What Does Expunging Your Criminal Record Mean?

Expungement can help you get a fresh start if you have a criminal record in Texas. An expungement seals your criminal record from public view and allows you to deny the arrest or conviction in most cases legally. This article explains everything you need to know about expunging criminal records in Texas.

What Is Expungement and Who Is Eligible?

Expungement is the process of sealing criminal records from public access and, in some cases, government and law enforcement access. An expunged record is essentially erased like it never happened.

Not all criminal cases can be expunged in Texas. Eligibility depends on the type and severity of the offense.

After you complete your sentence for less serious misdemeanor offenses, expungement may be an option. Certain misdemeanor convictions, like DWI, are not eligible.

Felony offenses are generally not eligible for expungement in Texas. However, first-time nonviolent felony convictions may qualify for an order of nondisclosure. This seals the criminal record from public view but does not result in the total destruction of records like expungement does.

To qualify for expungement or nondisclosure, you cannot have any pending criminal cases or outstanding fines related to the offense. You also cannot currently be incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.

Why Get Your Criminal Record Expunged?

Getting your record expunged can open up employment, housing, education, and other opportunities with a criminal record that may not be available to you.

In most cases, an expungement order legally allows you to deny the arrest, conviction, or completion of deferred adjudication. A few exceptions exist under federal law enforcement or national security clearance background checks.

Overall, expunging your criminal record gives you a chance at a fresh start and prevents many organizations from seeing your past mistakes.

When Can You File for Expungement in Texas?

The timing requirements for filing an expungement petition depend on the type of offense:

Misdemeanors

  • Must wait 1 year after the misdemeanor conviction sentence ends before filing.
  • Immediately eligible if charges are dismissed with no conviction.

Felonies

  • 5 years after a felony sentence ends for most state jail or 3rd degree felonies.
  • 10 years for 1st and 2nd degree felonies.
  • Immediately if charges are dismissed or found not guilty.

Probation

  • After early release from probation.
  • After full probation term if not early released.

Be sure to verify your eligibility with a legal aid clinic before filing your petition.

How Does the Texas Expungement Process Work?

Getting your record expunged in Texas involves filing a petition in the court where your case was handled. This petition should include key details like your name, the offense, case number, dates of arrest/conviction, etc.

You’ll also need to pay a filing fee, which may be waived if you can demonstrate financial hardship. Your petition will be received by the prosecutor’s office, which has the option to object if they think you are ineligible.

If there are no objections, the court will schedule a hearing to review your case details. The judge will then decide whether to grant your expungement request based on the facts of your case and your eligibility.

If approved, the court will order your criminal records to be sealed. This prohibits access to any arrest or conviction data related to your case without a court order.

Limitations of Expunged Records in Texas

While expungement seals your records from public access, it does have some limitations in Texas:

  • Government agencies like DHS may still have access to expunged records
  • News stories about your arrest or conviction remain unaffected
  • You may still need to disclose expunged offenses when applying for citizenship or other federal programs

Can an Expungement Get Denied or Overturned?

Judges have discretion in whether to grant an expungement petition. They may consider factors like the severity of your offense, criminal history, and your good behavior period since your conviction. Opposition from the prosecutor can also influence an expungement decision.

In rare cases, an approved expungement can get overturned on appeal if the court made a substantive error in granting your petition.

Most expungements get approved if you meet the eligibility conditions for your specific charges. However, getting legal guidance maximizes your chances for success.

Standing Up For Your Rights

Our Texas criminal defense attorneys have the knowledge and resources to build a strong defense on your behalf. We represent clients nationwide across Texas in even the most complex federal cases. Our team upholds the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. We offer discreet assistance and will fight tirelessly for the best possible outcome in your case. If you or a loved one are under investigation, have been arrested, or need legal guidance, turn to Whalen Law Office in Frisco, TX.