Expunction Process In Texas
Criminal records come with some obvious consequences, including heavy fines and potentially time in jail or prison. However, there are often more subtle consequences of a criminal record as well that can follow you for life, limiting job opportunities or stalling educational options.
All of us make mistakes; however, those mistakes do not always have to follow you forever. If you have a criminal record, a Fort Worth expunction lawyer could be an advocate for your rights as you explore the state’s expunction process.
What is Expungement?
Expunction is basically the deletion of a criminal record. If someone’s criminal record is eligible for expunction and their request to have it expunged is approved, then for most intents and purposes they now have a clean record when speaking to employers, educational services, or anyone else who asks.
Found in Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, expunction can be a confusing process. Importantly, not all records will be eligible for expunction. Some common examples of charges and convictions that may be eligible for expunction include:
- Certain alcohol-related offenses that occurred while the defendant was a minor
- Certain misdemeanors that are not disqualified
- Convictions that were later overturned by a Court of Appeals
- Charges that resulted in the successful completion of a diversion program
- Charges that have been dismissed
Each of these has important qualifying factors that must be met in order for expunction to be an option. An expunction lawyer in Fort Worth could further explain the law as it might apply to an individual’s criminal record and circumstances.
What Records are Not Eligible for Expunction?
Certain offenses will not qualify for expunction. These may include:
- Violent felonies like murder
- Driving under the influence
- Vehicular homicide
- Sex-related crimes like prostitution
- Charges for which the offending person is still completing a diversion program or other probationary requirement
This is not an exhaustive list, and a Fort Worth expunction lawyer could work with a client to explore whether their criminal record is eligible for expunction or other alternatives.
What to Do If Expunction is Not an Option
If someone cannot have their record expunged, then there may be certain alternatives available. Texas law allows individuals to file a Petition for Nondisclosure, a process which is commonly referred to as having your record sealed.
A person who is eligible for this process could work with a lawyer to create their Petition for Nondisclosure and file it appropriately. If it is accepted, then their record will remain with the state, but it generally cannot be accessed by private agencies absent a court order to open it.
Typically, nondisclosure is available for individuals who completed deferred judgment programs after a guilty or no contest plea. It is important that anyone applying for nondisclosure has no subsequent convictions after the incident that they are requesting to have sealed, as this may prohibit them from being able to complete the process.
Where do I start if I want a record expunged?
Contact an experienced Fort Worth expunction lawyer with experience in expunging criminal records. You can get your criminal history from the Department of Public Safety to see what’s in the record and decide your next step.
If you choose to proceed with expunction, contact an expunction lawyer. The legal process of expunging records is complex. Attempting to do the process without professional help will make expunction proceedings more complex. Furthermore, out-of-state convictions should be challenged or removed under the laws of the state in question. Texas courts lack the jurisdiction to overturn or expunge other state’s rulings. You need legal help to proceed.
Postmortem record expunctions
If you have a deceased family member, you can petition for expunction on their behalf. Although the need for record expunction ceases to exist after death, it may be important for surviving family members to formally clear the name of their loved one. If that’s the case, you also need an expunction lawyer to navigate the process smoothly.
How long does expunction or non-disclosure take once a person is eligible?
After petitions have been filed to seal or expunge records, courts address the petitions. The process can take a few weeks to months. In some cases, a judge may order for a prove-up hearing, which can delay the process further. However, after a non-disclosure or expunction order is signed, it can take 4 to 6 months for records to be sealed/expunged completely.
In case you are wondering why it takes that long, the main criminal records clearinghouse in Texas (Texas DPS) is 4 months behind in regards to processing non-disclosure and expunction orders that have been signed by judges. What’s more, these orders must go through several public and private entities before records are completely sealed or expunged.
Can I deny committing an offence once it has been expunged?
Once expunction orders are finalized, individuals have the right to deny the existence of such offenses. You can deny existence everywhere, including in school, employment, or military applications. It’s also within your rights to deny existence of such an offense and arrest in a civil proceeding when you are under oath. However, in a criminal proceeding, you need to acknowledge existence of an expunction order by saying the matter was expunged. It’s a good idea to hire an expunction lawyer to guide you through such proceedings.
Work with a Fort Worth Expunction Attorney Today
The expunction process can be intimidating, especially with so much at stake. However, you do not have to face the process alone. An attorney who understands how the expunction process works could work with you to help you understand whether your record may qualify for expunction or another alternative.
You and a Fort Worth expunction lawyer could work together to create an appropriate argument for the state, making sure to meet the conditions required for a successful petition. In the long run, this could save you time and money by helping you avoid costly mistakes. If you are considering expunction, get in touch with a local attorney today to find out more about your options.