A criminal record can significantly affect your reputation and your future. Having a criminal record can impact every aspect of your life, from insurance rates to employment, credit to housing options. Sometimes it is possible for individuals to clear their records and change their lives for the better. In many cases, an expungement is an option available to accomplish this.
In Texas, expungements are referred to in legal statutes as expunctions. Expunctions are court-ordered and allow for a criminal record to be reviewed and expunged, or cleared, as well as requiring state agencies and private companies to remove all references to any arrests from their files, including the destruction of all hard copies of documents related to those arrests. Expunctions are sometimes granted quickly following the end of a case, but sometimes the process takes more time. Also notable is the fact that applications for expunctions can be filed years after an arrest has been made or charges filed.
Eligibility must be established for expunctions under Texas law. Many different kinds of crimes are eligible for expungement in Texas, including felony and misdemeanor crimes, assuming statutory conditions are met, specifically the provisions outlined in Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Many cases that have been dismissed by the Office of the District Attorney is eligible for a request for records to be expunged. If a case gets tried and the defendant is acquitted, the defendant is eligible for an expunction. In Texas, expunction can effectively permanently erase records and data of the alleged criminal offense; but the process does have its limits. So, is there any other option besides expunctions in Texas? The answer is yes, and it is called what is referred to as a nondisclosure order.
Even if your criminal history is such that you are not eligible for a record expungement or expunction in Texas, you may still be able to apply for an order of nondisclosure. Sometimes referred to as “sealing your record,” this court order conceals certain criminal offenses, so they are not automatically disclosed to the public. And while these offenses remain visible to criminal justice agencies, licensing agencies, and some government organizations, you are legally freed from having to share the “sealed” information in certain situations or circumstances (e.g. employment applications).
Basic eligibility for an order of nondisclosure is dependent on the class of crime committed and the type of community supervision or probation required. In Texas, deferred adjudication and standard community supervision are the two types available. Texas law allows for a nondisclosure petition to be filed if you have finished deferred adjudication probation (including for cases designated as felonies); this is because the court regularly dismisses the case if the defendant completes the probation program. Further, Texas nondisclosure laws have changed since first instituted and now allow some people to seal their criminal records even if they have a documented conviction (e.g. first-time DWI offenders with no other criminal history can apply for a nondisclosure order for that DWI offense).
There are many different considerations involved in both expunction and nondisclosure orders; the finer points are complex, and the nuances can be confusing. The main difference, however, between expunction and nondisclosure is that expunction results in what essentially is the erasure of your criminal history, while nondisclosure results in restricted and limited access to existing records of your criminal history. The terms of eligibility for both are complicated; so, consulting a qualified attorney to help guide you through the process of determining eligibility and to assist in the application process for either option is a valid course of action.
Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law is an experienced team of caring and competent lawyers available to help you in Travis County and throughout the Austin, Texas area. Contact Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law online or at 512-359-3030 to discuss expungement and nondisclosure with a licensed attorney. They are ready and waiting to help you understand your options and to navigate the legal system to reach your goals.