Here are the most common questions about sealing your record or getting your record expunged in Texas.
How do I find out if I have a criminal record?
If you’ve ever been arrested or charged with a crime in Texas then you have a criminal record. Even class C misdemeanors, such as public intoxication, can stay on your record for life unless you have them expunged. Here are three important places to find your criminal records and how they are made publicly available.
- The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) database, called the Texas Computerized Criminal History System (CCH).
- The records for the court where charges were filed such as the district clerk, county clerk, or the municipal or justice of the peace records.
- The private databases that collect public records and make them available online.
While Texas DPS is a good place to start, DPS reports that an estimated 60% of dispositions are present in its database because local courts sometimes fail to report them to DPS. Many Texas counties and municipalities provide online public access to court records. But, private databases are the best place to find out which criminal records are publicly available about you. Both DPS and local government agencies provide criminal records in bulk to private data companies. These databases are the easiest way for anyone with internet access to find your criminal records in seconds. There are hundreds of online background search websites. A few of the most popular ones include: BeenVerified.com, InstantCheckmate.com, Intelius.com, PublicData.com, and Truthfinder.com.
Do I have a criminal record if my case was dismissed?
If you were arrested and your case was dismissed the arrest records, jail records, and court records are all still in the public records. You may not even know if you didn’t get an apartment or a job because a potential landlord or employer searched your name on a background check site and saw the arrest/case. Criminal records are provided in bulk by state and local government agencies to private data companies who make these records readily available online at sites such as truthfinder.com and beenverified.com.
What do deferred adjudication, deferred prosecution, and pretrial diversion mean?
These terms all refer to types of deals that can be made with the prosecution in lieu of trial that can result in a dismissal rather than a conviction. They can be divided into two distinct types, pretrial and negotiated pleas. 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 important distinction between pretrial programs and negotiated pleas such as deferred adjudication is that they divert the prosecution process before the defendant makes a plea of guilty or no contest in front of a judge. Cases disposed through these types of programs can often be expunged later unless there were multiple charges from the arrest that resulted in conviction or deferred adjudication. The most common names used for these programs in Texas are pretrial diversion, pretrial intervention, and deferred prosecution.
Deferred adjudication and deferred disposition are the two types of alternative adjudication programs in Texas that require the defendant to make a plea of either guilty, no contest, or nolo contendere. Deferred disposition is the term used for class C misdemeanor “fine-only” cases and deferred adjudication is the term used in felony and misdemeanor cases above class C. What is important to know about deferred adjudication is that these case records can eligible for sealing through an order of nondisclosure. Availability of nondisclosure depends on factors that are described in detail in the Nondisclosure section.
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 is the difference between an expunction and an order of nondisclosure?
They are two different legal procedures for removing criminal records from the public records, and the eligibility for them depends on the circumstances and outcome of the case. Expunction destroys the records of the case and is available for cases with better outcomes such as dismissal. Nondisclosure seals the records from public view and is available for certain cases that ended in deferred adjudication and for certain misdemeanor convictions after September 2015 when the defendant has no other convictions.
Can I deny I was arrested after it is expunged?
First, it is important to differentiate between expunction and nondisclosure. For nondisclosure see the question below. If you are granted an expunction, then you are legally allowed to say it never happened and you can also legally deny that you ever had the arrest 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 know how to do an expungement right and then thoroughly remove it. There are also a few narrow exceptions to denying an arrest after an expunction. One example is if you are applying to be a peace officer, you are still required to disclose an expunged arrest.
Can I deny I was convicted or arrested if I receive an Order of Nondisclosure and my case is sealed?
On any application for employment, information, or licensing, a person whose criminal history record information is the subject of an order of nondisclosure is not required to state that they have been the subject of any criminal proceeding related to the information that has been sealed by the order. Therefore, aside from the exceptions below, if you receive a nondisclosure you can legally deny you were arrested or convicted on an application for employment. (Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.0755) However, there are certain circumstances where sealed criminal records are still accessible. Sealed records are still accessible to law enforcement and certain government agencies and they may be disclosed in limited circumstances such as applying for a professional license. Call us to find out whether your case is eligible for sealing through an Order of Nondisclosure.
Can I join the military with a criminal record?
Each of the five branches of armed service have strict moral character standards that determine a recruit’s eligibility to join its ranks. After the initial screening with a recruiter, a recruit is sent to the nearest Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) where personnel determine the applicant’s physical qualifications, aptitude and moral standards as set by each branch of military service. The moral standards evaluation involves what is called a “Moral Character Screening of Credit and Criminal Background.” An applicant’s entire criminal history is considered, this includes charges that were dropped and cases that ended in dismissal. Each criminal history event is evaluated according to its disposition, offense type, and level of offense. Waivers can be obtained for some types of misdemeanor offenses but are more difficult for felony cases and there are differences between the way the military defines a conviction and a felony and the way they are categorized and disposed in the various state jurisdictions. An expunction can help by destroying all records of the criminal case.
Will an expunction or nondisclosure help me to get a Concealed Handgun License CHL?
Yes, both an expunction and an order of nondisclosure can affect the outcome of an application for a CHL in Texas. DPS has wide discretion to look at an applicant’s criminal record and consider convictions as well as arrests and cases that ended in dismissal through an alternative adjudication program such as deferred adjudication and pretrial diversion. An expunction will remove the records of an arrest or case from the DPS records, therefore, it will not appear on the criminal history accompanying a CHL application.
An Order of Nondisclosure can make an applicant eligible for a CHL because deferred adjudication is considered a conviction for purposes of a CHL if it occurred within the past 5 years for a misdemeanor, and within the past 10 years for a felony. An Order of Nondisclosure can make an applicant eligible sooner because the current CHL statute excludes cases that have been sealed through Orders of Nondisclosure from being considered convictions for purposes of evaluating CHL eligibility. (Tex. Gov’t Code § 411.172)
Can I expunge a DWI in Texas?
If your DWI case qualifies for expunction then you can expunge the arrest and court records related to the DWI arrest. Nondisclosure or sealing is not applicable to DWI because deferred adjudication is not available for DWI offenses. However, nondisclosure is applicable in cases where the prosecutor dropped the DWI charges in favor of a lesser charges. If you receive deferred adjudication that you successfully complete you may be eligible to seal the lesser charge. While you may eligible to seal the lesser charge in this circumstance, you will not be able to seal or expunge the DWI.