Ensuring a clean criminal record is at the forefront for many who have prior arrests. Whether to find a good job, enter into university, or just for peace of mind, a clean criminal record goes a long way in helping Texans achieve their personal goals.
If you’ve been arrested for a crime in the state of Texas, record expungement may be the best way to clear your file. That said, only certain offenses and under specific circumstances can be expunged from your record.
Additionally, court closings and reduced activity due to COVID-19 can leave you wondering if it’s even worth the time. We say, yes, it is. There are also steps you can take now while we’re waiting to get back to business.
What Texas Criminal Records are Eligible to Be Expunged?
Basic information which can be erased from records upon completion of the expungement process includes:
- An arrest for a crime that was never charged
- A criminal charge that was ultimately dismissed
- Certain qualifying misdemeanor juvenile offenses
- Conviction of a minor for certain alcohol offenses
- A conviction for Failure to Attend School
Other Scenarios with No Formal Charges
There are a number of slightly more complicated situations that may be eligible for expungement as well. See several of them outlined below.
- The arrest of a person not charged if a case is not filed and there is no felony offense arising out of the same transaction for which the person was arrested
- The arrest of a person that is never formally charged, regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired, if the prosecuting attorney’s office certifies the records and files are not needed for use in any criminal investigation or prosecution of another person
Notice that nearly every record listed thus far doesn’t actually involve conviction (save the truancy conviction of a minor). It is significantly more challenging to expunge actual convictions where you were charged with a crime and handed down a punishment.
When You’ve Been Convicted of a Crime in Texas
That doesn’t mean it is impossible, however. Here are some scenarios that meet the requirements:
- Arrest, charge, or conviction on a person’s record due to identity theft by another individual who was arrested, charged, or convicted of the crime
- A conviction for a crime that was later acquitted by the trial court or the Court of Criminal Appeals
- A conviction for a crime that was later pardoned by the governor of Texas or the U.S. president.
If you are in the category of people able to have your record expunged, the process is straightforward but detailed. All steps must be completed precisely, or your request for record expungement will be denied.
What Is the Expungement Process in Texas?
First, you must submit a Petition for Expunction with the applicable district court. This petition must have all of the correct information filled out correctly. You will also need to get this document notarized before sending it in.
Once this document has been filed, the court will schedule a hearing if all of the information is correct. After the hearing, and if you have appropriately made your case and all of the information is correct, the judge will grant an expunction.
When it is granted, an Order of Expunction will need to be signed by the judge. This order should be pre-drafted before the hearing.
After you have the signed Order of Expunction, the document will need to be sent to every agency that may have records of the offense. Then finally, these records may be deleted according to the Order of Expunction.
Preparing for Expungement Post-Pandemic in Texas
The main thing that a person can do to prepare for the expungement process is to obtain a complete copy of their criminal record. This record will need to be obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety. You or your attorney will need to thoroughly go through these documents to understand if the records qualify for expungement.
Once you’ve determined that your records qualify for expungement, you will need to obtain the petition document fill it out. Luckily, despite living in a pandemic world, we still have digital access to everything you need to get the ball rolling.
It is also helpful to have all of this information reviewed by a legal professional before sending it off. Once everything is confirmed to be correct and all appropriate information is included, it’s time to send things off, and the process begins.
Is an Attorney Required for Texas Expungement?
The short answer is no. An attorney is not mandatory to have your records expunged in the state of Texas. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be wise to consult one before you submit your drafted petition.
A Texas criminal defense attorney experienced in the expungement process understands what is needed at each stage of the process. Because it is easy for mistakes to be made, a second pair of eyes with a background in these situations will always be more helpful than not. Even one exclusion or error is likely grounds for rejection of your expungement request.
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. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.