If you have a criminal record, you probably know it can create complications for the rest of your life. In certain situations, you may need to disclose your record, and that information could cause you to lose a job opportunity or face societal problems. In certain cases, someone with a criminal record may be eligible to have that record expunged. Read on to learn if you should talk with a Fort Worth Expunction Lawyer about your record.
Expunction is important because it means you can legally say that a criminal incident never happened. Effectively, an expunction destroys all records pertaining to your criminal case: arrest records, case file records, and digital media evidence. After an expunction is completed, you are permitted by law to deny the incident ever happened.
What is Record Expungement?
Record expungement is a process that removes arrest and conviction records from the public domain. Most criminal offenses in Texas can be expunged, including misdemeanor and felony convictions, as well as arrests.
It is essential to expunge your criminal record to gain confidence and achieve a fresh start. However, the process is not simple, so turn to an experienced expunction lawyer at the Fulgham Law Firm to guide you through the procedure.
How Can An Expunction Lawyer Help Delete Your Criminal Record in Tarrant County?
An expunction allows you to erase your criminal record after:
- A dismissal
- A no-bill
- A completion of deferred adjudication for a Class C misdemeanor, or
- An acquittal.
Typically, an arrest is required for an expunction. If you qualify for an expunction, you need a Fort Worth Criminal Lawyer to file a petition in district court. Certain agencies and governmental departments must be listed as respondents to notify them about your expungement request.
Each county has its own fees and rules for filing. For example, Tarrant County requires a $425 filing fee to staff the expunction request with the court and request a hearing.
Upon filing the petition for expunction, your criminal defense attorney will attend an expunction hearing where the felony district judge, the prosecutor, and your lawyer will argue the merits of your request for expunction.
If the judge signs the order, the District clerk notifies the respondents listed in the petition. At a minimum, your criminal expunction lawyer needs to make certain that the following agencies are listed as respondents:
- The FBI
- The Texas Department of Public Safety
- The local police agencies involved in your arrest and
- The County Sheriff’s Department that handled your arrest and booking
Once each respondent receives an order from the judge, they must destroy all files related to your arrest. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure §55.01 explains in detail the right to an expunction.
It’s challenging to accomplish a successful expunction, but not impossible.
Why You Should Work With an Expunction Lawyer
The law imposes a dangerous Catch-22 by preventing lawyers from advertising that they’re experts in expunctions. That leaves prospective clients scrambling to research expungements on the Internet or being driven toward riskier methods to erase their records, such as submitting a sealed court pleading without consulting an attorney.
However, if you are working with an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney who has a track record of successfully obtaining expunctions, you will understand if you qualify for an expunction.
Perhaps the most important question to ask about an expunction is whether you were convicted of the crime or took a plea bargain. If you received a sentence of probation, prison, jail time, or a plea deal, it is unlikely that you will qualify for an expunction in Texas.
Other Challenges Faced by Expunction Lawyers in Fort Worth
The other challenge many people face when determining how difficult it is “to earn a successful expunction” is that there are so few sources of accurate information about this topic. In our experience, many attorneys have reported significant uncertainty about two significant changes in the law that took effect in September 2007.
One change allows some people to file a petition for expunction by themselves without a lawyer. The other change eliminates the petitioner’s requirement to have “never” been convicted of any offense other than a traffic violation.
There are Penalties for Filing a Fraudulent Petition
If you are considering filing a petition for an expungement yourself, you should be very careful because the law establishes severe penalties for filing a fraudulent petition with the court. Filing a fraudulent petition can include up to 180 days in jail and a fine of not more than $2,000. There is a significant risk in going it alone, but it is possible to do it properly if you have the knowledge and background.
Our Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers can help you with the expunction process, but you need to review your prior criminal history before submitting anything on your behalf without legal representation.
How long does it take to get your records expunged in Fort Worth?
In most cases, completing an expungement takes 2-3 months from start to finish. Upon filing the petition for expunction, it normally takes approximately 30 days until a hearing takes place. After the hearing is successfully completed, there is a delay of 30-45 days while the agencies destroy all records associated with the original arrest and criminal charge.
Why You Should Use an Expunction Attorney to Expunge Your Records in Fort Worth
Having an experienced criminal defense attorney guide you through the expunction process will make it much easier, more likely successful, and with less money out of your pocket. A presiding judge can deny an expunction petition if the petitioner doesn’t have legal counsel, but that is very rare.
Generally, the two ways to file for an expunction are the following:
- Acquittal: You can request an expunction if you are acquitted by a trial court or Court of Criminal Appeals, you were not convicted, and you do not remain subject to prosecution for another offense arising out of the same criminal episode.
- Dismissal/No-Bill: You can also pursue an expunction if:
- You are arrested, and no felony indictment/information is issued
- Or if a felony indictment/information is issued and then dismissed, and the statute of limitations for charging you has expired
- Or if the court finds a mistake or fraud occurred, and you are released
- Or, you may file a petition for expunction if no final conviction and no court-ordered supervision is entered for an offense other than a Class C misdemeanor and you have not been convicted of a felony in the five years preceding the date of the pending arrest.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Fort Worth, Arlington, or the surrounding city, and you were acquitted, or the case was dismissed, you may be entitled to an expunction. If you are not sure if you qualify for an expunction, or if you have questions about your rights, call the Fulgham Law Firm, and our team will answer any questions you might have.
At the Fulgham Law Firm, our legal professionals offer a Fort Worth criminal law practice focused on passionately defending the accused. Contact our Fort Worth office now at 817-877-3030 for a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Fort Worth Criminal Lawyer.
Is It Possible to Be Disqualified for An Expungement?
Yes, it is possible to be disqualified for an expungement if you received a conviction in your criminal case or pled guilty to any offense other than a Class C misdemeanor. If the case you are seeking to expunge was not resolved by dismissal, a failure to file a bill, a not guilty verdict, or a deferred disposition on a Class C misdemeanor, you are not eligible for an expunction in Texas.
What if Your Case was Dismissed, but You Have a Pending Case in the Same County?
Can you get the dismissed case expunged so the prosecutor in the pending case will not see it? Unfortunately, no. An applicant cannot move forward with an expunction petition if they have any pending felonies or infractions that are currently unresolved. But once those matters are resolved through completion of rehabilitation, probation, parole, community service, etc., the applicant can reapply for an expunction of the dismissed case.
What is the Texas Expunction Statute of Limitations?
It depends on the type of offense. First, let’s examine what we mean by the statute of limitations. In the context of expunctions, we are really asking how long we must wait (from the date of dismissal or no bill being issued) until we can file for the expunction. The timeframe for waiting can vary from immediate eligibility to waiting over a decade until eligible to file for expungement.
After a Jury Trial
First, if you took your felony or misdemeanor case to a jury trial and you received a not guilty verdict from a jury or judge, you are immediately eligible for an expunction. Why? Because you were exonerated!
With a Class C Misdemeanor Charge
For certain Class C misdemeanor offenses where you received a deferred disposition and successfully completed the terms and conditions, there is no waiting period, so you are immediately eligible. If your criminal case was a different misdemeanor, there is a two-year waiting period that applies.
If Your Felony Was Dismissed
If your felony case was dismissed or no bill was issued by a grand jury, you will have to wait the time frame required under the statute of limitations for the felony offense you were charged. Most felony crimes in Texas have a 3-year statute of limitations. However, certain serious felony crimes can have a statute of limitations that can run much longer.
It is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can give you guidance depending on your specific charge.
What Happens When My Expungement is Granted?
If your expunction petition is granted, you would then be able to lawfully state that you have not been convicted or punished for that criminal offense and could reclaim fundamental rights in most areas of life without restriction.
If you are successful in your expunction, you do not have to answer “yes” if asked on a job application or during an interview whether you have ever been arrested for or charged with a criminal offense. Texas law allows either of these documents (petition for expunction or order of non-disclosure) to be used as proof that the person was not convicted of the offense if an employer or someone else asks for evidence.
Also, after a petition for expunction is granted, the person may lawfully deny or refuse to acknowledge an arrest that did not lead to a conviction. However, if someone files for expunction or order of non-disclosure before the statutory time has passed, they will be required to state on the record that they have been convicted of this offense and provide details about it.
Records expunged by court order are destroyed. People whose records are expunged do not need to disclose information about their criminal history on applications for employment or housing and can answer “no” if asked whether they have ever been arrested or charged with a crime, assuming they have no other criminal history.
Can the Texas Department of Public Safety Appeal My Expunction?
The Texas Department of Public Safety may only appeal the decision to erase a record if they believe that you were not eligible for an expunction or that the court made a mistake in granting your motion for an expunction.
If a court grants your petition for expunction, the Texas Department of Public Safety or any other agency may NOT keep the records in their possession
Expunge Your Criminal Record with an Experienced Expunction Lawyer in Fort Worth, Texas
Call us right now to get help. (817) 877-3030
We’ve helped hundreds of people in Texas, and we can help you, too. We offer a free consultation with our dedicated legal team, which will help you decide what to do next. Our Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers at Fulgham Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys serves Fort Worth and Tarrant County areas.