Unlike the common fender benders and other minor violations, criminal records never disappear. They will always hang around. Due to thorough background checks performed by potential employers and the law enforcement authorities, your criminal record can make it challenging for you to find employment, rent a home, travel abroad, or even apply for college.
Fortunately, your criminal record can be expunged depending on your criminal history and the state laws. Note that the process of wiping out your criminal history is complicated, a reason you need an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney to create the necessary paperwork and represent you in court.
Expunction of a criminal record
Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 55.03, once the court grants your expunction request, your past criminal record cannot be released or seen by anyone for any reason. All your criminal records are destroyed completely. It’s like the crime never happened.
In fact, you are legally allowed to deny that you have previously been arrested and convicted, unless you’re queried about your expunged record in a criminal trial while under oath. In that case, you will respond by saying that the record in question was expunged.
Eligibility for expunction
If you were apprehended for a misdemeanor or felony charge, your record might be eligible for expunction under these conditions:
- You were exonerated at trial.
- You were initially found guilty of the crime but later pardoned or proven innocent.
- After being formally charged, the charges were later dismissed.
- You were apprehended but not formally charged, and you meet the criteria for the waiting period explained below.
Under Texas law, if you were arrested, but no charges were formally brought against you, you need to wait for a specific duration before applying for expunction.
- For Class A or Class B misdemeanor, you have to wait for 1 year from the day you got arrested.
- For Class C misdemeanor, you have to wait 180 days from the day you got arrested.
- For a felony, you have to wait for 3 years from the day you were apprehended.
How to file
Once you determine your eligibility for expunction, you will have to complete a petition for expunction and file it in the district court in Texas where your case was convicted. You are usually given some forms to fill in your personal details and the respective records you wish expunged.
The petition requests the judge to expunge specific or all records related to your arrest or conviction. If your petition is successful, the judge will instruct for the expunction. Afterwards, your criminal history will not be visible to the general public when they conduct a criminal background check on you.
Seek legal help
Seeking to clean up your past criminal records is not a simple process, and the law may be amended at any time. If you don’t know how to go about the expunction process or even whether your history is eligible for expunction in Texas, a criminal defense attorney can be of great help. He or she will guide you all the way.