How to Get Your Record Sealed or Expunged in Texas

How to Get Your Record Sealed or Expunged in Texas

Jane Meggitt
 | 
A criminal record, even for a minor crime, limits a person’s life in numerous ways. They are ineligible for certain jobs, housing and student loans. A long-ago run-in with the law continues to affect their lives and prospects.

Under Texas law, expungement or expunction of a criminal record is possible for some individuals. When a record is expunged, it is erased. Any hard files related to the conviction are destroyed. As far as the court is concerned, an expungement means the criminal conviction did not happen.

Order of Nondisclosure
Texas law also permits the sealing of certain records. Record sealing is also known as receiving an order of nondisclosure. Sealing differs from expungement in that the records are not destroyed, but access to these records is quite limited. For instance, a civilian employer cannot view an employee or applicant’s criminal history. An ordinary background check will not reveal sealed records.

Non-disclosure generally follows deferred adjudication. Although the person is convicted, the judge requires completion of certain conditions, deferring judgment until that time. Deferred adjudication may involve community service, probation, treatment or passing court-ordered classes.   

An order of nondisclosure does not prevent law enforcement and particular  public entities and agencies from accessing sealed records.

Expungement Eligibility
Anyone convicted of an offense greater than a Class C misdemeanor is not eligible for expungement, with specific exceptions. Those whose arrests relate to probation violation or who abscond after being released on bail are also ineligible. Crimes of violence or endangerment are not expungeable.

Potentially eligible expungement convictions or arrests include those who were:
  • Arrested but not charged with a crime.
  • Acquitted of the crime for which they were charged.
  • Convicted of the crime but later found innocent.
  • Convicted but later pardoned.  
A person arrested but not charged with a crime must wait a specified period before filing for expunction. For a Class C misdemeanor, that period is 180 days from the arrest date. For a Class A or B misdemeanor, the time period is one year from the arrest date. For a felony arrest, the individual must wait three years from the arrest date. There are no time restrictions for filing if acquitted, pardoned, or convicted but later found innocent.

Filing an Expungement Petition
After the mandatory waiting period has expired, you may file an expungement  petition in the proper court. Depending on the level of offense, that may prove the municipal, county or district court. When the offense involves a charge, the petition is generally filed in the court in which the case was originally charged.
The petitioner must first locate the records for which they are requesting destruction, as these are part of the filing. The petition requires notarization before signing.  
 The petition must include:
  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Home address at time of arrest
  • Charge
  • Where the alleged crime occurred
  • Where the arrest occurred
  • Arresting agency
  • Court and case number
  • The records subject to expungement
After the petition is filed, a hearing date is scheduled in no fewer than 30 days. All agencies listed in the petition receive a notice at least 30 days before the hearing date. If an agency should file a denial of the expungement, or send a representative to the hearing to oppose it, the petitioner and their lawyer must present new evidence as to why expungement should be granted.

The court should grant the expungement if there are no objections and the petitioner meets all requirements. The petitioner must present an Order of Expunction for the judge to sign. This signed document is submitted to all agencies containing records of the now-sealed offense.

Filing an Order of Non-disclosure
There is also a waiting period for the filing of an order of non-disclosure. This waiting period varies by the offense and can range from no time to as much as 10 years. During this waiting period, the applicant cannot have been convicted of any other offenses.

The process for filing an order of non-disclosure is similar to that of filing for expungement.

Seek Legal Advice
While it is possible to complete the paperwork for expungement or sealing of your criminal record on your own, it is not recommended. This area of law is complicated and not having an attorney to protect your rights significantly lowers the odds of successfully expunging or sealing your record.  


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 
Jane Meggitt

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