Alexander Pope wrote, “To err is human.” Which is true – we all make mistakes.
Most of the time, we learn from our mistakes and continue on with our lives. Sometimes, however, our mistakes follow us around wherever we go.
When you are arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, it shows up on your criminal record, which is available for anyone to see. Regardless of how you’ve changed and improved your life after this “mistake,” your criminal history can continue to haunt your employment, educational, housing, and financial opportunities for years to come.
So how can you finally put your past behind you and move forward with a clean slate?
Depending on the offense and the circumstances surrounding that offense, you might be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged. A sealed record means the public will be unable to see it, but law enforcement officials and other government agencies will still have access. When your record is expunged, it will be entirely eliminated – as if it never existed in the first place.
Let’s look at the requirements for sealing or expunging your criminal record and how you can get the process started if you’re eligible.
Can I Seal My Texas Criminal Record?
In Texas, if you want to seal your criminal record, you will need to seek an order of nondisclosure.
As mentioned above, an order of nondisclosure prohibits law enforcement or courts from disclosing your criminal record related to the order. It also releases you from having to disclose your criminal history related to the order on any type of application. In fact, if you have an order of nondisclosure, you don’t even have to mention it.
While all of this might sound great, an order of nondisclosure only applies to certain offenses and situations. In order to be eligible, you will need to meet six conditions:
- You need to have been placed on deferred adjudication, which means you were not considered to be convicted for the offense.
- You need to have completed your deferred adjudication successfully.
- Your offense cannot have been murder; capital murder; aggravated kidnapping; injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual; abandoning or endangering a child; stalking; violation of court order or bond in family violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking case; an offense that requires sex offender registration; or an offense involving family violence.
- You can’t have any of the above offenses on your criminal record – even if you’re not seeking a nondisclosure order for that offense.
- You have to wait the requisite amount of time for your offense. You have to wait five years after your felony discharge or dismissal; two years for misdemeanors under Chapter 20, 21, 22, 25, 42, or 46 of the Texas Penal Code; and there is no waiting period for other misdemeanors.
- You can’t have been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offenses from the date you were placed on deferred adjudication until the date you were discharged or dismissed.
Can I Get My Texas Criminal Record Expunged?
An expunction means that information and details pertaining to an arrest, charge, or conviction is permanently removed from your criminal record and you can deny the event ever happened.
You could be eligible for an expunction if:
- You were arrested for an offense but never charged;
- You were facing criminal charges but the case was ultimately dismissed;
- You were convicted of certain qualifying juvenile offenses;
- You were convicted as a minor for certain alcohol offenses;
- You were convicted for Failure to Attend School;
- An arrest, charge, or conviction is on your record because of identity theft;
- You were convicted of a crime that was later acquitted by the trial court or the Criminal Court of Appeals; or
- You were convicted of a crime that was later pardoned by the Texas Governor or U.S. President.
In addition to the above requirements, you cannot seek an expunction if:
- You received deferred adjudication or probation;
- You were convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest you want expunged;
- The offense was part of a criminal episode; or
- The statute of limitations for the felony charge hasn’t expired.
Hire a Knowledgeable Texas Attorney to Get Your Record Sealed or Expunged
While you can prepare and file the necessary petitions on your own to get your record sealed or expunged, it is highly advised that you hire a knowledgeable Texas attorney who can ensure not only that you are eligible, but also that your paperwork is handled properly and in a timely manner.
Reach out to an experienced Texas attorney to get your record sealing and expunction questions answered and to get the process started today.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.