Everyone makes mistakes, but unfortunately, sometimes those mistakes can threaten to change the course of your life. If college admissions officers, landlords, or employers do a background check and learn that you have a criminal record, they might throw away your application before you can prove that you have been rehabilitated and deserve a chance.
Luckily, many Texans have the ability to “hide” their record and have a clean slate while they try and move forward. How? Expunction.
If you have a criminal record, you may be able to apply for expunction so that only a privileged few will ever be able to see the information on it.
What Does “Expunction” Mean in Texas?
When someone is arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, the incident is recorded on the person’s criminal record. Criminal records are public knowledge.
Expunction (known in many other states as “expungement”) is the process of sealing those records so they are “hidden” from the public. This allows people who were falsely accused or who have served their sentence for minor crimes to move on with their lives without the fear of their past affecting their future.
Who Can Apply to Get Their Texas Records Expunged?
Texans who meet the following criteria can apply for expunction:
- People who have been acquitted, found “not guilty,” or had their criminal charges dropped
- People who have been pardoned
- People who were arrested but never charged with a crime
In this last case, defendants will have to wait for a period of time after their arrest to apply for expunction. The waiting period will depend on the severity of the crime.
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor and never charged, you will have to wait up to one year from the date of your arrest. If you were arrested for a felony, that period is extended to three years.
What Convictions Can (and Cannot) Be Expunged in Texas?
Even people who have entered into a plea deal or had a guilty verdict against them can apply to have their records expunged in some cases.
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime, you can most likely get your record expunged after two years. (The waiting period is shorter if you only paid a fine as a penalty.)
However, the following crimes will not be expunged from criminal records:
- Sex crimes
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Human trafficking
- Child endangerment
- Family violence crimes
Does Texas Expunction Erase Criminal Records Completely?
Criminal records are still accessible to law enforcement officers, even after the record has gone through expunction. Ex-offenders may be able to deny their criminal past when interviewed by colleges or employees, but they must tell the truth about their past when they are facing charges or under oath.
What Is the Difference Between Expunction and an Order of Nondisclosure in Texas?
These processes are very similar, except that an order of nondisclosure may be revealed to specific entities upon request. Persons who have received an order of nondisclosure will still have to disclose their criminal record if they are applying for a job at a school or with the criminal justice department.
You may apply for an order of nondisclosure if you pleaded guilty or “no contest” to a crime, and after being placed on community supervision, the proceedings were dismissed.
How Can Texans Apply for Expunction or an Order of Nondisclosure?
If you committed crimes as a juvenile and meet the criteria for expunction, you will not have to apply. Persons who are long overdue to have their juvenile records expunged should talk to a criminal defense lawyer about how you can view your juvenile record and whether or not you have to disclose past arrests or convictions on applications.
Persons who have committed crimes as an adult, but still fit the criteria for expunction, will have to file a petition. For minor offenses or arrests, the record may be sealed once the application is received and without a hearing. Other cases will need to be heard in court and a judge will decided whether or not to expunge the record.
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.