Expunging Criminal Records in Texas

After committing a crime, and the offender is apprehended, there is usually the process of a court hearing and thereafter judgement and sentencing. The offender is presumed to have paid the price for the crime committed after serving the sentence. However, this may not be the case, as there are secondary consequences that follow an offender even when he is an ex-offender, and these consequences have far reaching effect that affects the life and activities of the offender. 

Thankfully, there is the provision for offenders to have a clean slate and have their offenses completely wiped out. This provision differs from state to state. Some states provide that ex-offenders may only seal their criminal records while some states provide that the records may be expunged, others provide for the two scenarios. Ultimately, the provisions regarding clearing criminal records vary from state to state. In this article, we would be looking at Texas criminal record cursorily. 

Clearing Criminal Records in Texas

In the State of Texas, the word used to describe expungement of criminal records is referred to as expunction, the state of Texas also makes provision for sealing criminal records. When a record is expunged or sealed, it clears the offender’s history to the extent that it can be said that the offender never committed the crime, thus the offender may be able to secure employment without specifying that they were convicted of any criminal activity. Essentially, when a criminal history is expunged or cleared, the record and details of the activity, cannot be released, maintained or disseminated to the public, it is required that the files and records be destroyed. There are different provisions according to Texas law that allows an ex-offender to hide their past criminal activity including an expungement, an order for non-disclosure, and sealing of record

The truth of the situation however is that these magnanimous provisions do not apply to all. In other words, not all criminal records can be expunged from in Texas, the list of criminal activities that may be expunged are very limited. The list of criminal activities that may fall under the expungement provision are listed below:

  • Records of arrest that didn’t eventually get to a criminal charge.
  • Criminal charges that were statute barred or that were dismissed 
  • Some misdemeanors by juveniles
  • For selected acquittals, the arrest record may be expunged 
  • Where a conviction was overturned during appeal on the basis of the innocence of the accused
  • Class C misdemeanor where they have successfully obtained a deferred adjudication
  • Where the offender had a successful plea bargain
  • Where the offender gets a pardon for their criminal activity 

The Texas law furthermore stipulates and provides a waiting period within which individuals may apply for their criminal history records to be expunged and they are listed below:

  • For Class C misdemeanors, the individual may wait for a period of 180 days 
  • For Class B and A misdemeanors, the offender may be entitled to a waiting period of 1 year
  • For felonies and situations where the individual was arrested for a misdemeanor but the circumstances also involved a felony, the individual is allowed a waiting period of 3 years 

There is no waiting period prescribed where the applicant was acquitted or was convicted and eventually was found to be innocent or was pardoned. The applicant must however bear in mind that during the application process they must not be subject to any current or pending criminal charges. 

A person who has died may have their criminal record expunged by their relatives, however the same that applies to a person who is alive, would also apply to the deceased person.

When a record is expunged, the applicant does not need to inform and concede to the fact that they ever had a criminal record. However, where they are under oath, they may state the fact that the record has been cleared and are not required to give any further detail about the criminal activity. When a record is expunged, everyone who was listed on the petition will be required to delete the record. 

Alternatively, a person may apply for an order of nondisclosure where they pled guilty or didn’t contest an offence and they have completed the sentence of community service or a deferred adjudication. The prescribed waiting period for this option is slightly different from an expungement, it includes 5 years for felonies and 2 years for serious misdemeanours. This option is also applicable to only a small potion of criminal activities, and the following crimes are not eligible for an order of non-disclosure:

  • Sexual offense requiring registration 
  • Serious Kidnapping 
  • Trafficking in human
  • Causing injury or serious bodily harm to a child, an elderly, or a disabled person
  • Murder etc.

An order of nondisclosure may allow the courts to seal the criminal records and restrict access to such records by the public. However, the records may still be accessible to certain agencies such as 

  • Education Agency 
  • Nursing Board
  • Board of Educator certification 

Other options available to an applicant includes the following:

Setting aside: this is applicable to individuals who were convicted and have successfully completed their probation, this will not make the record disappear entirely, it may still come up in some searches. This option is not applicable to DUI and other specific felonies. 

Probation termination allows the individual to bring to an early end the specified period for the probation. This option is granted at the discretion of the judge, but the requester is required to have completed all the necessary requirements to obtain this order.

Pardon may be granted where the requester has shown behavior that is distant from their criminal past, and also has undergone rehabilitation. The applicant’s right to own a gun would also be restored. Where an applicant is eligible for a pardon, it is also likely that they would be eligible for expungement. 

Civil Rights restoration allows the applicant to apply to have their civil rights restored after conviction of certain offences. This option does not apply to crimes involving violence, drugs or guns, where the conviction was for a federal offense, the applicant is required to wait 3 years from the date of conviction.

Juvenile record sealing option is available to juveniles who have had no convictions or adjudications since their discharge. 

How to Expunge Texas Criminal Record 

When an applicant has confirmed their eligibility to receive an expungement or a seal order, they may make the application by filing a motion or a petition for expungement or an order of non-disclosure, this motion will require to grant the order against any records from the arrest to the conviction and sentencing. The hearing of this motion is usually 30 days after filing the motion. Where the request is granted an order would be made and the records would be deemed to be set aside. The motion may not fly where a person listed on the petition opposes the petition on any grounds and the judge shares the opinion with the opposer. After the judge signs the order, the applicant may forward the order to third party agencies so that they may update their records concerning the applicant’s criminal history status. Any one who intentionally publishes a sealed or expunged record is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.

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