Fortunately, in Texas, there are several opportunities to clean up your record. Expungement is the most commonly used term for the legal procedures related to removing criminal records from public access. In Texas, there are two different legal procedures that do this depending on the outcome of the case.
First, expunction is the legal term used in Texas for the actual removal and destruction of records relating to an arrest and court case. That includes your mug shot and fingerprints. Expunction is available when charges were dismissed or when the defendant was acquitted at trial. This includes dismissals through pretrial diversion, pretrial intervention, and deferred prosecution. After expunction, you may honestly state that you were never arrested.
Expungement or Expunction of Criminal Records
Criminal charges on your record can mean the difference between getting a job, line of credit, or an apartment. Expunction, also called expungement, is the procedure available in Texas to force law enforcement, government agencies, and private databases to destroy records related to an arrest or prosecution. Most people assume that dismissal or acquittal means your record stays clean, but arrest records, mugshots, fingerprints, and court records follow you until you do something about it. Expunction is not available if any charges out of an arrest resulted in conviction, probation, or deferred adjudication. Cases resulting in deferred adjudication might be eligible for an order sealing the records but this process, called an Order of Nondisclosure, is separate from expunction. If your case resulted in deferred adjudication go to the Order of Nondisclosure page.
Who is eligible for Expunction in Texas?
You may be entitled to an expunction if:
- You were arrested but no charges were brought against you.
- Your case was dismissed.
- The grand jury did not indict you or “no billed” the indictment.
- You were found not guilty, acquitted at trial.
- You received deferred disposition for a class C misdemeanor and successfully completed the terms.
- Your case was the result of identity theft, someone was arrested and used your name without your permission.
- You received a pardon from the governor.
What does deferred prosecution, pretrial diversion, and pretrial intervention mean, and can those cases be expunged?
Deferred prosecution, pretrial diversion, and pretrial intervention are terms to refer to special programs offered by the prosecution instead of going to trial for certain cases. If the program is successfully completed it results in dismissal and the records can usually be expunged. These programs distinct from deferred adjudication, in that they occur in the pretrial stage before a defendant makes a plea in front of the judge. Deferred adjudication involves making a plea of guilty, no contest, or nolo contendere in front of a judge. While successfully completed deferred adjudication will also result in a dismissal, the case records can be sealed through an Order of Nondisclosure, but not expunged.
These expunction eligible pretrial programs have different names depending on the county and whether they are formal programs that are overseen by the county’s probation department. The most common names used for these programs in Texas are pretrial diversion, pretrial intervention, and deferred prosecution. If your case was dismissed through one of these programs then it should be eligible for expunction.
What does the expunction process involve?
An Order of Expunction of Criminal Records is the court order granted by a judge ordering government agencies and private entities to destroy records and information related to an arrest or criminal prosecution. In order to get a judge to grant an Order of Expunction, you must file a Petition for Expunction with the district clerk in the county where the arrest or criminal prosecution took place. Filing a petition for expunction requires paying the filing fees related to filing a civil suit and properly drafting the petition. The reason that it is important to hire an experienced criminal attorney to perform an expunction is that it is a technical process. A petition for expunction must contain certain required information and must plead the correct legal grounds for the expunction which depends on the circumstances of the case. Most importantly, both the Petition and Order of Expunction must include the relevant law enforcement and government agencies that have records of the particular case or arrest. Lastly, removing the criminal history information from the multitude of private online databases requires technical knowledge. Once criminal records are disseminated from a private database to other online background check websites, that information can be difficult to take down without the specific knowledge to remove it. Many criminal attorneys and individuals filing their own expungements are unfamiliar with this aspect of the expungement process.
How long does an Expunction take?
Once a Petition for Expunction is filed and notice is given to the State, it has 30 days to respond. A hearing date must be set with the district court and your attorney must present the case for expunction and ask the judge to grant the order. The district courts and counties vary in their procedure and the procedure may take longer in some counties than others. Therefore, petitions for expunction can take as little as 30 days to several months.
Can I deny I was arrested after my records are expunged?
If you are granted an expunction, then you are legally allowed to say the arrest never happened and you are even entitled to deny that you ever had the arrest or case expunged. The caveat is that an expungement must be competently enforced to remove online records so that you do not look like a liar. This is the part of the process that is the least understood because it is done automatically when an expunction is granted. This step is the most crucial and requires an understanding of online records and the private databases that disseminate them. We are a firm of criminal defense lawyers who have performed many expungements and we know how to do an expungement right.