case.
The process of getting your criminal record cleared
Texas expungement laws are very complicated and you will likely need the help of a knowledgeable defense lawyer. Once you have met all the requirements for expungement, you must file a motion at the same court where your conviction occurred or at the court in the same county that your arrest occurred.
After your motion has been granted, the judge will issue an expungement or an order of nondisclosure.
Seeking legal help
Given how complex the entire process is and how difficult it may be for you to even know if you qualify for expunction or nondisclosure, begin by speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney near you. Matt Sharp can manage your entire case from beginning to end and battle in court to represent you. He will also inform you about the cost to expunge a criminal record in Texas, including all filing fees.