If you have been arrested, the effects can reverberate indefinitely. Even if charges were dropped in your arrest, employment, housing, loans and more are made harder to achieve. Record sealing or expungement can help.
Expungement and Sealing Explained
It is not hard to understand why both expungement and sealing are confusing. Both legal remedies are similar in that they alter your record, but there are distinct differences.
Expungement, also known as expunction, refers to the complete elimination of your criminal record. This means the file, and all pertaining documentation, is destroyed. Your record is if it never existed.
Record sealing, or non-disclosure, limits access to your record and makes it harder for anyone to know about your criminal history. The documentation and file are still available, however. A government agency or a court order can open your record for view.
Am I Eligible?
It is best if you can seek the advice and help of an attorney, but you can try to manage these legal options on your own.
You are eligible for an expunction if you were arrested but not charged; your charge was dismissed; your offense was a qualifying misdemeanor juvenile; your offense was a minor alcohol-related offense; you were convicted of Failure to Attend School; you were arrested for identity theft but another individual was actually arrested, charged and convicted of that crime; you received a governor's pardon or the U.S. president's pardon; or you were later acquitted by the Criminal Court of Appeals.
You also may qualify to have your record sealed from public view. In this situation, it would take a court order to view it, or a government agency may still look in your record. You can only get a non-disclosure if you are on deferred adjudication, have successfully completed the process and you have no convictions since then. Even then, it is up to the judge's discretion.
Who Cannot Get Expunction?
You may not qualify if you have received a deferred adjudication or probation, if you were convicted of a felony within five years after arrest or if the statute of limitations for that crime is not passed. Your record also cannot be expunged for criminal acts like child molestation, prostitution, sexual battery, theft and serious traffic offenses like DUI, vehicular homicide or fleeing the scene of an accident.
Note: While the statute of limitations can vary from crime to crime, most of the time the statute of limitations, or the time period you must wait to file after the crime, is three years. This allows the state or county three years to prosecute for an action after the arrest.
Expungement and Non-disclosure Requirements
To have records restricted, you will need to apply for each offense separately. It may not be possible to have all records restricted, and your request may be denied. There are forms and a process that must be followed to have your record restricted.
You must provide personal information like your birthday and Social Security number and arrest and case details. The arresting agency and the court in the county you were arrested will have records of any applicable court procedure.
How Do I File for Both?
It is recommended that you read up on the Texas Criminal Code about how to have records expunged or get an Order Of Nondisclosure before attempting the process. The overall process is similar for both:
- Apply for a Petition for Expunction or Nondisclosure. Fill out the form. Have it notarized.
- The court will schedule a hearing and send notice to all pertinent respondents.
- The court will conduct the hearing and hear the respondents' input.
- If you meet the requirements, your petition will be granted and filed.
Missing information may result in a denial. Note that judges have more discretion in nondisclosure than with expunction.
Can a Lawyer Help Me?
This article is meant to inform. Should you petition for legal remedy, it is best to get help and advice from an attorney.