Expungement is a process through which an individual’s criminal records are treated as if they no longer exist. This process is also known as expunction or criminal record sealing. There are different options and limits in each state regarding record sealing or expungement but some form of expungement or record sealing is permitted in all states for juvenile offenses.

What are the Laws Regarding Expungement in Texas?

In Texas, expungement is called “expunction”. Under Texas law, you can request that your criminal history be expunged or sealed for some cases. This means that the general public will not be able to see it under most circumstances. However, under Texas law, expunction and record sealing are two different processes.

  • Record Sealing Under an Order of Nondisclosure: This applies for some criminal records in Texas and once a criminal record is sealed, the general public will not be able to view it. 
    • However, criminal justice agencies will have access to the sealed information but they can only disclose it to you, other criminal justice agencies or certain specified licensing and employment entities. 
    • For example, if you were applying for a job at a school, a Texas law enforcement agency would be required to share your sealed record with your potential employer if the employer requests that information.
  • Expunction: If for a criminal case, a court has ordered your record to be expunged, it may not be released or used for any reason. After you receive an expunction, you are permitted to deny that you have been arrested or had a record expunged. 
    • However, the exception to this is if you are asked about an expunged record while under oath in a criminal trial in which case you are not permitted to deny; however you only need to state that the record in question has been expunged.

However, there are also some similarities between record sealing and expunction. Whether your record has been sealed or expunged, most potential employers who conduct background checks will be prohibited from accessing the information in the record and in many cases, once your record has been expunged or sealed you do not have to disclose it.

Also, if you are a close relative of a deceased individual with a criminal record that is eligible for expunction, you can apply for an expunction on that individual’s behalf. Under Texas law, close relatives are parents, grandparents, spouses, adult brothers and sisters and children.

What Records Qualify for Expunction in Texas?

Your case may qualify for expunction if you were arrested for a misdemeanor or felony and if the following elements apply:

  • You were convicted and later pardoned or found innocent;
  • You were charged but the case against you was dismissed;
  • The statute of limitations for that case has expired;
  • You were acquitted at trial; and
  • You were not formally charged with a crime and you satisfy the required waiting period.

What is a Waiting Period for an Expunction?

In Texas, if you were arrested and not charged with a crime, you are required to wait a certain period of time before you can apply for expunction. The waiting period can vary depending on the nature of the crime for which you were arrested and it is:

  • 180 days from the date of your arrest for a Class C misdemeanor;
  • One year from the date of your arrest for a Class A or B misdemeanor; or
  • Three years from the date of your arrest for a felony.

What Criminal Records Qualify for an Order of Nondisclosure?

Your criminal record may qualify for sealing under an order of nondisclosure if the judge deferred proceedings without finding you guilty, placed you under court supervision and if at the end of your period of supervision, the judge dismissed the proceedings against you.

There is a five-year waiting period for felonies while the waiting period is two years for serious misdemeanors. Most misdemeanor convictions are eligible for sealing and if your punishment was only paying a fine, then there is no waiting period.

But for other misdemeanors as mentioned previously, the waiting period is two years. Also, there are some crimes which are never eligible for sealing under an order of nondisclosure.

How to File for Expunction or Record Sealing?

If your record qualifies for expunction or sealing, you have to complete a Petition for Expunction or Petition for an Order of Nondisclosure form and file it with the court which handled your case.

Should I Contact a Lawyer to Expunge a Criminal Record in Texas?

Having a criminal record can lead to difficulties in different areas such as finding a new job, applying for an apartment or obtaining a professional license. Also, the requirements for expunging or sealing a criminal record can vary by state.

If you feel that your case may qualify for expungement or sealing, it is important to consult with an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer who can inform you about the relevant laws and guide you through the process.