Having criminal charges on your record can seem like a problem that will haunt you for life, but there may be a solution.
Expunction is a legal tool that removes or limits the viewability of a charge on your record, making it easier to participate in everyday life.
How to get your record expunged
Getting your record expunged starts with help from a criminal defense lawyer. Their first step will be to file a petition for expungement with your county’s district court. There is usually a modest fee involved. Next, it’s important to be patient and wait to see if your petition is approved. If the court agrees to hear your case, which could take up to a month, you’ll be given a hearing date.
Your expungement hearing is where you and your attorney will have the opportunity to argue for the removal of your record. If your expungement is granted, it can take up to six months for all the relevant agencies to remove your charge from their record. Overall, it can take up to eight months to complete the entire process.
Requirements for expungement
Texas law does not allow expungement for guilty charges of serious crimes, but there are a variety of circumstances where petitions may be granted. You may be able to get your record expunged if:
- Your criminal charges were dismissed
- You were found not guilty at trial
- You were convicted but later exonerated
- A prosecutor advises expungement
- A grand jury didn’t move forward with your charges
- You were pardoned by the governor
Records of arrest, indictment and conviction in Texas committed by minors have special circumstances for expungement. Crimes eligible for removal include misdemeanor offenses resulting in a fine, crimes committed under the Alcoholic Beverage Code and failure to attend school offenses. Like in cases for adult crimes, individuals who wish to expunge their juvenile record must go through the petition process.
Nondisclosure as an alternative
When a hearing doesn’t result in an expungement, an order of nondisclosure may be used as an alternative. This is when parts of your criminal record get sealed, meaning they are only accessible by certain parties. While the general public will not have access to your records, they will be visible by law enforcement and other government agencies.
Find out if you’re eligible
The nature of your criminal charge is very important when finding out if you’re eligible for expungement. For all sexual offenses in Texas, there is no way to remove a guilty charge from your record. If your charges were dismissed or you were found not guilty, your petition may be granted. You would not be eligible, however, if the charge involved any alleged sexual contact with minors.
If you believe that your criminal record is eligible for expungement, you’re advised to seek counsel from an attorney as soon as possible. By removing an incident from your record, you’ll likely have better opportunities for employment and housing.