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 record 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 deleted, including misdemeanor and felony convictions as well as arrests.
It is essential to expunge your criminal record to feel more confident and give you a fresh start.
How is An Expunction Accomplished in Tarrant County?
An expunction is where you are trying to erase your criminal record due to a dismissal, no-bill, or 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. Each county has their 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 completion of the filing of 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 expunction.
If the judge signs the order, the District clerk notifies the respondents listed in the petition. At a minimum, your criminal defense lawyer needs to make certain that the following agencies are listed as respondents: FBI, publicdata.com, Texas Department of Public Safety, local police agencies involved in your arrest and the County Sheriff’s Department involved in your arrest and booking. Once the respondent receives an order from the judge, he or she must destroy all files arising from the arrest. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure §55.01 explains in detail the right to an expunction.
It’s challenging to earn a successful expunction, but not impossible.
The law imposes a dangerous Catch-22 by preventing lawyers from advertising that they’re experts in expunctions. That leaves all prospective clients scrambling to research themselves on the Internet or being driven toward riskier methods to remove 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 that has a track record of successfully obtaining expunctions, you can have a good idea if you qualify for an expunction. Perhaps the most important question to ask for an expunction is whether you were convicted of the crime or took a plea deal? If you took probation, prison, jail time or a plea deal, it is unlikely that you will qualify for an expunction in Texas.
Other Challenges of Successful Expunctions in Fort Worth
The other difficulty with determining how difficult it is “to earn a successful expunction” is that there are so few sources of accurate information about this topic. The consensus from our experience so far has been problematic: 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 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.
As far as filing yourself, this is something you should be very careful about due to the severe penalty 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 this process, but you need to review your prior criminal history before submitting anything on your behalf.
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 completed, there is a delay of 30-45 days until the agencies can destroy all records associated with the original arrest and criminal charge.
Do you need an attorney to get your records expunged in Fort Worth?
No, but having an experienced criminal defense attorney will make the process much easier and with less money out of pocket. A presiding judge can deny expunction without legal counsel, but that is very rare.
Generally, the two ways to file for an expunction are the following:
- Acquittal: If you are acquitted by a trial court or Court of Criminal Appeals, and you were not convicted, do not remain subject to prosecution for another offense arising out of the same criminal episode.
- Dismissal/No-Bill: If you are arrested and no felony indictment/information or felony indictment/information dismissed; and statute of limitations has expired, or the court finds mistake or fraud, and you are released; no final conviction and no court-ordered supervision under 42.12 for an offense other than Class C misdemeanor; and you have not been convicted of a felony in the five years preceding date of 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 know or are not sure if you qualify for an expunction, call Brandon Fulgham, a Fort Worth Criminal Attorney, and he will answer any questions you might have.
At the Fulgham Law Firm P.C., you will find a Fort Worth criminal law practice focused on passionately defending the accused. Contact our Fort Worth office now at 817-886-3078 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 on your criminal case or pled guilty to any offense other than a Class Misdemeanor. If the case you are seeking an expunction for was resolved in any manner other than a dismissal, no bill, not guilty verdict, or deferred disposition on a Class C Misdemeanor, you will not be 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 your old case expunged so the prosecutor will not see it? NO! An applicant cannot move forward with their 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.
What is the 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) until we can file for the expunction. The timeframe for waiting can vary from a minimum of immediate eligibility to waiting over a decade until eligible.
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!
For certain Class C misdemeanor offenses where you received a deferred disposition and the terms and conditions were successfully completed, there is no waiting period, and you can be immediately eligible. If your criminal case was a misdemeanor, there is a two-year waiting period that applies.
If your felony case was dismissed or no billed 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 that can give you guidance on your specific charge.
If your expunction petition is granted, you would then be able to lawfully state that you have not been convicted or punished for such an offense and could claim 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.
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
Expunction Your Record with an Experienced Expunction Attorney 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’ll set you up with a free conversation with Mr. Fulgham, which will help you know what to do next. The Fulgham Law Firm serves Fort Worth and Tarrant County areas.