A sex crimes conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. Even after you have served any prison time or term of community supervision, the record of the crime can make it impossible to find a job or even rent an apartment. But what if your conviction is later overturned or invalidated by the courts? Can you seek to have the records of your case removed from the public record.
The short answer is “yes.” Texas law does provide for the “expunction” of criminal records under certain circumstances. Normally, expunction applies to cases where a person is arrested but the case is dismissed prior to trial. That is to say, once a person is actually convicted of a sex crime and required to serve some type of sentence, expunction is not an option.
Houston Court Rules Ex-Teacher Entitled to Expunction After Conviction Voided
But the Texas 1st District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently addressed a situation where an individual sought expunction after his sex crimes conviction was held unconstitutional. Here is what happened. The person seeking the expunction–who was identified in court records only as “S.E.H.,” previously worked as a public school teacher. Over the course of several months, S.E.H. “solicited sex online from a person he believed to be a thirteen-year-old girl.”
This turned out to be a sting operation. The “thirteen-year-old girl” was actually a police officer. The police arrested S.E.H. for online solicitation of a minor. More precisely, S.E.H. was charged under a Texas law that made it a felony to communicate “in a sexually explicit manner with a person whom [the defendant] believed to be a minor with an intent to arouse or gratify [the defendant’s] sexual desire.”
S.E.H. pleaded guilty to this charge and he received a deferred adjudication from the court. This meant that S.E.H. would serve a term of community supervision (parole), after which the original charge could be dismissed, although this would not expunge the record of the arrest or sentence. And as a condition of deferred supervision, the court required S.E.H. to surrender his teaching license to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
But after S.E.H. received his sentence, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held in another case that the ban on “sexually explicit” communications was unconstitutional, as it criminalized “a wide range of speech protected by the First Amendment.” As a result of this decision, S.E.H. successfully obtained dismissal of the criminal case against him.
He then sought expunction of the record of the arrest, as it no longer resulted in a conviction. TEA opposed this, explaining it wanted to maintain a record of the arrest in case S.E.H. tried to get his teaching license back. But the trial court rejected this concern and granted the expunction.
On appeal, the First District affirmed the trial court’s decision. The appeals court held that since S.E.H.’s conviction was void as a matter of law, he was entitled to an expunction under Texas law. TEA maintained that since S.E.H. was on probation at the time his conviction was invalidated, that “historical fact” meant he could not receive an expunction. The appeals court disagreed, noting the probation itself “vanished in a puff of smoke” when the conviction was voided.
Speak with a Galveston Sex Crimes Lawyer Today
If you are charged with a sex crime, it is critical to aggressively defend your rights in court. A qualified Houston sex crimes defense lawyer can help. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.