We all make mistakes. Whether it’s for having poor judgment, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or simply not knowing any better, we shouldn’t be punished for the rest of our lives for a single mistake we made. Especially if that mistake occurred ages ago.
Recently, we wrote about a new Texas bill that allows those with first-time DWI convictions – as well as some other, one-time nonviolent misdemeanor convictions – a chance to have their criminal record sealed. When your record is sealed, the conviction isn’t erased from your record, but the public no longer has access to it. Law enforcement, as well as a few other select industries (banking and education, for example) are the only entities able to view your criminal history.
What if, however, you don’t want your record sealed? What if you want it to be completely erased? Destroyed as if it never existed?
If that’s what you want, then you’re looking to have your criminal record expunged.
Not everyone can obtain an expungement though. There are certain circumstances that qualify you for expungement in Texas. Let’s delve into those guidelines now.
Who Is Eligible for Expungement?
Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure details who is eligible for an expunction. A person who has been placed under a custodial or noncustodial arrest for commission of either a felony or misdemeanor is entitled to have all records and files relating to the arrest expunged if:
- The person is tried for an offense and acquitted;
- The person is tried for an offense, convicted, and subsequently pardoned;
- The person is released and the charge didn’t result in a conviction and the case is no longer pending;
- The person is tried for an offense, convicted, and acquitted by the court of criminal appeals;
- The person was arrested but not charged;
- The criminal charges were ultimately dismissed;
- The person was convicted of certain qualifying misdemeanor juvenile offenses;
- The person was a minor and convicted of certain alcohol offenses;
- The conviction was for Failure to Attend School; or
- The conviction was a result of identity theft where someone else used your name and was arrested, charged, and convicted.
Even if your criminal record qualifies based on the above guidelines, you won’t automatically be granted an expunction. You cannot receive an expunction if:
- You received deferred adjudication or probation;
- You were convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest you want to have expunged;
- The arrest was part of a criminal episode;
- You were arrested for a felony charge that has been dismissed and the statute of limitations for the crime hasn’t expired yet.
How Does the Texas Expunction Process Work?
If you are seeking a criminal record expunction, the first step should be to contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney. Although it’s possible to go through the expunction process on your own, it’s not advised. The process of getting an expungement can be complicated and difficult. Any errors or mistakes could have serious consequences, including a denial of expunction.
A qualified lawyer, however, will be able to look at your criminal record and determine whether you are eligible for expunction as well as guide you through the process to ensure everything is handled and filed properly and in a timely manner.
You and your attorney will first file a Petition for Expunction with the district court, asking the court to grant you an Order for Expunction. Along with your personal identifying information, the petition should also include details about the offense, the arrest, and how the charge was resolved.
Once the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing and notify all respondents, who will have the chance to contest the expungement. If you meet all of the expungement requirements, however, the court will most likely grant the expunction.
Then, the judge will need to sign an Order for Expunction – that you and your attorney will already have drafted – and that Order will need to be submitted to all the organizations that have files or records pertaining to your now expunged offense. Depending on what the Order mandates, the records will either be deleted or returned to the court clerk.
Don’t let a mistake ruin the rest of your life. If your criminal record is holding you back, reach out to a Texas expungement attorney with proven results to discuss the details concerning your record and to fight for a second chance.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.