How to Get Your Criminal Records Sealed in Texas
If you are a Texas resident looking to erase your criminal record, you need the help of a local Houston attorney who understands both state and federal laws regarding sealing criminal records. Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, some mistakes have higher consequences than others, leading to arrests, charges, and convictions. Talk to the criminal defense team at The Law Office of David A. Breston in Houston to discover if it’s possible for the courts to seal your criminal record.
What Is Expungement?
Expungement is the legal process of removing an event from a person’s criminal records and is a relatively routine process in Texas. With legal help, some people have been able to permanently remove information about past arrests, charges, and convictions with relatively minor effort. When the courts expunge a criminal record, it will order the official removal of all information regarding that arrest, charge, or conviction as if the incident never happened.
Do I Qualify for Expungement?
The first question to ask when pursuing expungement is the type of crime that someone committed; some convictions are not eligible for expungement, but the types that are eligible include:
- An arrest for a crime without a subsequent charge
- A criminal charge that the courts ultimately dismissed
- Arrest, charge, or conviction on a person’s record due to identity theft by another individual whom the police arrested, charged, or convicted of the crime
- Conviction for a crime that the trial court or the Criminal Court of Appeals later acquitted
- Conviction for a crime that the governor of Texas or the U.S. president later pardoned
Even if your case fits the above conditions, it doesn’t necessarily mean expungement. The court may deny an expunction for:
- Adults who received deferred adjudication or probation.
- Adults who received a felony within five years of the would-be expunged arrest.
- The would-be expunged incident is part of a criminal episode, meaning either the person has pending charges, or the courts convicted him or her of a different crime within the same “episode.”
- The statute of limitations for the would-be expunged crime has not yet expired. While this time differs based on the crime, most are at least three years.
The courts are likely more amenable to expunging eligible records of crimes someone committed as a juvenile. These charges might include a misdemeanor punishable by a fine (if it occurred prior to the age of 17), a conviction for failure to attend school, and an alcoholic beverage code conviction. Juvenile expungement must follow certain procedures as its adult counterparts.
Obtaining an Expunction in Texas
We’ve compiled step-by-step procedures for criminal record expungement in Texas, but any errors in the process can lead to serious consequences, so it is advisable to seek help from an attorney.
- Prepare a Petition for Expunction. Depending on the charges, the form will have to be as detailed as possible. (Find this form at the end of this Texas Bar pamphlet).
- File the petition with the court. After filling out the petition, fill in either the municipal, county, or district court, depending on the level of the offense.
- Attend a hearing. The court will conduct a hearing to grant dismissal of charges. If the petitioner meets the necessary requirements, the courts will likely grant the expunction.
- Present Order for Expunction to court. The petitioner must have an order drafted, usually with the help of an attorney, for the judge’s signature.
What If I Don’t Qualify?
Those who are not eligible for expunction can still obtain an Order for Nondisclosure, which will limit the accessibility of their criminal records. This process removes an event or charge from public records. After this process, private parties cannot release or access the records. Records will still be readily available to government agencies, however, and will still be admissible in certain court settings.