A criminal record can continue to haunt you for years after you’ve paid your fines and served your sentence. Under normal circumstances, charges and convictions will remain on your record, available for all to see. This can present a serious obstacle to personal advancement, especially if you’re applying for a new job or a loan.
Fortunately, Texas state law has mechanisms in place that let arrested individuals clear their names. Non-disclosure orders and expunction are vital tools for former criminal defendants who want to get their lives back on track.
Former criminal defendants may have the option to file for non-disclosure or expungement of their charges. These procedures will officially clear your criminal record in different ways.
If your record is undisclosed, your charges are “hidden” from prospective lenders, landlords and employers. However, your records can still be accessed by interested parties if:
In these cases, detectives, prosecutors and screening agencies can run background checks and have the authority to open your sealed record.
An expunged record, on the other hand, is completely erased. If you succeed in having your arrest or charges expunged, your prior criminal history essentially no longer exists.
Both of these legal procedures require that you first meet certain prerequisites. Most misdemeanor charges and some felony charges are eligible for non-disclosure under Texas state law. Certain serious felonies, such as aggravated assault or murder, cannot be cleared.
An expunction is generally more difficult to obtain. If you were charged but never convicted, or you were convicted of a class C misdemeanor, you might be able to have your charge or conviction completely erased. If the court decides to not grant you an expungement, you may qualify for an order of non-disclosure instead. Instead of complete erasure, your record will simply be concealed from public view.
Both the non-disclosure and expungement processes require that you have completed any deferred adjudication handed down by the court. In many cases, you’ll also have to wait until two or five years after the completion of your sentence and probation until you can successfully have your records sealed or expunged. The length of the waiting period generally depends upon the severity of the charge.
To have your record cleared or undisclosed in Texas, you’ll need to submit a petition for non-disclosure or a petition for expunction. Police departments, sheriff’s offices and courthouses usually stock copies of these petitions for public use.
For help with non-disclosure or expunction, schedule a free consultation with Rand Mintzer at 713-862-8880.