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Expunctions and Non-Disclosures for Criminal History with Texas Cases

Posted by Anthony Smith | Jul 08, 2023

In today's world, a criminal record can have significant consequences on a person's life, affecting employment opportunities, housing prospects, and even personal relationships. However, in Texas, there are legal mechanisms in place that can help individuals clear their criminal records or limit their disclosure. These mechanisms are known as expunctions and non-disclosures, and they offer individuals a chance to move forward with a fresh start.

One of the worst parts of a criminal conviction or, for that matter, an arrest in Texas is not necessarily the sentence – which may include fines, incarceration, probation, or other forms of punishment – but the collateral consequences. Collateral consequences include the social and financial harm associated with an arrest or criminal record. Because of the latter, you can lose your job or miss out on career opportunities. Your reputation is at stake as much as your financial future. 

This is true for people who made a mistake but are otherwise law-abiding citizens. Think of drunk driving cases, where a person underestimates their blood alcohol content and ends up getting arrested. An incident like this can happen to the best of us as well as the worst of us. 

Understanding Expungement in Texas

Expunctions, also referred to as expungements, are legal procedures that allow individuals to completely erase their criminal records. When an expunction is granted, it essentially wipes the record clean as if the criminal arrest or charge never occurred. This can be immensely valuable for individuals seeking to eliminate the stigma associated with a criminal history.

Once a record has been expunged, it's as though it never existed. You typically don't have to disclose it to potential employers, landlords, or professional licensing boards. However, expungement can't erase memory—if your record was already made public via news reports or social media, an expungement won't fix this. 

Federal expungements are very rare, with most expungements occurring in state courts. The availability, eligibility criteria, application process, and consequences of expungement vary widely between state jurisdictions.

Expungement is not available in every state. Some only allow a record to be sealed—meaning the public cannot access it, but certain government agencies can. 

Where it is available, the expungement process typically involves a few steps:

  1. Filing a petition or application, along with supporting material and filing fee, with the court that heard your case. 
  2. Serving the application on the prosecutor. 
  3. Attending a hearing that will be set for the court to decide whether to issue an expungement order. 

Again, each state has its own laws specific to expungement, and that includes the expungement process. You should always consult with a criminal defense lawyer in Texas if you want to learn more about expungements. Contact our criminal defense attorney located in Counties in the State of Texas today at 713-242-8917 to get started.

What Qualifies for Expungement in Texas?

Whether an arrest or conviction is eligible to be expunged depends on the relevant state's laws unless it's a federal arrest or conviction. But again, federal crimes are rarely expunged. In fact, only individuals convicted of minor offenses under the Controlled Substances Act can have their federal record expunged. 18 U.S.C. § 3607(c)

Eligible Texas Criminal Convictions

To be eligible for an expunction in Texas, several criteria must be met:

  1. Acquittal or Dismissal: The individual must have been acquitted of the charges or had them dismissed. It's important to note that certain types of dismissals, such as dismissals after successful completion of a pretrial diversion program, may still qualify for expunction.

  2. Waiting Periods: Texas law specifies waiting periods for certain offenses before becoming eligible for expunction. For example, most felonies require a waiting period of three years, while the majority of misdemeanors require one year.

  3. Limited Offenses: Not all offenses are eligible for expunction. Serious crimes such as murder, sexual offenses, and certain violent offenses are generally not eligible for expunction

The Expunction Process

  1. Filing a Petition: The individual seeking expunction must file a petition with the appropriate court, including detailed information about the arrest, charges, and case disposition.

  2. Notice to District Attorney: The district attorney's office is served with a notice of the expunction petition, providing them an opportunity to contest the request if there are valid reasons to do so.

  3. Court Hearing: If the district attorney does not contest the petition, the court will review the case and determine if the expunction should be granted. If granted, the court will issue an order to expunge the records.

Other Potential Eligibility Requirements for Expungement

Eligibility for expungement often varies. Typically, you can only seek expungement after a certain period has pass and the person seeking an expunction has not been arrested for or convicted of a separate offense. Waiting periods before you can apply for an expungement of your record, are also imposed. 

Benefits of Expungement in Texas

An arrest or criminal conviction can have serious long-term consequences beyond any sentence imposed by a court. A criminal record can affect your ability to find employment, secure accommodation, apply for a loan, and obtain a professional license. 

Expungement gives you another chance at a “clean slate.” 

It can open up job opportunities that may have previously been closed by your criminal history and make it easier to secure accommodation. It may also help when applying for loans. 

Alternative to Expungement: Non-Disclosures - Limiting Access to Criminal Records

Texas provides that a criminal record can be "sealed" rather than expunged when an expunction is not an option. 

While expunctions erase criminal records entirely, non-disclosures provide an option for limiting access to criminal records rather than erasing them. Non-disclosures allow eligible individuals to prevent certain criminal records from being disclosed to the general public, including potential employers and landlords.

Eligibility for Non-Disclosures and Process

The eligibility criteria for non-disclosures in Texas include the following:

  1. Deferred Adjudication: The individual must have successfully completed a deferred adjudication probation for the offense in question. Deferred adjudication is a form of probation that, if completed successfully, can prevent a final conviction.

  2. Waiting Periods: Waiting periods differ based on the offense. Misdemeanors typically require a waiting period of two years, while felonies can range from five to ten years.

  3. Offense Limitations: Some offenses are not eligible for non-disclosure, including serious crimes such as murder, sexual offenses, and family violence.

The process for obtaining a non-disclosure in Texas involves the following steps:

  1. Filing a Petition: The individual must file a petition with the court that handled their case, requesting a non-disclosure order.

  2. Background Check: The court will conduct a background check to ensure the individual meets the eligibility criteria for non-disclosure.

  3. Court Review: If the court determines the individual is eligible, it will review the case and consider any objections from the district attorney's office or other parties involved. If approved, the court will issue a non-disclosure order.

Benefits of Expunctions and Non-Disclosures

The availability of expungement and the application process to file an expungement petition are state-specific. Eligibility criteria can be complicated, with several overlapping laws governing expungements. The process can also be complex, involving strict compliance with the rules and provision of relevant supporting documentation. Expunctions and non-disclosures offer individuals significant benefits, including:

  1. Improved Job Prospects: With a clean record or limited access to criminal history, individuals have a better chance of securing employment opportunities.

  2. Housing Opportunities: Expunctions and non-disclosures can enhance chances of obtaining housing without facing discrimination based on a criminal past.

  3. Peace of Mind: Knowing that one's criminal record is sealed or erased provides a sense of closure and the ability to move forward with life's endeavors.

Contact an Expungement Lawyer in Counties in the State of Texas Today 

While you can represent yourself in an expungement petition, it's worth speaking to an attorney for the following reasons:

  1. Ensure eligibility. We will advise you whether you are eligible to apply. The eligibility requirements for expungement are updated regularly, and our criminal defense attorney is familiar with the current legal position. We will review your criminal history, personal circumstances, and the law to confirm whether you can apply for an expungement or sealing of your criminal record. 
  2. Strong, persuasive application. We will also help you prepare a strong expungement application. Our criminal defense lawyer knows how to obtain copies of the documents you need and will help you develop submissions as to why the judge should expunge your record. 
  3. Improved chances of success. It is important to get an expungement petition right. In some states, a refusal may bar you from reapplying for a certain period of time.

Expunctions and non-disclosures provide individuals in Texas with legal avenues to clear their criminal records or limit their disclosure. These mechanisms offer a fresh start, allowing individuals to move past their past mistakes and rebuild their lives. Understanding the eligibility criteria and the processes involved is crucial for anyone seeking to take advantage of these opportunities. If you believe you may be eligible for an expunction or non-disclosure, consult with an experienced attorney to guide you through the process and help you achieve a brighter future.

We will review your case, advise you about your options, and help you navigate the process to a successful conclusion.  

If you have been convicted of a crime in Texas and think you may be eligible for expungement, you should pursue the expungement immediately. The sooner you do, the sooner you will benefit from a clean slate. At the Law Office of Anthony Ray Smith, PLLC, we handle all types of expungement cases and, when appropriate and applicable, petition for Non-Disclosures on cases. Getting criminal convictions and arrest records expunged or sealed is your best means of safeguarding your future. Contact us at 713-242-8917 to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about what opportunities are available to you.

About the Author

Anthony Smith

Anthony started The Law Office of Anthony Ray Smith after his previous position as a Felony Prosecutor at the Galveston County District Attorneys Office. Anthony now focuses on representing individuals in their efforts of solving difficult legal issues and asserting their rights while seeking ju...

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