Let’s say you’re going in for a job interview. You’re confident, you’re excited, and you’re ready to answer any questions that the employer throws at you. Until they say, “So, why were you arrested back in 2017?”
How did they find out about that? The charges were dropped. You never had to go to jail or anything!
Unfortunately, you don’t have to be convicted to have a criminal record in the state of Texas. If you’ve had any trouble with the law, you could have a record – and that record could come back to haunt you when you’re trying to get jobs or move forward with your life.
When a Texas Criminal Record Is Created
Law enforcement officials begin making a record of their interactions with you the moment you are arrested. Your fingerprints, mug shot, and personal information are collected and stored in a (nowadays) huge computer database. Criminal records like this are useful for solving crimes and keeping data on people who have been arrested, charged, and convicted of crimes.
Unfortunately, not every person knows that this information entails a “criminal record” that will follow them wherever they go. How bad is it? All told, over 100 million American adults — including those who were arrested for small crimes years ago — have a criminal record. That’s almost one in every three adults.
Who Can Access a Criminal Record in Texas?
If you’re not sure whether or not you have a criminal record, it’s time to check. Know what is on your record before someone else brings it up.
Back in the day, criminal records weren’t easy to access. Law enforcement officials could access them to solve crimes, but otherwise, it was easy to lead a normal life without the burden of past arrests or convictions holding you back. Now, it’s different.
- After the passage of the Patriot Act and the widespread implementation of digital technology, more and more employers are required to run background checks before hiring employees. Statistics show that even the employers that aren’t required to run background checks do so — up to 95% of employers engage in this practice at some point during the hiring process.
- Landlords also engage in this practice. Some apartment complexes don’t allow people with a felony record, or any sort of criminal record, to rent.
- Gun distributors are also required to run a background check on anyone who wants to purchase a firearm. Throughout the United States, felons and people who have been convicted of any domestic violence crimes cannot own firearms.
- Even lenders utilize background checks. People with a felony drug conviction cannot get federal student aid if they were convicted while receiving aid in the past. Felony offenses and other counts on your record may also raise eyebrows when someone is assessing whether or not they should give you a mortgage or other type of loan.
Obviously, this can cause some serious hurdles for people who are looking to move forward with their lives but still have a criminal record — particularly here in the Lonestar State. While many states have moved to “ban the box,” Texas offers a different approach.
If a job pays under $75,000 in the state of Texas, criminal records from over seven years ago will be hidden from employers. This is a step in the right direction, but still restricts many people who have made more recent mistakes.
There Is a Way to “Hide” Your Criminal Record in Texas
Texas does have another rule that protects employees with a criminal record. Applicants can deny any existence of a criminal record — if the record was expunged. In other words, in order to use this type of protection, you will need to apply for expungement
What does that mean?
Law enforcement officials have the ability to “expunge” or erase a criminal record. Employers, landlords, and the public cannot find these records once they are expunged.
This process is often confused with “criminal record sealing.” If you get your record sealed, the record will still exist, but it will be simply hidden from the public. Law enforcement officials can still “unseal” the record to assist with investigations or use against you if you are arrested again.
Expungement and criminal record sealing can make a big difference in the jobs available to you and how easy it is to move on after an arrest or a conviction. Talk to a Texas criminal defense lawyer to find out if you apply for either of these processes.
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.