If you face a charge for a sex offense in Texas, you may wonder when or if that sex offense charge can be expunged — that is, removed from your criminal record. Gaining such expungement can be very valuable in clearing your name, but it depends on a variety of circumstances.
Naturally, first you may wonder what expungement (also called expunction) means.
Before we explain, however, it’s important to note that expungement is a complex legal process which should involve hiring a criminal defense lawyer to help you.
Expungement is sought initially by filing a petition with the district court in your county in which you request an order of expunction or expungement. The fee for that process is about $110.
With expungement, an offense is removed from the criminal record of the defendant, who then can legally deny that the offense ever existed.
Also possible is an “order of nondisclosure,” which means the record of an arrest or a court proceeding isn’t destroyed but rather is sealed and can be viewed only by certain agencies of government or law enforcement — not by the general public.
It takes up to 30 days after the petition is filed for an expungement hearing to be set. Then, even if expungement is granted at the hearing, it may take another 180 days for the proper agencies to destroy the offense from your records.
When is Expungement Granted?
Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (Section 55.01), expungement or expunction of an offense from a criminal record is allowed as an option if one of the following conditions are met:
- Criminal charges never were filed
- Charges were filed but later were dismissed
- The defendant was acquitted
- The defendant was convicted but later was proven innocent
- The defendant was “no-billed” by a grand jury
- The defendant was not tried and the prosecutor recommended expungement
- The defendant was pardoned by the governor of Texas or the president of the United States
- The defendant was in some way otherwise granted relief based on actual innocence
If a person pleaded guilty or was convicted of certain misdemeanor offense as a child, then that situation may also be eligible for expunction.
What Types of Offenses Can Be Expunged in Texas?
Not all criminal offenses can be expunged in Texas. Cases which can qualify for expunction include arrests which didn’t lead to a conviction or a finding of guilt.
Also, a class C misdemeanor can be expunged if, prior to trial, the defendant seeks and receives from the judge “deferred adjudication.” That’s accomplished by pleading guilty or no contest before trial in exchange for agreeing to and following a course of action, such as probation.
In such cases, when the terms of deferred adjudication are completed, the offense is not considered to be a conviction since no trial was held. However, the offense will remain on the defendant’s criminal record until or unless the offense later is expunged, which involves another legal process entirely: the process of expungement.
Can a Sex Offense Charge be Expunged in Texas?
As for expunging or removing a sex offense from a criminal record in Texas, this is possible, though rare, and requires there to have been no plea or conviction of any kind.
A conviction or deferred adjudication for a sex offense cannot be expunged or removed from the defendant’s criminal record in Texas. However, if the defendant isn’t convicted, then the defendant can petition the court to expunge the sex offense arrest and charge from his or her criminal record.
This is true even though sex crimes are different under the law. Indeed, a sex offense is considered a particularly serious offense in Texas.
Which Sex Charges Can Be Expunged?
Rest assured that if not convicted or given a deferred, a person can have a sex offense charge expunged in some cases in Texas. But only an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can answer precisely which sex offense charges can be expunged, and which cannot?
Clearly, the legal process for seeking expungement of a sex charge is complicated, and you should get an experienced sex crime lawyer for your case. Everything from the statute of limitations, to why the case was dismissed, can determine whether a dismissed case can be expunged.