Texas Expungements

Expunctions in Texas

“Have you ever been arrested for or charged with a crime?” That sentence appears on almost every job application. Unless the job is for the federal government, lying on a job application is technically not against the law. However, if you have a criminal history and refuse to admit it, you may lose your job, especially if a criminal background check is performed. Having your criminal record expunged is one way to avoid this situation.

Expunction (or expungement) is the process of totally removing an arrest and/or criminal charge from a qualifying person’s criminal record.

In certain circumstances, Texas courts allow for the expungement of arrest and conviction records. If your request is granted, any records relating to your arrest or subsequent trial will be sealed. Fingerprints, mug shots, DNA collection, trial transcripts, and other arrest records will be included. It will be as if the crime never occurred. This enables you to respond to the application question with a qualified “No,” and you will be telling the truth in the eyes of the court.

How do Expunctions and Non-Disclosures Work?

A charge of driving while intoxicated can have serious implications. A defendant who is convicted of a DWI may face the seizure of his license, fines, and even jail or prison time. These consequences can also continue to follow you after your sentence has been completed: a DWI conviction will show up on your criminal record and can be accessed by potential landlords, employers, and lenders. Even if you were charged but were later found not guilty or had your case dismissed, your charge will still show up on background checks, possibly acting as an obstacle to future employment and personal advancement.

This does not have to be your fate. If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Texas and had your case dropped, were proved innocent in court, or had to endure a period of deferred probation, you may be able to have your charge sealed or expunged.

The basics of expungement and non-disclosure

In Texas, criminal records come in three varieties: open, undisclosed (or sealed), and expunged. An open record is available to the public and can be viewed by prospective employers, lenders, and screening agencies. A sealed record is not visible to the general public and can only be viewed under certain circumstances (for example, by law enforcement offices when screening job applicants for criminal activity.) Finally, an expunged record is completely erased, as though it had never existed.

Prerequisites for expungement and non-disclosure

If you’ve been found guilty of a class B or A misdemeanor or certain types of felony and you’ve only had to complete a term of deferred adjudication probation, you can apply to prevent the disclosure of your record to the general public. If you were found not guilty or your case was declined, dismissed, resolved with a deferred disposition, or ended in a class C misdemeanor conviction, your record is eligible for expungement.

Obviously, expungement is more desirable than non-disclosure. The most important practical difference between the two has to do with employment. If your DWI is undisclosed, your record can still be pulled by potential employers if you apply for a position with law enforcement or an equivalent agency.

What are the Benefits of an Expunction?

Once your criminal case has been expunged, you will be able to legally state that you have never been arrested, convicted, or pleaded guilty to any criminal act in Texas (unless in federal court). Your criminal history will be effectively erased in the eyes of private employers and government agencies conducting background checks.

How Long Does an Expunction Take?

The average case in Texas takes three to six months from the time the initial paperwork is filed to the time the final order of expunction is issued. Because the courts function on a first-come, first-served basis, the sooner you begin, the sooner your record will be cleansed.

Misdemeanor Expungement in Texas

Arresting for a criminal offense can have a detrimental influence on many aspects of your life, regardless of whether the charges are ultimately dismissed. The most damaging consequence for the great majority of those charged with a misdemeanor offense is the public record that is generated. Potential employers, loan officers, and property managers can easily discover a criminal record, limiting housing options and potentially keeping lucrative employment out of reach.

Even if you were never convicted or have already paid your duty to society, having a criminal record can harm your reputation and integrity. Texas state law provides two options for wiping or permanently sealing criminal offense records, both of which provide a clean slate.

Expunged misdemeanor vs. Non-disclosure

Every state, including Texas, takes one of two techniques to remove specific arrests and criminal convictions from public records.

  • Expungement/Expunction – If the court grants an expungement, all eligible arrests, convictions, complaints, and charges are permanently erased from public record as if they never existed. This method allows you to lawfully state that you do not have a criminal record.
  • Order of Nondisclosure – This method prohibits criminal justice agencies from sharing your record of criminal offenses with the public. Your record is essentially sealed and is viewable only to the State of Texas. Under current Texas non-disclosure laws, there are petitions for Deferred Adjudication Community Supervision for certain felonies and misdemeanors. In 2017, this expanded to include certain Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) convictions. The order, if granted, applies to a particular criminal offense, and does not seal the entire record.

Expungement in Texas – am I eligible?

Texas law does permit the expunction of criminal records under certain conditions. Your record may qualify for expungement if:

  • You were acquitted of the charges
  • Your case was formally dismissed
  • You were arrested but not charged
  • You were convicted but later pardoned
  • You successfully completed a pretrial diversion program
  • The statute of limitations expired
  • You were charged with a crime but found not guilty
  • You were convicted of truancy and are now 18 years old
  • You were a minor convicted of a tobacco or alcohol-related offense

For those who were arrested but not convicted of a criminal offense, Texas imposes a mandatory waiting period before an expungement can be requested.

  • Class A & Class B Misdemeanor – 365 days from the date of arrest
  • Class C Misdemeanor – 180 days from the arrest date
  • Felony – 3 years from the date of arrest

The process of expunging a criminal record is complex, governed by rigorous standards, and necessitates the skillful counsel of an experienced expungement attorney who will maximize your chances of success.

Non-disclosure – sealing criminal records

In Texas, most misdemeanor offenses are qualified for non-disclosure, which seals the criminal record from public access. After successfully completing deferred adjudication, you can usually seek to have the record sealed. There is no waiting period before asking for a non-disclosure order if a misdemeanor crime resulted in simply a fine. There is a two-year obligatory waiting period for more serious misdemeanors and a five-year waiting period for felonies under Texas Government Code 411.0715, 411.0725.

Criminal offenses that are not eligible for non-disclosure include:

  • Injury to a child, elder, or disabled person
  • Murder
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Any act that results in sex offender registration
  • Family violence
  • Stalking
  • Human trafficking

It is crucial to note that even if the filing procedures are satisfied, the court may deny a non-disclosure order. A skilled attorney can assist in constructing compelling reasons in favor of granting a non-disclosure order.

Expungement of Juvenile Records

If a minor is arrested and later convicted of a crime, they can petition the courts for an expungement when they reach the age of 18. If there was only one criminal incident, the expungement will be granted. However, if the offense involved a sexual crime, an expungement will not be granted.

Expungement Procedure

To file a petition for expungement, you must fill out the appropriate application form. This will include all of your personal contact information as well as case-specific information. You will need all of the facts surrounding your arrest and trial, as well as proof that you completed any sentence or probation.

A hearing will be scheduled once the application has been filed. You may file your applications on your own, as with most other matters before the court, but you would be better served by having legal representation. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to tell you right away if you are eligible for an expungement. They will also be able to advise you on the best course of action to take and any other applicable waiting period.

How to File For Expungement and Non-Disclosure of DWI

You can file to have your Texas DWI charge or conviction cleared by obtaining, filling out, and filing a Petition for Expunction or a Petition for Non-Disclosure. Both of these forms should be available at your local law enforcement office or courthouse.

Dropped or declined DWI charges can be expunged immediately, but most convictions carry a two- or five-year waiting period starting from the completion of your probation before they can be sealed or expunged.

If you’re still feeling the consequences of your DWI charge and you’ve been found not guilty or have completed your probation, look into having your record cleared. Non-disclosure and expungement are easy to obtain if you meet the requirements.