Expungement

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PUTTING THE PAST AWAY: EXPUNCTIONS FOR HONEST TEXANS

As humans, we all mess up from time to time. Unfortunately, some of these mistakes can have long-reaching personal and professional consequences. Any criminal history, regardless of whether you were convicted or not, can impact your employment opportunities, credit, insurance rates, and community standing.

The good news is you may qualify to fix your Texas record and wipe your record clean of a criminal charge so that you can have a fresh start. In Texas, the process of clearing your criminal record is called expunction, or expungement in other states.

HOW IT WORKS

You’ll need to file a petition to legally remove your charges from your criminal record. If your petition is successful, private companies and state agencies will be legally required to remove references to your charges from their electronic files and destroy any hard copy references as well.

To become eligible for expunction in Texas, you’ll typically need to have your case either dismissed or acquitted.

Not every case is eligible for expunction, though. Only Class C misdemeanors without a conviction (including deferred disposition or dismissal through deferred adjudication), cases where no formal charges were brought, cases where charges have been dismissed, cases that show successful completion of a Pre-Trial Diversion Program, cases where a jury or the Court of Appeals acquitted you, or cases where you were pardoned are eligible.

WHAT IF I CAN’T GET MY CHARGES EXPUNGED?

There’s still hope for you if your case is ineligible for full expunction, though. In these instances, you can request a “sealing of records,” otherwise known as an order of nondisclosure.

Orders of nondisclosure work a little differently than full-on expunctions. Whereas the latter completely erases any trace of your previous criminal history, a sealing of records simply makes the information much more difficult to access. To illustrate this, employers won’t be able to see your criminal history once your records are sealed, but certain government entities will.

If you have a charge on your record but have completed deferred adjudication, then you may qualify to seal your records. Deferred adjudication is a type of plea deal where the defendant will have their charges dismissed in exchange for successfully completing a probationary period.

Texas recently changed some of their laws surrounding the sealing of records for those who have a conviction history. This is best demonstrated in the case of a defendant with a first-time DWI conviction, but no prior criminal history. Minors with criminal histories are also much more likely to get their records sealed, as the state is typically more lenient with younger offenders.

However, some crimes in Texas are always ineligible for both expunction and the sealing of records: murder, kidnapping, stalking, and sex or family crimes, to name a few.

HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?

The waiting period for an expunction depends on how your case closed. Pardons, “not guilty” jury verdicts, and appellate court acquittals have no waiting period. For all other misdemeanors and felonies, you must wait one year and three years, respectively.

The state of Texas will waive your filing fees and let you expedite the expunction process if you win your jury trial.

Upon expunction, you may legally deny that you have any criminal history on employment applications. Oddly enough, it’s illegal to both reveal any information related to your expunction and to willingly decide against destroying this information.

Usually, an expunction hearing takes place about 30 days after a request, but this can go much longer. From there, the expunction itself and clearing of your records takes anywhere from 60 to 90 days. Sometimes, an agency or company must be notified of the order before the clearing begins.

Since expunctions can sometimes take up to a year to be completed, it’s best to work with a criminal defense attorney who can speed this process up for you. At Kimbrough Legal, we understand how life-changing an expunction can be, which is why we work hard to provide our clients with accessible, strategic legal representation to make it happen. For more information on how we can help you get this fresh start, contact us today.

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Tychanika “Tycha” Kimbrough is the Founding Attorney of Kimbrough Legal, PLLC and an advocate for justice and social change. As a licensed Texas attorney.
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