We all make mistakes at some point. Unfortunately, some mistakes carry significant and lasting consequences, dramatically reshaping and limiting our options moving forward. Momentary lapses in judgment can lead to criminal charges, and your criminal record can follow you around and negatively impact your housing and employment options. However, most states recognize that people deserve second chances once they have learned from their mistakes. In Texas, you may qualify for expunction (sometimes called expungement in other states), which liberates you from the obligation to disclose your arrest or criminal history when asked. Of course, there are several eligibility requirements you must meet before you can pursue an expunction. Working with a trusted and knowledgeable Houston criminal defense attorney is the best way to ensure you understand how to navigate each step of the expunction process to achieve a favorable outcome.
How the Expunction Process Works in Texas
Expunction is designed to remove entries from an adult criminal history record permanently, but this option is very limited. In comparison, obtaining an order of nondisclosure (also known as sealing records) hides certain offenses from public disclosure, but they remain visible to criminal justice agencies, licensing agencies, and some types of government entities. In Texas, you may qualify for expunction if you were arrested for a felony or misdemeanor offense and if you were acquitted at trial, the case was dismissed, you were pardoned, or you were never formally charged with a crime. Close relatives of someone who recently passed away with a criminal record meeting the above expunction eligibility requirements may also pursue an expunction request on their behalf.
Expunction Rules in Texas
Texas laws allow for expunctions in very limited circumstances. For instance, expunction only applies to either Class C misdemeanors resulting in deferred adjudication or offenses of any level in which charges were not filed, charges were dismissed, or the individual was acquitted or pardoned. Additionally, regardless of whether formal charges were brought against the defendant or not, Texas imposes a minimum waiting period before an individual may file an application for expunction (180 days for Class C misdemeanors, one year for Class A and B misdemeanors, and three years for felonies). In instances where charges were brought, you must wait for the statute of limitations for every crime for which you were arrested to expire before you may file an expunction request.
Initiating an Expunction Request
If you believe you meet the eligibility requirements for an expunction in Texas, you may obtain, complete, and file the Application for Expunction in the arresting county. The clerk receiving the completed application will notify the Department of Public Safety and set a court hearing at least thirty days after the date of filing. This petition will require you to provide detailed information about your criminal record and your arrest, so be prepared to contact the law enforcement agency or the court to obtain the specific details you need. You should also prepare to pay a filing fee (which varies by county), but low-income individuals may complete a fee waiver asking the court to waive the associated filing fees.
What Happens if the Expunction Petition is Successful?
If the court approves your petition for expunction, it will order every agency you listed as a respondent on your application to remove the arrest from your record. When you file your expunction petition, make sure to list every public entity that was involved in your case, such as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the law enforcement entity that placed you under arrest, the Office of Court Administration, the sheriff’s office of the county where you spent time in jail, the prosecuting agency, the magistrate who oversaw your arraignment, the clerk of the court, the probation office, and more. It can be challenging to identify all of the entities involved in your case, so enlist the assistance of a trusted and experienced criminal defense lawyer to ensure you compile a complete and thorough petition. Once the court has approved your petition for expunction, you will no longer be legally obligated to disclose the arrest to anyone (i.e., employers, landlords, schools, or professional licensing boards) unless you are under oath in a criminal proceeding.
Contact a Skilled Houston Attorney Today
If you are struggling with a criminal record that is limiting your housing and employment options, it’s important to recognize that you may have an opportunity to enjoy a brighter future. It’s in your best interest to discuss your situation with a dedicated and experienced Pearland criminal defense attorney, as you may be able to take steps to secure the second chance you deserve. Your attorney will assess the specifics of your situation and help you identify the most strategic path forward, providing you with the guidance and support you need to achieve your desired outcome.
Call the Law Offices of Keith G. Allen, PLLC, today at (832) 230-0075 to schedule a free consultation with a trusted and experienced Brazoria County criminal defense attorney.