Expunction and Multiple Drug Charges

September 5th, 2019 by Tad Nelson in Drug Crime

Having a drug charge on your record can have a negative impact on your life even years after the fact. But it may be possible to expunge the record of your drug case after the fact. Expunction is the legal process whereby any files related to a particular criminal arrest is removed from the government’s records. Typically, expunction is available where a person is arrested and charged with a crime but is ultimately acquitted, convicted but later found “actually innocent,” pardoned, or the case was dismissed before trial.

Court Reverses Expungement, Citing Petitioner’s Guilty Plea to 1 of 3 Charges

But what happens when a person is arrested on multiple charges, all but one of which is dismissed? This question came up in a recent Texas appellate case, Texas Department of Public Safety v. Alfaro.

The petitioner in this case was arrested in December 2009 on three misdemeanor charges. Under a plea agreement with the district attorney, two of the charges were dropped. The petitioner then agreed to plead guilty to the final charge, possession of cocaine, which is a state jail felony in Texas. The judge then sentenced the petitioner to five years of deferred adjudication community supervision.

In 2018, the petitioner moved to expunge the records of the two previously dismissed misdemeanor offenses arising from the 2009 arrest. (The felony charge could not be expunged.) The district attorney did not oppose the petition, but the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) did. A trial judge eventually granted the expunction, prompting DPS to appeal.

The Texas 13th District Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi ultimately agreed with DPS that an expunction could not be granted under these circumstances. As the court explained, the Texas expunction law “contemplates expunging all of the records related to an arrest but makes no provision for expunging records related to an individual charge that resulted from an arrest.” In other words, if a defendant is arrested on multiple charges, he must show he is entitled to an expunction of every one of those charges.

In this case, it was undisputed that the petitioner could not expunge the felony drug possession charge. Even though he received community supervision (i.e., probation), that was enough to defeat his request for expunction of the two previously dismissed charges.

Orders of Nondisclosure

It should be noted that even in cases where a criminal defendant is legally barred from seeking an expunction, they still may be eligible for an “Order of Nondisclosure.” This is a court-ordered sealing of a criminal record available in cases where a defendant has pleaded guilty to a charge and successfully completes a period of community supervision. Although such an order will not erase the record of a drug charge, it will prevent Texas law enforcement agencies from disclosing information about the case to members of the public.

If you are looking to deal with a drug charge or a related issue such as expungement or an Order of Nondisclosure, you should seek advice from a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City if you need immediate assistance. Call (281) 280-0100

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