If you face a criminal charge in Texas, you need to know about alternatives to facing this charge, whether or not you’ve been tried for it. One such alternative is called expunction.
Now you may ask: What is expunction, and am I eligible?
First, you should know that expunction of a criminal charge means getting the charge removed or expunged from your criminal record. This is also called “expungement.” Or the charge may remain, but only certain officials can view it.
How to get a charge expunged or removed from your record
It all starts with your criminal defense lawyer.
He or she must file a petition with your county’s district court asking for an order of expungement or expunction. The court fee for this is around $100.
Then, you wait — perhaps as long as a month — to learn if you’ve been approved for the process. If you’re approved, you’ll be given a date for your expungement hearing, which could be several weeks later.
At that hearing, your attorney can state your case for expungement, and you may or may not be granted an expunction of your charge.
If expunction of your charge is granted at your hearing, it can take about six months or more for all of the proper agencies to remove the charge from your criminal record.
In other words, from start to finish it can take seven or eight months to file for an expungement hearing, be granted the hearing, be given a hearing date, appear for the hearing, be granted expunction and then have all of the records of your criminal charge destroyed.
After all of this is completed, you can legally deny that any such charge against you ever existed. And as far as county records go, it won’t exist.
Texas requirements for expunction
Texas law holds that expunction can only be granted under certain circumstances:
- If the criminal charges were later dismissed.
- If you were acquitted at trial.
- If you were convicted but later found to be innocent.
- If the prosecutor advised expunction.
- If you were pardoned by the governor of Texas.
- If you were “no-billed” by a grand jury (meaning the grand jury didn’t forward your criminal charge to a court for trial).
Nondisclosure: An alternative to expungement
Another approach in resolving an expungement hearing is to receive an “order of nondisclosure.” In such cases, records of your arrest and court proceedings aren’t destroyed but instead sealed. Then, they can still be viewed, but only by specific law enforcement or government agencies. The general public will not have access.
Are you eligible?
In any event, keep in mind that the nature of your criminal charge determines whether or not you’re eligible for expunction of a charge or sealing of a criminal record.
For instance, a sex offense conviction in Texas cannot be removed from your criminal record. Only if you weren’t convicted can you petition the court to expunge your sex offense arrest and charge from your criminal record. But it’s vital that the charge cannot have involved violence or sexual contact with minors.
For some misdemeanor crimes, you can gain expunction if you pleaded “no contest” or “guilty” before trial while agreeing to probation, community service or some other course of action, which you then followed. (This is known as “deferred adjudication”.) After that, you can request expungement of the charge, for which you were never tried.
If you want to explore getting a past criminal charge removed or expunged from your record in Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend County or Montgomery County, notify a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer at our firm.