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When Can I Ask a Judge to Expunge a Misdemeanor Arrest Record?

Misdemeanor crimes may not carry the same stigma as felonies. But even the record of a misdemeanor arrest can follow a person for many years. For this reason, it is possible under Texas law to seek the removal of information about an arrest or charge–and even a conviction–from their permanent record under a process known as expunction.

Court: Expunction Not Available When Defendant Pleads Guilty to 1 of 4 Misdemeanors

Generally speaking, you can petition a judge for expunction if you are arrested for a misdemeanor crime and are never formally charged, or the charges are dismissed before trial. But what about a situation where you are arrested on multiple misdemeanor counts but only convicted of one of them? Can you still seek expunction of the dropped charges?

A recent Texas appeals court decision, Texas Department of Public Safety v. Schuetze, offers an answer to this question. In this case, police arrested the defendant on four misdemeanor charges: theft, public intoxication by a minor, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The defendant eventually agreed to a plea bargain with the prosecution. In exchange for pleading guilty to the drug paraphernalia charge–which only resulted in a fine–the state dismissed the other three misdemeanor charges.

Several months later, the defendant petitioned for an expunction of all four charges. After extended proceedings involving different courts, a judge eventually granted the expunction. The Department of Public Safety appealed, arguing the defendant did not meet the statutory requirements for expunction.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Department. It held that a person may not receive an expunction in cases where “(1) one or more charges result in a conviction (for that particular charge) and (2) any remaining charge is dismissed, but that dismissal results in a final conviction of any charge arising from the same arrest.” Although three of the misdemeanor charges against the defendant were dismissed, he was convicted of the fourth misdemeanor pursuant to his plea agreement. As a result, the defendant could not receive an expunction for any of the original charges.

Contact a Houston Misdemeanor Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

It is important to understand that expunction is not a right. A defendant must first meet certain statutory requirements to be eligible for expunction. And the burden of proof is on the defendant to show he or she is eligible. In the case above, the Court of Appeals said the defendant failed to meet that burden.

Given the legal complexities involving expunction, it is critical to work with an experienced Houston misdemeanor crimes attorney when filing a petition with the court. Indeed, you should contact a lawyer as soon as you are arrested on any misdemeanor charge. Many defendants think a misdemeanor is no big deal and get lulled into thinking a guilty plea does not have serious consequences. A criminal defense lawyer can ensure you are fully informed of your rights under the law.

So if you have been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today, (281) 280-0100 in Houston, Galveston, or League City, to speak with a lawyer right away.