We all make mistakes. Especially when we were young.
Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For most of us, the mistakes of our youth and our past stay there. But for some of us, those mistakes continue to haunt us and limit our opportunities because they are listed on our criminal record.
If you were charged, arrested, or convicted of a crime in the past and are tired of your permanent record holding you back, there is hope.
In Texas, certain information about prior charges, arrests, and convictions can be removed from your criminal record through a process called expunction. If an incident in your past is expunged, it is as if it never occurred.
Keep reading to learn more about how expunction works in Texas and how to get a fresh start.
Records Eligible for Expunction
Not all records are available for expunction.
For example, most convictions will not be eligible for expunction. Whether you are able to expunge a record depends on your individual circumstances.
The following are the types of records that can be expunged in Texas:
- A charge that was dismissed
- An arrest where you were never charged with a crime
- Some misdemeanor juvenile charges
- Some minor alcohol charges
- A conviction for failing to attend school
- A conviction that was pardoned by the governor or the president
- A conviction that was later overturned on appeal or by a trial court leading to an acquittal
- An arrest, charge, or conviction as a result of identity theft where another individual was either charged, arrested, or convicted of the crime
Not everyone with a case on the above list will be eligible for an expunction.
If you are an adult and have deferred adjudication or probation or you have been convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest you are trying to expunge, you will not be eligible.
There is also an exception if the incident was part of what is considered a “criminal episode.” This may be the case if you have pending charges for another crime during the same time or if you were convicted of another crime during the same time period or episode.
Before you can apply to have a record expunged for a felony charge that was dismissed, the statute of limitations for the crime must be expired. The statute of limitations is how long the government has to pursue you after you were arrested.
While it depends on the crime involved, most statutes of limitations are at least 3 years.
If your offense is not eligible for expunction, you may still be eligible for an Order for Nondisclosure.
This means that while your record will not be completely removed, it’s accessibility will be limited. It won’t be public record and will only be accessible to government agencies.
Applying for an Expunction
If you are seeking an expunction from your criminal record, you should consider consulting a criminal defense attorney.
It can be difficult to navigate the process on your own and your attorney will have a much better understanding of your charges and your eligibility for expunction. Your attorney will review the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and any statutes that might apply to the relevant charge.
The first thing you will need to do is file what is called a Petition for Expunction with your district court. This petition will formally request that the court grant an Order for Expunction.
Making any errors during this process can have major consequences, which is another reason to hire an attorney to help you prepare and file the petition.
If your arrest did result in a charge, you will need to include information including your cause number, the court that handled the matter, and the date and result of the case. You or your attorney will also file a Notice of Hearing and have the petition notarized.
You will need to be sure you file the petition with the correct court. If you were charged, you should file with the same court who handled the case.
The Expunction Process
After you file your petition, the court will schedule a hearing and send a Notice of Hearing to all applicable parties, or respondents.
During the hearing, the respondents will have an opportunity to object to the expunction. If you meet all of the requirements to have your record expunged, your request for expunction will be granted.
Once the court grants your request, you will give an Order for Expunction to the court and the judge will sign it. You should draft this order and bring it to the hearing ready for the judge’s signature.
You will then submit the signed order to any organization or agency that has files on the relevant record. The Order for Expunction will request that these record keepers either delete the records or return them to the clerk of the court.
You Deserve a Second Chance
Our court system understands that we all make mistakes and allows us second chances when we deserve them. If mistakes were made by the system, the court tries to right those wrongs.
If you made a mistake in the past, you might not have to live with a blemish on your record. Contact us today to learn more about whether your record is eligible for expunction.
Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side will give you the best chance of having your record wiped clean.