A conviction can follow you around for the rest of your life, making it difficult to get a job, rent an apartment or even make friends. Even if you simply experienced a momentary lapse of judgment or have turned over a positive new leaf in life, you’re stuck with the stigma that comes from having a criminal record. However, in the State of Texas, qualified individuals can apply to have their criminal records sealed under a non-disclosure or expunged entirely.
Eligibility for Expungement
The first step in getting your criminal record expunged in Texas is determining whether or not you qualify in the first place. Factors such as whether or not you were convicted, the nature of your offense, your age, number of previous arrests and the length of time since the incident occurred will all be taken into consideration. An attorney can help you figure out whether or not you qualify to seal or expunge your record and accurately fill out the necessary paperwork for your request. Your request will be sent to the original court where the case was handled, and a hearing will be scheduled where your lawyer will argue for your case.
Please note that there is a difference between expungement (also called expunction) and a non-disclosure. An expunction eliminates your record entirely, and is granted only for misdemeanors or felonies that meet the following criteria:
- You were charged, but the charges were dropped
- You were found guilty and the verdict was overturned
- A grand jury no-billed your case
Regardless of whether or not you are held to a waiting period, if you commit a crime at any point before your court date to determine non-disclosure, it could hinder or waive your approval.
A common misconception about having a criminal record sealed under a non-disclosure is that it’s out of sight, out of mind. But non-disclosure only means that private citizens – including potential employers – will not have access to your record. Law enforcement officials at the city, state and federal levels, however, are still allowed to view it.
Expungement of Juvenile Records
Texas does not automatically seal the records of juvenile offenders. Minors who have committed a felony that does not require a wait time of two years can appeal for either an expunction or a non-disclosure, depending on the circumstances.
If you are under the age of 18 and arrested or convicted of a drug-related crime, Chapter 469 of the Texas and Safety Code states that your record can be automatically sealed by the court upon completion of a drug court program without the need of a hearing.
Keep in mind that juvenile persons of interest, registered sex offenders, habitual offenders or felons may waive their right to have their records expunged or sealed. Those with misdemeanors and no adjudication will have to wait two years to qualify for expunction.
Non-Disclosure in Texas
Even if you’re not a minor, you may still be granted a non-disclosure upon completion of your sentence depending on the nature of your offense. Otherwise, you will have to wait two years following deferred adjudication before you are able to meet with an attorney and get the process started. Talk to your attorney about which offenses require the waiting period or do not qualify for non-disclosure.
People charged with a felony are only able to apply for non-disclosure five years after the successful completion of their deferred adjudication. However, there is a window of five years where you and your lawyer can submit the paperwork, so get on it while you can!
However, owing to the more serious nature of a felony, some convictions will not be expunged or sealed, even if they’ve paid their debts. These are typically more violent crimes such as murder, rape and assault – even the intent to commit them. Again, if you have questions, your attorney is the best place to go to determine whether or not you should invest the time and energy in an expungement or non-disclosure.
Get Started Today
The nationally-recognized, Houston-based Thiessen Law Firm knows how to fight for approval on expungement and non-disclosure cases. We will help you begin a new life. Contact us today.