Erasing A Criminal Past in Texas

In an age where a simple Internet search can reveal someone's entire past, a person's criminal record may be as easy to find as their Facebook profile. Even when charges have been dismissed, a record of the arrest and those charges lingers in the public square. This can cause problems for innocent people in many different ways.

There is certainly a social stigma to being a convict or having been "in trouble with the law." Moreover, an arrest record or a conviction may make it difficult to get a job, a loan, a mortgage or even get into college. Thankfully, the State of Texas allows certain arrest records, court records and criminal histories to be sealed or expunged and removed from the public domain.

Texas Government Code Section 411.081 addresses the sealing of criminal records (orders of non-disclosure) and Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure sets the parameters for expunction. Because the requirements for both are very precise, the Criminal Records Service of the Texas Department of Safety recommends that a person obtain a copy of their criminal history from the Department and consult with an attorney before applying for either.

In general, a non-disclosure order prohibits criminal justice agencies from disclosing a person's criminal history to anyone but an authorized agency. Expunction wipes the record of a crime completely clean. A person convicted of a Class C misdemeanor can have their record expunged only if both of the following conditions are met:

  • Successfully completed deferred adjudication; and
  • Were not convicted of a felony in the five years before the date of arrest in the misdemeanor case

For all other misdemeanor and felony arrests and/or charges, expunction is only possible if one of the following conditions is met:

  • There was an acquittal after trial or by the state court of appeals; or
  • There was a conviction but a later pardon; or
  • Charges were dismissed, the statue of limitations expired and the person was not convicted of a felony in the five years before the date of arrest

To request expunction, a petition must be filed in the district court with information about the arrest and charges. The court notifies every agency that might keep a record of the incident (police departments, prosecutors' offices, detention facilities, etc.) for the chance to contest the request. If the person meets the requirements, the request is granted and an order for expunction issues. Once a record has been expunged, a person can legally deny that the arrest ever occurred.

Because the requirements are nuanced, contact an attorney specializing in Texas expunction to discuss your situation, review your criminal history and get your record expunged.