June 14, 2023
Committing a crime or misdemeanor in Texas will get you a fine or prison time, among other punishments. The problem is that those actions can haunt you in every background check. Not only that, but past convictions can lead to your termination once disclosed at work!
Luckily, you can file for an expunction to clear your criminal history and ensure your past doesn’t hurt your future. Read on to learn how to expunge criminal records in Texas.
Texas Expunction of Criminal Record Laws
Before jumping into the expunction process steps, let’s discuss Texas expungement laws first.
There are two ways for you to help clear your arrest records. Those are getting an expunction or a non-disclosure order.
So, what’s the difference between both legal processes?
An expunction is a lawsuit type that helps a person under custodial or noncustodial arrest remove the criminal record from all his files, even after being convicted of a crime in some circumstances. Of course, that’s if the individual was found innocent, or a conviction was overturned, among other reasons.
Non-disclosure laws, on the other hand, don’t help you clear your criminal offense. However, as the name suggests, the former prohibits public entities, such as police departments or county courts, from disclosing some parts of your criminal history.
How to Expunge Criminal Record in Texas
Generally, the expunction process is a challenging feat. You must meet the eligibility requirements and present the required documents to the proper court.
Afterward, you have to attend a hearing, which decides the outcome of your expunction petition.
Here’s a detailed explanation of each step:
Step 1: Check Your Eligibility
Not everyone can file a petition for expunction. You should meet certain criteria to qualify for the former process. Generally, first-time offenders, minors under 18, and misdemeanor offenders can file for an expunction if the charges were dismissed.
However, expunction eligibility scenarios vary from one case to another. Still, according to Texas’s Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 55, the following cases are likely to qualify for an expunction:
- Arrest records for a crime that was never charged
- Acquitted or dismissed criminal charges
- Pardoned or granted relief from felonies for convicted individuals
- Certain juvenile offenses, generally those belonging to class C misdemeanors
- Alcohol-related crime for minors under 17
- Any convictions due to identity theft
What Crimes Are Not Eligible for Expungement In Texas?
You can’t file for an expungement if you’ve been convicted of a felony or if you’re still on probation. In the latter case, you need to file for probation termination first. Once the court accepts your petition, you can proceed with the expungement process.
Even if you’ve dismissed your felony, you can’t file an expunction petition until the statute of limitations for your crime expires.
For those wondering, the former is a law that controls the maximum period the state or county has to prosecute an offender after being arrested. While it varies from one crime to another, typically, the statute of limitations is between 2 and 3 years. In some circumstances the District Attorney’s office may waive the waiting period for the statute of limitations.
Step 2: File for an Expunction Petition
Once you’ve checked your expunction eligibility, you can file a petition with the court. This process can be demanding, as any document errors can put your efforts in vain.
For that reason, consider hiring a criminal defense attorney. Not only will the former help you determine your eligibility and prepare the necessary files, but the lawyer can also talk on your behalf at the hearing.
Now, you might wonder: what are the required files to file an expunction petition? The truth is that it will vary depending on your case.
However, generally, the first step is to file a petition for expunction with the municipal, county, or district court, asking them to grant you an Order for Expunction.
To do so, you’ll fill out a form requiring the following:
- Personal identifying information
- The offense charged, including the place of arrest and date
- Arresting agency’s name
Step 3: Schedule a Hearing
Once you’ve filled out the necessary information, check for the required document before scheduling a hearing. Usually, you can find a list of the former on the district court’s website.
Alternatively, you can ask your attorney about the files you need to hand over to the court. Make sure to attach all the paperwork that will help your case.
After completing the petition form, you’ll need to file it with the proper court. If you’re removing a charged offense, you’ll likely submit those documents to the same court that handled your case.
Either way, an assigned clerk will check your files and ask you to pay a filing fee. The latter depends on the county, but it will generally cost between $400 to $500 in Texas. You might pay additional fees for notifying all the agencies in your petition.
The clerk will then schedule a court hearing and notify you and all parties involved in your charge. This process usually takes at least 30 days.
What Happens in an Expunction Petition Hearing?
As mentioned earlier, the court invites the parties involved in your case to the hearing as respondents. The former can argue against your expunction. For that reason, it’s best to prepare for the hearing.
You can expect questions about why you’ve asked the court to expunge your criminal record. Address that the arrest records negatively impacted any opportunity requiring background checks, such as finding potential employment.
Aside from that, make sure to look presentable and dress appropriately for court.
Step 4: Wait for the Outcome
If the judge believes the petitioner meets all the requirements, the court will agree to expunge your criminal record. You should have the Order of Expunction form ready for the judge to sign at the hearing.
After getting the signed document, you’ll have to submit it to all the agencies that have your criminal record. They will either delete or return it to the clerk in charge at the court.
However, the hard part doesn’t end there. You’ll need to visit the Department of Safety six months after the judge signs your Order of Expunction. Ask for your criminal history and check if the offense is still there.
What to Do If an Expunction Petition Isn’t Granted
You could re-file for another expunction petition if you were denied the first one. However, you’ll likely need to wait a year to do so.
Filing for a non-disclosure petition is probably your second-best option. That’s especially true if you didn’t get the expungement because you weren’t eligible.
While the non-disclosure order won’t remove criminal records, it willl prevent the public and even private background-check companies from accessing your arrest history. The process of obtaining a record sealing is similar to an expunction.
You need to meet certain criteria, file a petition, and attend a hearing. If all goes well, the judge will grant you an order of non-disclosure.
As you can see, figuring out how to expunge a criminal record in Texas isn’t straightforward. The former is a complex process that requires strict adherence to eligibility criteria.
Additionally, you must accurately fill out and file several documents to make it to the hearing phase. During the latter, a judge can deny granting you an expungement if you don’t meet the requirements. In that case, you can file for a non-disclosure order.
Whether you qualify for the former or the latter, consulting with a criminal defense attorney can help you navigate any challenges during the expungement process.
While it may be time-consuming, clearing your criminal history will help you move forward with your personal and professional life.
If you need a prior criminal charge erased off your record in Houston, contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help. We also serve Harris County, Montgomery County, Houston County, Galveston County, Conroe County, and Fort Bend County.