Mistakes are a part of life, and, unfortunately, some of those mistakes can follow us for years. In Texas, and the U.S. generally, a criminal record can affect the opportunities available to you throughout your life even if you are not convicted of a crime. From low credit scores to trouble finding adequate employment, a criminal history can follow you and affect your reputation within your community for years.
Sometimes the lingering effects of a brush with the criminal justice system are not fair. Perhaps you made a mistake when you were young that you have since learned from, or you were eventually found to be innocent of a crime. Whatever the case may be, you will likely want to move forward with the rest of your life as quickly as possible by clearing your record.
Anybody who has been through the criminal justice system in Texas knows how difficult and intimidating it can be to navigate its complex structure. Today we will review expungement in Texas, and what you need to know if you are trying to clear your record.
What kind of charges can be expunged?
In Texas, it is legally permitted to clear your criminal record by filing an expunction petition which will remove an offense from your criminal history. If an expunction is granted, state agencies and private companies will be required to remove references to your arrest from their electronic files, and any physical documents containing information about your arrest will also be destroyed.
Many people are surprised to learn that felony charges can be expunged, in addition to misdemeanor charges. Unfortunately, having your case dismissed or being acquitted by a jury does not erase your criminal history. Under these circumstances, it is imperative that you work to get your record expunged because a criminal record, even one that did not result in a guilty verdict, can have significant consequences.
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 55 outlines the scenarios in which somebody with a criminal history can have their records expunged.
What are the Requirements for Expungement in Texas?
In Texas, it is possible to have both misdemeanor and felony charges expunged. However, whether your case qualifies for expungement depends on whether it meets one of the requirements for expunction as outlined by Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Although there are a variety of conditions that can be satisfied to be eligible for expungement, for the most part each scenario requires your case to be dismissed or for you to be acquitted by a jury.
Class C Misdemeanors, the lowest level of misdemeanor which includes offenses such as bail jumping, public intoxication, and criminal trespassing, are eligible for expungement if you have completed deferred adjudication and were not convicted of a felony within five years of the date of your arrest.
Individuals facing felony or Class A misdemeanor, or Class B misdemeanor charges can qualify for expungement if they are acquitted, pardoned, or had their charges dismissed.
In general, you may be able to have your criminal record expunged in Texas if it meets at least one of the conditions below:
- You were arrested but never had a Texas court file charged against you
- After being convicted of a crime in court, you were eventually proven innocent
- You received a pardon after your conviction from the governor of Texas or the President of the United States
- After standing trial you were acquitted by a jury
- The prosecution decided not to bring your case to trial, and suggested expungement
- Your case was dismissed after you were indicted, and you have also waited for the statute of limitations to expire
- A grand jury decides that there is insufficient evidence to send your case to court for prosecution
Finally, there are waiting periods that must be met
before you can file for expunction. If you were arrested but were not charged
with a crime, you must abide by the following waiting periods:
- For Class C Misdemeanors you must wait 180 days from the date of your arrest
- For Class A or B Misdemeanors the waiting period is one year from the date of your arrest
- For Felony charges you are required to wait three years from the date of your arrest
What is a non-disclosure order, and do I qualify?
In some cases, you may not be eligible for record expungement. However, you may still be eligible for an order of nondisclosure, sometimes referred to as “sealing your record.” As stated above, expunction results in your criminal record being destroyed. A non-disclosure order seals your records so your charges become much harder to access even though they still exist. For example, civilian employers will not be able to see your criminal history if your records are sealed.
So, who is eligible to file a nondisclosure petition? In Texas, you may petition the court for an order of nondisclosure if you plead guilty or plead no contest to an offense for which you are charged. You must also complete a deferred adjudication community supervision program before filing your petition.
Most misdemeanor charges will be eligible for sealing. There is a five-year waiting period for felonies, and a two-year waiting period for misdemeanors before you can apply to have your records sealed. However, if your punishment only consisted of a fine you do not need to wait to file a petition.
How long does the process take if I qualify for expungement or record sealing?
To qualify for expungement or record sealing you must file a court petition. Typically, it can take a court at least 30 days to schedule your hearing, and if the court grants an expungement you may wait an additional 180 days for the record to be destroyed.
Our laws are designed to give those who have made mistakes a second chance. At the Law Office of Andrew Williams, we understand that one mistake should not define the rest of your life. We have served Harris County and the surrounding community in criminal defense cases for more than 20 years and are ready to help you secure an expunction or order of nondisclosure so you can move forward with the rest of your life.
Call 281-358-9111 or visit us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Harris County attorney board-certified in criminal law. We can discuss your options and make sure that your rights are protected.