A permanent criminal record can have serious consequences on your life even after you have served the sentence. You may have trouble getting new jobs, good apartments and you may never be eligible for student loans, mortgage loans, housing rentals, education programs, and certain professional licenses. Basically, your life will never go back to normal.
However, the law recognizes that this is not entirely fair. Therefore, for certain crimes, it is allowed to get your criminal record expunged or sealed. After that, your past criminal records will either cease to exist or will become inaccessible. But how to get your record expunged? This article will explain exactly that in detail.
Sealing Your Records vs Clearing Your Records
You can either petition to have your records completely erased from the government system or have them sealed. The former is called expungement and the latter is known as a non-disclosure order.
Expungement can only be requested for very few qualified convictions. But if your charges never led to a conviction, you can mostly expunge them from your criminal record. In the event you are found not guilty by a judge or jury you are automatically eligible to expunge your arrest/record.
Most types of pretrial diversion are also eligible. Expungement requires a petition to be filed in the court with reasons as to why you are qualified to get your record expunged.
If your criminal case is not qualified for expungement in Texas, you can still get almost the same result by getting your court records sealed. To do this, you need the court to pass a non-disclosure order. If you get the non-disclosure order, the court records of your crime will not be accessible to anyone except for the law enforcement government agencies.
This means your charges and arresting information will not be available to the general public and will not appear in your background checks.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Texas?
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 55.01 provides that Texas expungement eligibility for felony, Class A and Class B misdemeanor charges exists if a person:
- was acquitted of their crimes,
- was convicted but was later found to be innocent,
- was pardoned after the conviction,
- was formally charged, but the case against them was later dismissed, and the statute of limitations has now expired, or
- was arrested without being formally charged. In this case, you can apply for a criminal expungement after satisfying the waiting period described for the underlying crime.
For a Class C misdemeanor, a person is eligible for an expungement in Texas once they have successfully completed deferred disposition, if they were not convicted of a felony in the 5 years before the date of arresting.
Further, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 55.011 provides that you can seek expungement for the crimes of your deceased close relative too, considering their case is otherwise eligible for expungement in Texas.
Texas Government Code § 411.074 states that certain crimes in Texas cannot be expunged or even be sealed. These crimes include kidnapping, murder, sex or family violence crimes, and stalking.
The decision to allow expungement or a non-disclosure order is subject to the judge’s discretion. They will determine your verdict after considering whether the expungement or sealing is in the interest of society, the severity of the crime, and your age when the crime was committed.
How Long Do You Have to Wait to Get Your Record Expunged?
If you were acquitted by the jury or the appellate court or were pardoned, you will be eligible to file for expungement almost immediately. There is no reason for you to live with an arresting record for a crime that you didn’t even commit. In fact, the state of Texas will waive your filing fees and expedite the expungement process for you if you were cleared by a jury.
But if you were never formally charged following your arresting, the waiting period is as follows:
- 180 days from the arrest for a Class C misdemeanor,
- 1 -2 years from the arrest for a Class B or A misdemeanor, and
- 3 -5 years from the arrest for a felony expungement.* some exceptions apply
How the Expungement Process Works in Texas
How to get your record expunged? The first step towards obtaining expungement in Texas is filing a written request. Thereafter, you will receive a hearing date to justify your request for expungement.
All the parties listed in your original petition will receive a notice of your hearing. If any of the parties have an issue with the expungement of your court records, they might appear at the hearing and inform the judge.
In case, the request is rejected, an Austin criminal lawyer can file an appeal in certain cases, or file a fresh request to obtain a non-disclosure order instead. If the expungement order has been granted, you can send the order to the Foundation for Continuing Justice that will, in turn, send it to private companies that may have copies of your court records.
After expunging your criminal records in Texas, you will be legally allowed to deny that you were ever arrested in your future employment applications or background checks.
How Much Does it Cost to Get Your Record Expunged in Texas?
The cost of getting your records expunged will largely depend upon the complexity of your case. But roughly, filing and service charges of an expungement request can be around $600 in Texas. The best part is you can expunge your criminal records of multiple arrests with just one petition.
The cost of hiring an Austin criminal lawyer can be about $3000. But the expenditure is worth all the freedom and opportunities that will open up for you when you are no longer held back by your past.
How Long Does it Take to Get Your Record Expunged?
Once you have filed the petition, it may take about 30 days to get a court hearing date. And after the expungement order has been passed, the government agencies can take up to 6- 12 months to clear out all their court records.
Getting an expungement in Texas can be a confusing and tricky process, and it can take way longer if you try to do it on your own. To make the process easier, and to ensure your petition does not get rejected, you must hire an experienced county lawyer.
Contact an Experienced Texas Criminal Expunction Attorney
Getting an expungement will make your life easier. You can even deny ever being convicted in the first place after the order has been passed. Call today at 512-448-4560 to schedule a consultation with Austin criminal lawyer James Gill to check if your case qualifies for an expungement or a non-disclosure order.
The Law Offices of James Gill, PLLC serves all of Austin, Westlake, Kyle, Buda, San Marcos, and the surrounding TX communities.