Houston Expungement Lawyer
Expunge Arrest Record — Houston, Galveston, League City, Texas
Having an arrest or criminal conviction record can permanently alter your life. Even if you served no jail time or were never convicted of a crime, a brush with the criminal justice system can make it hard to get employment, rent an apartment, or obtain financing for a home. Houston expungement lawyer Tad Nelson, at Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, understands the importance of removing the stigma associated with a criminal record. He can help you through legal procedures necessary to obtain an expungement. Contact an expungement attorney to discuss clearing your record. Call (281)-280-0100.
To obtain an expungement, a criminal defendant must petition the court to have all case documents, such as the arrest record, removed and destroyed. If an expungement is granted, the defendant can deny ever being arrested for or charged with a particular criminal offense. Whether or not an expungement is awarded depends on the level of the charge, the outcome, and other factors.
For example, a Class “C” misdemeanor such as public intoxication or disorderly conduct can often be expunged. If your case was dismissed, depending on the charge, expungement may be possible. If you were found “not guilty”, you may be awarded an expungement.
Qualifying for Expungement in Texas
Unfortunately, not everyone who has a criminal record qualifies to have it expunged. Expungement is the most drastic method of erasing a criminal record, so it is the most difficult to qualify for. The shorthand way of thinking about qualifying for an expungement in Texas is that it is available for people who were arrested for a crime, but never convicted. For instance, if a person never had charges brought against them or they were acquitted at trial, then they would be allowed to expunge their records. Additionally, even if a person was convicted of a crime, they would still qualify to have their record expunged if they were pardoned.
There are a few limitations on the expungement process. For one, people who have been convicted of a felony in the past five years would not qualify for an expungement. Further, expunctions often have a waiting period that must elapse after the arrest. The waiting period varies with the severity of the crime, but it can be anywhere from six months to three years.
People who do not meet these qualifications for expungement still have other options available to them. They may still be able to seek an “Order of Nondisclosure.” While such an order does not have the same record-clearing power as an expungement, it still prevents the public from seeing the criminal records.
The Texas Expungement Process
If a person qualifies for an expungement then they must go through the legal procedure to get it done. People are allowed to attempt the process on their own, but they may also enlist the help of an experienced attorney to make sure it is done properly. There are many documents that need to be filed and served on all agencies that were involved in the entire process. This is often upwards of 10 and always more than 5 agencies. In order to have a person’s record expunged, they must file a Petition to Clear Record with the court where the case was originally handled. This form includes information to orient the judge about the case, such as personal identifying information like name, address, and birthday, as well as information about the arrest and subsequent legal case.
Once the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing on the petition within 90 days. The hearing will involve the judge asking questions to confirm all the qualifications for expungement are met. If they are, then the judge will issue an Order to Clear Record, and the records of the events will be removed from physical and electronic databases.
What Do I Have to Disclose When Applying for a Job?
When applying for a job, past crimes that weren’t disclosed or expunged can be uncovered in the future. This can negatively affect employment and the reputation of the institutions involved. An incident in Texas where this occurred provides a simple example of how undisclosed or non-expunged convictions can catch up to you.
The Fort Worth Independent School District voted to dismiss a former assistant principal for failing to disclose his criminal history when he applied for the position in 2007. The crimes in question were misdemeanors: in 1997, he pled guilty to failing to pay past-due child support, and in 1988, received a deferred sentence after pleading guilty to hiring an employee with a lapsed license.
The former principal contended that the employment application only required that he disclose felony convictions, not misdemeanors or deferred sentences. They also argued that his failure to disclose the two misdemeanors is not the real reason he was fired, but rather that his employment was terminated because he blew the whistle on some un-related illegal activities going on at the school.
What Do I Have to Disclose When Applying for a Job?
This case brings up an important question that everyone filling out a job or housing application has had to answer: have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?
It’s important to be honest when applying for a job or a housing application but if you have a criminal history, you might wonder what you have to disclose; even if you weren’t convicted or charged with a crime. You might wonder how it might affect your application. In many cases, an answer in the affirmative may prevent you from getting the job you are pursuing. It has also become common practice for employers and landlords to ask applicants about their criminal history. As a matter of course, they usually run criminal background checks on applicants, which can tell them whether or not someone has been honest about their past.
In Texas, all it takes is one arrest for you to have a criminal background. You do not have to be convicted or even charged with the crime. The arrest alone is sufficient. That one arrest can cause all kinds of problems in your life.
The good news is that, in some cases, you can have your criminal record erased, either through expunction or non-disclosure:
- Expunction allows eligible individuals to delete arrests from their criminal records permanently.
- Non-disclosure orders allow individuals who successfully complete deferred adjudication to have the related criminal record sealed, making them inaccessible to the public.
Expunged records come with complete deniability (i.e., you do not have to include expunged arrests on a job, housing, or school applications). In order to be eligible to have an arrest expunged, one of the following conditions must be true:
- You were arrested for a crime but never charged with it.
- You were charged with a crime, but the charges were later dismissed.
- You were acquitted of the crime.
- You were pardoned of the crime, either by the Governor of Texas or the President of the United States.
- You never committed the crime but were the victim of identity theft.
Expunction is not available if you were convicted of the crime, but received deferred adjudication or probation. Additionally, to qualify for expunction, you may not have been convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest you are trying to expunge.
Unless you have been acquitted or have had your case dismissed the expunction process may not be an available option. In that case, the next best thing is a Petition for Non-disclosure. A successful nondisclosure petition will prohibit court officials and law enforcement organizations from disclosing your criminal record to third parties such as employers, creditors, and potential landlords. Crimes subject to non-disclosure orders also come with deniability, although not to the same extent as expunged records. While expunged records are completely removed from your record, records subject to non-disclosure are not. Instead, they are merely hidden from public view. Government agencies and departments, including the police, can still access criminal records covered by non-disclosure orders.
In order to be eligible for a non-disclosure order, you must have successfully completed your deferred adjudication. Additionally, you must have received a discharge and dismissal of the deferred adjudication by the court.
Some crimes have a waiting period that must be fulfilled prior to filing for non-disclosure. Minor misdemeanors generally do not have a waiting period and a petition for the order can be filed as soon as the deferred judgment has been discharged and dismissed. More serious misdemeanors, like domestic violence and disorderly conduct, have a five-year waiting period. Felonies typically have a 10-year waiting period. However, some felonies are not eligible for non-disclosure orders. These include:
- Abandoning or endangering a child
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Family violence offenses
- Injuring a child, elderly or disabled person
- Murder, capital murder
- Sex offenses requiring sexual offender registration
- Violating a protective order
- Violating a magistrate’s order
To be eligible for a non-disclosure order, you may not have been convicted or received deferred adjudication for any crime during the waiting period, with the exception of certain traffic offenses.
Qualifying for an Order of Nondisclosure
Under Texas law, it is possible for certain DWI offenders to obtain an order of nondisclosure, which effectively seals their criminal records. To qualify for non-disclosure, however, a person must:
- Be a first time DWI offender; and
- Have had a BAC of between .08 and .14 at the time of their arrest.
Even if these requirements have been satisfied, a person will still need to:
- Wait until two years after his or her probationary period ends to apply for nondisclosure; and
- Install an Ignition Interlock Device on his or her vehicle for six months during the nondisclosure period.
Those who choose not to install an IID in their vehicle will need to wait five years after the end of probation to apply for nondisclosure status.
The Benefits of Nondisclosure
If a person is granted nondisclosure, public entities like police departments and courts will be barred from disclosing his or her criminal record. Furthermore, an Order of Nondisclosure also legally frees the subject from having to disclose information about his or her criminal record on job applications. An Order of Nondisclosure does not, however, completely erase a person’s record, as certain government officials will still be able to access it under specific circumstances. It is also important to remember that nondisclosure orders apply only to specific offenses and not to all of the crimes on a person’s record unless that individual requests multiple nondisclosures for each offense.
Who is Ineligible for Nondisclosure?
First-time offenders who otherwise satisfy all of the criteria for obtaining an Order of Nondisclosure can still be found ineligible for record sealing if:
- They were charged with a crime after being convicted of DWI while completing probation;
- Their probation was revoked or not successfully completed;
- They did not complete their sentence, which includes paying all court costs, fines, and restitution;
- They caused an accident during the commission of the DWI offense;
- They held a commercial driver’s license at the time of the offense;
- Their BAC was .15 percent or more at the time of arrest; or
- They were convicted of anything other than a Class B misdemeanor DWI offense.
For help determining whether you qualify for nondisclosure, please reach out to our Houston legal team today.
Filing for an Expunction or Non-Disclosure Order
The process for expunging or sealing a record is pretty straightforward. In either case, you must file a petition with the court requesting the expunction or non-disclosure order. For expunction, the petition may be filed with any district court. For non-disclosure orders, the petition must be filed with the same court that handled your deferred adjudication.
After the petition is filed, the court will hold a hearing. In cases of expunction, the court will notify any and all government agencies and departments that may have an interest in contesting the expunction, which may include the DA’s office and the police station that arrested you. If the court decides to grant the expunction, then all government offices with a copy of the relevant criminal record are required to destroy it.
In cases of non-disclosure orders, the judge must determine that it is in the interests of justice to grant the order. If the judge grants the order, then government agencies and departments with a copy of the record are required to remove it from all public databases.
Deferred Adjudication & Sealing Records
Deferred adjudication allows a defendant to defer any guilty judgment until successfully completing probation, at which time the court can dismiss the case, paving the way for expungement of the case record.
Juvenile records are often sealed, meaning that they will not be available as public records. Having a record sealed is similar to having records expunged, although it usually takes place in juvenile court.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
For more information on expunging or sealing a criminal or juvenile record, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. An arrest on your record can make your life very difficult, limiting your opportunities in employment, education, housing and even military enlistment. An attorney experienced in helping individuals file for expunction and non-disclosure orders can help you clean up your record and move forward with your life.
Contact a skilled Texas expungement lawyer who understands the importance of clearing your record and knows how to get it done. We service Galveston, League City, and Houston, providing high-quality legal services for those in need. Call Tad Nelson at (281)-280-0100.
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