Record Clearing in Texas: Everything You Need to Know
Are criminal background checks hurting your opportunities? If you have a criminal record in Texas, you probably already know it can negatively impact your life.
Even if you were charged with a crime but were not convicted, your arrest may negatively affect anything where criminal history is checked: job opportunities, credit scores, insurance rates – even your reputation in your community.
Our short eligibility test quickly determines if your criminal offense is eligible to be cleared or sealed. No contact information required:
What is Record Expungement?
Texas recognizes that people make mistakes and offers two pathways for people with criminal records to have their records erased entirely or simply hidden from public view: expunction (clearing) and nondisclosure (sealing). These two processes can help improve your life by removing the barriers that your record poses to your success.
Record expungement is legally referred to as expunction in Texas and commonly referred to as record clearing. If you secure an expunction order for a criminal record, agencies must completely remove it from your record.
This means that your potential employers and other organizations will not see the record when they perform criminal background checks. You can legally deny the existence of the expunged record as well as the expunction order itself. This effectively clears your record of the expunged offense.
Who Is Eligible?
In order to clean up your criminal record, you must first qualify. Under Texas law, people are able to have their records expunged for arrests that did not lead to convictions, dismissed charges, and certain types of misdemeanors that had deferred adjudications.
People who were convicted of offenses and were later pardoned by the governor or the president may also be eligibile for expunction.
Finally, people who have certain misdemeanor offenses on their juvenile records may also qualify.
How Much Does Expungement Cost?
There are typically two parts to the cost of completing the expunction of a criminal record: the filing fee and the attorney fee.
The filing fee is the base fee that is charged for civil lawsuits in Texas. There will also be additional fees to notify all of the respondents about your petition. The filing fee varies from county to county.
In Harris County, for example, the base filing fee is $350. In addition, the county charges $8 per agency for electronic notification of the six standard agencies that are listed on the notice. For each additional agency, you will have to pay $14.
In addition to filing and court fees, you should also expect to pay your attorney’s fee. The average lawyer’s fee for expungement cases in Texas is $1500, but some attorneys charge $3000 or more. We charge a flat fee that begins at $950 for expunction.
How to Get Your Record Expunged
It’s always a good idea to consult with a lawyer before beginning the expunction process. Legal services such as The Law Office of Brian S. Laviage provide an efficient, mostly hands-off process.
Clearing records in Texas can be a complex process with expensive, non-refundable filing fees. A qualified attorney can tell you immediately whether or not your criminal record is eligible to be sealed or cleared entirely.
People who qualify for expunction will not necessarily be granted it by the court. Errors in the petition process can result not only in non-refundable filing fees, but you may also encounter delays that could cause your case to drag out for years. This is why DIY expungement is not recommended.
Consult an Expungement Lawyer
Our expungement lawyers near you in Houston, Harris and Fort Bend counties will fight to make sure eligible records are cleared quickly, competently and as inexpensively as possible.
Expunction vs. Nondisclosure
If your record meets the state-mandated requirements, expunction (record clearing) is usually the best course of action. If your petition is granted, every document that is pertinent to your arrest and/or conviction is destroyed. Expunction is truly your best shot at making a “fresh start.”
If your record is expunged, you can legally state that you were never arrested or convicted. This means that you can swear under oath, in both criminal and civil cases, that you have no criminal record. You can also deny that you have a criminal record when the question arises on employment applications or if you are applying for a home loan or a Small Business Administration loan or grant.
In certain cases, expungement may not be allowed. It is sometimes possible to file a petition for an order of nondisclosure (record sealing) to have your record hidden. Sealing does not have the advantages associated with expungement but it is an option if your petition for expungement is denied on eligibility grounds.
In Texas, you might be shocked to find out that your felony charge that did not lead to a conviction still remains on your record even if it was dismissed. It is possible for you to have a felony record expunged if the following situations apply:
- Your filed felony charges were later dismissed;
- Your conviction was later overturned after your innocence was proven;
- You were acquitted at trial;
- The governor or U.S. president pardoned you; or
- A grand jury issued a no-bill after finding insufficient evidence to charge you.
There is also a waiting period that must elapse before you can seek a felony expunction, which is three years from the date of your arrest. If you were pardoned or acquitted, there is not a waiting period that is specified in the law. Your attorney can file the petition on your behalf and set the hearing date with the court. If you are successful at the hearing, the court will issue an order of expunction, and you will need to notify the relevant agencies to destroy the records that they have.
The process for obtaining an expunction of your misdemeanor record is similar to the process for a felony record. If you were arrested for a class C misdemeanor but not convicted, you will need to wait 180 days after your arrest to file your petition. If your offense was a class B or class A misdemeanor, the waiting period from the date of your arrest is one year. There isn’t a waiting period outlined in the law if you were acquitted or pardoned.
Advantages of Expunging Your Record
A criminal record can keep you from gaining employment, prevent you from getting into certain schools, and in most cases make one subject to a long lasting public stigma. Contact our lawyers to establish whether your criminal record can be hidden or erased entirely and ultimately send you on your way with a clear record.