Carrying a criminal record can be a difficult thing to do. Having convictions or arrests appear on a background check can make it harder to get a job, find an apartment, effect your credit negatively and do many other things. Fortunately, Texas law provides a way for someone to clear his or her criminal record, an expungement, also referred to as an expunction. When a court expunges a person’s record, it is removed from every database that has access to it, and the physical copies of the records are destroyed. Additionally, people who have had their records expunged in Texas are allowed to deny that the events ever happened in most circumstances. This allows the person a clean slate that some studies show can help increase employment prospects and reduce a person’s chances at future interactions with law enforcement.
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.