Houston Expunction Attorney – Greg Tsioros
The courts and law enforcement agencies throughout Texas maintain databases containing information about every person arrested or charged with committing a crime in the state. Even if the charges are eventually dropped, or if you are found to be not guilty, putting the incident behind you can be difficult as long as your records remain in the system.
Fortunately, there is a procedure for getting your arrest and jail records, police and prosecution records, and court files destroyed. The end result could be that can put the event behind you and legally answer “no” when asked if you have ever been arrested or charged with committing a crime.
What is an Expungement of Records?
Getting a clean slate by removing yourself from court and law enforcement database is the purpose of a portion of the state’s code of criminal procedure that allows you to obtain a court order for the expunction of your criminal records under certain circumstances. If a court grants the request, all records identified by the court order must be returned to you, destroyed or all references in the record that identify you must be obliterated.
Record Expunction Process in Houston
Expunging your criminal records in Houston begins by filing a petition with the district court in which your criminal trial was held. If your case was in another court, then the petition must be filed in the district court in the county in which your criminal case originated.
The expunction petition must be verified and include the following:
- Petitioner’s name, address, date of birth social security number and other personal identifying information
- Information pertaining to the arrest and charge, including location, date, arresting police agency, court and case number
- A list of all police agencies, jails, courts, prosecutors and other officials or agencies with any involvement in the matter
- The names of federal agencies that might have your records
- Private companies that compile and sell criminal history information, such as companies offering background checks
- The grounds upon which expunction of the records is requested
All government agencies that you list in your petition as possibly having records pertaining to your arrest or the charges filed against you must be notified of a hearing date that the court sets for at least 30 days after the filing of your petition. Notice of the hearing is given to the agencies by certified mail, facsimile transmission or secure email.
The agencies named in the petition have the right to be represented and heard at the hearing. If the court is satisfied that you have met the requirements under Texas law to have your records expunged, then it will issue an order to that effect.
Reasons to Have Your Criminal Records Expunged
As you walk out of court, or as you are released from jail, your determination to put the unfortunate incident that led to your arrest behind will only take you so far. The record of your arrest, the charges and spending time in jail will follow you.
If you are eligible to have your records expunged, doing so could help you to avoid situations such as the following:
- Negative information appearing on a background check done by a prospective employer
- Being denied a professional license because of your criminal history
- Immigration issues if you not a citizen of the United States
- Refusal of some landlords to rent to tenants with other than a clean criminal background
- Being treated differently by police officers who can access your criminal record history
State laws are constantly changing. The laws that exist today allowing eligible individuals to expunge their criminal and arrest records could be changed or eliminated in the future. No one can predict the future, so not taking advantage of the chance to wipe the slate clean now could be lost to you forever if the laws change.
Records Eligible for Expunction in Texas
Expunction does not apply to all defendants in criminal cases, and it does not apply to all situations in which a person is arrested, charged or convicted of violating state laws in Texas. There are different eligibility guidelines for individuals and for records.
Let’s begin with record eligibility. Records pertaining to the following situations are eligible for expunction:
- Arrest where no criminal charges were ever filed
- Conviction of a minor for not going to school
- Conviction for certain alcohol-related offenses committed by a minor
- Criminal charges that were filed but dismissed
- Criminal charges for which the defendant has been acquitted
- An arrest or criminal charge resulting from identity theft provided another person was ultimately arrested or charged with the crime
- A criminal conviction overturned by the state appellate court
- A pardon is granted by the governor or the president of the United States
- Juvenile offenders convicted of a qualifying misdemeanor
Who Is Not Eligible for Expunction in Texas
A deferred adjudication or a sentence of probation supervision could make you ineligible for expunction of your criminal record. You may not be eligible if you were convicted of a felony, and the conviction was within five years of your arrest or the statute of limitations for prosecution of that crime has not expired.
Records of the suspension or revocation of your license to drive a motor vehicle cannot be expunged. Also not subject to being expunged is an acquittal for a crime that is related to another crime or crimes for which you were convicted. This is referred to in the Texas expungement law as a criminal episode.
Crimes Not Eligible for Expungement
Certain violations of the Texas criminal code cannot be expunged. A record of conviction for any of the following crimes may not be expunged:
- Sexual battery
- Child molestation
- Vehicular homicide
- Fleeing the scene of an accident
If you are unsure if your criminal record is eligible for expungement, a Houston criminal defense attorney might be of assistance by reviewing your record of arrests and convictions and advising you accordingly.
Expungement Frequently Asked Questions
There is a widespread belief that the dismissal of a criminal charge or an arrest without criminal charges being filed will cause the sealing or destruction of all records of the charges or arrest. This is not true in Texas where the person arrested or charged has the burden of filing a petition to expunge the records. Other frequently asked questions include:
- Can the record of a guilty plea be expunged? No, a guilty plea is the equivalent of a conviction after trial and is generally not eligible for expungement.
- If I complete my sentence of probation, am I eligible for expungement? Unless the probation was in connection with a deferred adjudication that might be eligible for a non-disclosure order, probation following a guilty plea or a conviction is not eligible for expungement.
- How can someone find out about a criminal history? The Texas Department of Public Safety will provide a copy of your criminal history upon request. The request must be accompanied by a copy of your fingerprints. If there is no criminal history on file, the department will provide a letter stating that no record exists. Errors in the criminal history should be brought to the attention of the Errors Resolution Unit of the Department of Public Safety with a request that they be corrected.
- When do expunction orders go into effect? It may take up to two months after the filing of a petition for expunction for it to be heard by a judge. If it is approved by a judge, an expunction order goes into effect immediately, but it could be several months before all records are actually destroyed or obliterated.
- Will my criminal record history show up in a background check? Once your records are expunged, they will no longer be available to anyone doing a routine background check.
- If my records are expunged, am I allowed to deny that I was arrested? As soon as a judge grants you an order of expungement, you have the right to honestly deny being arrested on that charge.
The Confusion Between Non-disclosure Orders and Expungement
A non-disclosure order, which is also referred to as record sealing, makes it difficult for someone to gain access to your criminal record. Non-disclosure does not, however, eliminate your records as would an expungement order.
The danger with sealed records is that they continue to exist. What one court order seals, another court order can open for view by a government agency. Records ordered expunged are destroyed or otherwise obliterated.
Eligibility for a Houston Non-disclosure Order
As a general rule, non-disclosure orders are available to someone who completes deferred adjudication under probation supervision following a conviction. It is not, however, to those individuals convicted of number of criminal offenses including the following:
- Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault
- Indecency with a child
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Compelling prostitution
- Endangering a child
- Violating a protective order
- Child pornography offenses
When the deferred conviction involves a felony, an individual may not file for a non-disclosure order during the five-year period following completion of probation supervision. There is a long list of misdemeanors, that includes public lewdness, assault and discharge of a firearm, for which you must wait two years before a requesting an order sealing the record. Other misdemeanors do not have a waiting period.
Conviction of another criminal offense following the dismissal of a charge under a deferred adjudication will disqualify you from obtaining a non-disclosure order. This disqualification does not apply if the conviction is for a traffic offense for which the penalty is a fine.
Petitioning for a Non-disclosure Order in Houston
Unlike petitions for expungement that must be filed in the district court, a petition for non-disclosure is filed in the court in which the criminal case was originally heard. In fact, the original case number is used to identify the non-disclosure petition.
Once a petition is filed, the court schedules a hearing. At the hearing, the petitioner must prove that the original charge was dismissed after deferred adjudication was successfully completed.
The petitioner must also prove that he or she is eligible for non-disclosure and that sealing the record is in the best interest of justice. It is important, when preparing for the hearing, to keep in mind that the decision to grant or deny the request for non-disclosure is left solely to the discretion of the judge to whom the case is assigned.
A Houston Expungement Attorney Can Help
Why let a one-time mistake affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment or prevent you from honestly answer, “No,” when asked if you have ever been arrested or charged with committing a crime. The laws authorizing the expungement and the non-disclosure of criminal records are complex and must be followed to the letter to avoid having the request denied or delayed.
When so much is at stake, you need the services of a skilled and knowledgeable Houston, Texas, expungement and non-disclosure attorney working on your behalf.
Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros to find out if you’re eligible. Call (832) 752-5972 or email for a free consultation.