When you’ve been arrested or convicted on a criminal charge in Texas, it can haunt you for years. Because arrests and criminal proceedings are a matter of public record, a potential employer may see them and make an unfavorable decision based on something that happened many years ago. In addition, landlords can check your criminal record, making it difficult for you to get a decent apartment. You may even be denied access to student loans and educational benefits.
While it’s unlikely that police departments and courts will stop collecting information on arrests and criminal prosecutions, legislators in jurisdictions across the country, including Texas, have come to understand that everybody makes mistakes and that it’s in the best interests of society as a whole to give certain offenders a second chance. That second chance comes in the form of an expungement, a legal action to permanently seal records related to an arrest or prosecution.
Though Texas provides the opportunity for certain individuals to seal or expunge a record of criminal proceedings, there are strict limitations on when it’s available. You cannot seek to seal a criminal record if you have been convicted of a violent crime, put on probation or served time for certain specified crimes, including sexual assault, carjacking, arson, homicide, child abuse, aggravated robbery or kidnapping. You won’t be eligible for expunction if you have been convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest you seek to have expunged. A court will not grant an expunction, either, if you have separate charges pending against you related to the same incident or if you were convicted of another crime that occurred at the same time.
Records that may be expunged include:
- Arrest records for offenses for which you were never charged
- Conviction as a minor for some alcohol-related offenses
- Any criminal charge that was ultimately dismissed
- Any criminal charge for which you were acquitted, either by a trial court or a court of appeal
- Qualified juvenile misdemeanor charges
- Arrest, charge or conviction that resulted because you were a victim of identity theft
- Any criminal conviction that was pardoned by the President of the United States or the Governor of Texas
Filing for an Expunction
To pursue expunction of a specific offense, you should first meet with an experienced attorney, someone who can confirm that you are eligible. If so, you initiate the process by filing a Petition for Expunction in the district court where you were or would have been tried. The court will typically schedule a hearing and send out notices to police departments and other applicable agencies. Those parties will have the opportunity to challenge your attempt to expunge your record. If the court grants your request, you’ll need to prepare an order to be signed by the judge. Once the order is signed, it will be sent to all relevant agencies and the record will be sealed. If the record is expunged, it is essentially destroyed and the clerk of the court must certify the destruction. If you successfully expunge a record, you can legally deny that the arrest, detention or prosecution ever occurred.
Even if you don’t qualify for the expunction of a criminal record, you may be able to obtain an “order of nondisclosure” from the court. While an order of nondisclosure prevents the viewing of your criminal record by the public, it may still be viewed by law enforcement officers, certain governmental bodies, and authorized justice agencies.
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.