In Texas, an expunction is a legal process that allows an individual to have their criminal record erased or sealed. When a criminal record is expunged, it means that the records related to the arrest, charge, and court proceedings are either destroyed or sealed from public access. Expunctions effectively treat the arrest and legal proceedings as if they never occurred. However, the process for obtaining an expunction can be long and qualification complex. We’ll go over the most important information as in-depth as we can in the article below.
Texas Expunction Lawyers
Obtaining an expunction can be tricky. To receive one, the petitioner must provide all of their personal information and list every single agency that has information on the petitioner’s original arrest. This is extremely difficult to do correctly alone, which is why the attorneys at the Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski are ready to assist you.
The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has offices in Austin and Georgetown but accepts clients throughout Texas including Travis County, Williamson County, Bell County, Bastrop County, Burnett County, Hays County, Caldwell County, Blanco County, Lee County, Milam County, Hays County, and Caldwell County.
If you or a loved one are considering applying for an expunction, call 512-960-4646 today.
Expunction Order Information Center
- Understanding Expunctions in Texas
- Qualifying for an Expunction in Texas
- Disqualifying Events for Expunction Orders
- Types of Records Purged in Expunction Orders
- The Process of Obtaining an Expunction Order
- Filing on Behalf of a Deceased Relative
- Additional Resources
- Hire an Expunction Order Lawyer
Expunction Definitions in Texas
Expunctions are court orders based on Texas Code 55 to law and government officials to destroy all records of a case, both digital and physical. This process can be lengthy and difficult, depending on the severity of the original charge.
After an arrest, many innocent and criminal individuals can find difficulty obtaining gainful employment or pursuing education opportunities due to their criminal record. Being arrested does not mean that a person is guilty, but even with a dismissal or acquittal, some people face social stigma and economic hardship as a result of the case.
A clean criminal record can significantly enhance job prospects. Many employers conduct background checks on potential employees, and a criminal record can be a barrier to employment. Expunction allows individuals to start afresh without the burden of a past arrest or charge.
Landlords may also conduct background checks on prospective tenants. A criminal record can make it difficult to secure housing. Expunction can be particularly important for individuals looking to rent an apartment or house.
Certain professions and occupations require background checks as part of the licensing process. A criminal record can jeopardize one’s ability to obtain or maintain a professional license. Expunction can be crucial for individuals in fields such as law, healthcare, or finance.
Some educational institutions may consider an applicant’s criminal record during the admissions process. Expunction can help individuals pursue educational opportunities without the hindrance of a past arrest or charge.
Beyond practical considerations, expunction can also be important for preserving an individual’s personal reputation. Clearing a criminal record can help people move on from their past mistakes and avoid social stigma.
When it comes to children, the loss of educational opportunities is a very prescient danger. Juveniles convicted of a DWI, possession of alcohol, or other crimes may find themselves rejected from colleges due to their record.
Juvenile expunction rules are typically more lenient then those for adults, and may instead consist of ‘record sealing’ rather than removing records altogether. This means that the records will still exist, but won’t be found in a general background check.
Qualifying for an Expunction
To qualify for an expunction, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have been placed under custodial or noncustodial arrest for the commission of either a felony or misdemeanor
- You must have been tried for the above arrest
- If you were tried, you must meet the following additional criteria:
- You must have been acquitted by the trial court OR
- Be convicted and pardoned by either the Governor of Texas or the President of the United States OR
- Be convicted of an offense committed before September 1, 2021
Alternately, if you were arrested and released, and the charge did not:
- Result in a final conviction
- Is no longer pending
- There was no court-ordered community supervision
Part of expunction law describes ‘transactions.’ In legal terms, transactions are groups of acts that constitute at least one offense. For example:
- Breaking and Entering
If someone were to break into a person’s house and steal a TV, they would be guilty of all three of the above crimes. If, for example, the court only charged the individual for breaking and entering, but not theft and the individual was subsequently acquitted, then there would still be two crimes left in that particular ‘transaction’.
Because there are still crimes left in the transaction, the individual would not be eligible for acquittal as he or she may still be arrested for one or both of the other two crimes.
The following statutes of limitation disqualify an individual for expunction if charged after the date of arrest for the original transaction:
- Class C Misdemeanor – 180 days after the initial date of arrest
- Class B/A Misdemeanor – 1 year after initial arrest date
- Any Felony – 3 years after the initial date of arrest
The following is a list of events that disqualify an individual from obtaining an expunction order, even if the original investigation was dismissed or quashed:
- The person completed a veterans treatment court program
- The person completed a mental health court program
- The person completed a pretrial intervention program
- The case is based on a mistake, false information or some other reason OR
- The original indictment was void
Additionally, skipping bail, leaving town while owing community measures, and absconding any other type of pretrial diversion disqualify oneself from expunction.
Finally, if a person has already received an expunction for a specific offense, that person cannot receive another expunction for that same offense in the future.
Types of Records Expunged
What exactly is expunged depends on the order. However, expunction orders generally include the following data:
- An arrest for a crime that was never charged;
- A criminal charge that was ultimately dismissed;
- Certain qualifying misdemeanor juvenile offenses;
- Conviction of a minor for certain alcohol offenses;
- Conviction for Failure to Attend School;
- Arrest of a person that is not charged if a case is not filed and there is no felony offense arising out of the same transaction for which the person was arrested;
- The arrest of a person that is never formally charged, regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired, if the prosecuting attorney’s office certifies that the records and files are not needed for use in any criminal investigation or prosecution of another person;
- Arrest, charge, or conviction on a person’s record due to identity theft by another individual who was actually arrested, charged, or convicted of the crime;
- Conviction for a crime that was later acquitted by the trial court or the Court of Criminal Appeals;
- Conviction for a crime that was later pardoned by the governor of Texas
- or the U.S. president.
Obtaining an Expunction
While it is possible for someone to complete this form on their own, it is highly recommended to complete expunction requests with the assistance of a lawyer.
The petitioner will need to create a list of all personal identifying information, as well as the offense charged, when the arrest occurred, when the offense occurred, the name of the arresting agency and a list of all the agencies or facilities that may have a record of the request. The complexity of the legal network is one reason why it is highly advisable to hire an attorney to file the petition for you.
Filing the Petition
The level of offense will dictate where the petition needs to be filed, which will be either in municipal, county or district court. The court will schedule a hearing and send a notice to all the agencies listed in the expungement request. They will have a chance to speak and respond to the expunction. There are many reasons why an agency may refute the expungement order. One common reason is that your information is necessary to complete a pending investigation.
Once the Order is Granted
If the order is granted, then the judge will likely sign at the hearing and the expunction order will be sent to all related agencies. Those records will either be deleted, shredded, or returned to the court clerk.
Filing on Behalf of Another
It is possible to file for an expunction on behalf of a deceased relative. The petitioner must be a close relative of the deceased, and the deceased must qualify for an expunction under regular expunction law.
TLA Pamphlet – The Texas Young Lawyers Association has put together a very good pamphlet with supplementary information to expungement proceedings. Read this for a more in-depth understanding of expunctions in Texas.
Texas Fair Defense Board – The Texas Fair Defense Projects provides free assistance to people who qualify for expunctions or nondisclosure orders. Applicants are required to submit a DPS Criminal History Report along with their application to determine eligibility.
Do I Qualify? – This survey from the Expungement Program at the University of Texas Law School offers insight into whether or not you qualify for expungement, and links to additional resources.
Texas Law Library – This link provides links to dozens of resources on expunctions, including qualification events, pro bono aid, and legal assistance, as well as links to the original statute.
Hire an Expunction Order Attorney in Travis County, Texas
The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has offices in Austin and Georgetown but accepts clients throughout Texas including Travis County, Williamson County, Bell County, Bastrop County, Burnett County, Hays County, Caldwell County, Blanco County, Lee County, Milam County, Hays County, and Caldwell County. Your first consultation is free, so call 512-960-4646 today.