Criminal Record in Texas?
Are criminal background checks hurting your job chances? Being denied interviews, positions, or promotions because of a few blemishes on your record? Our expungement lawyers will fight to clean up your criminal record quickly, competently, and as inexpensively as possible.
Find out if you’re eligible for clearing your criminal history in Texas! Answer the questions below and contact us for your 100% Free Consultation now!
Expungement Eligibility Test
If you have a criminal record in Texas, you probably already know it can have a negative impact on your life. Even if you were charged with a crime but were not convicted, your arrest may harm your ability to find a job when your potential employers discover it through a criminal background check. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in Texas, you may have trouble securing employment, gaining approval for housing and obtaining financial aid for college long after your sentence has been successfully discharged.
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 and non-disclosure. These two processes can help to improve your life by removing the barriers that your record poses to your success and offer you the ability to soak up your criminal history like a sponge.
How to Get Your Record Expunged
In Texas, expungement is referred to as expunction. If you secure an expunction order for a criminal record, agencies must remove it from your record. This means that your potential employers and others will not see the record when they perform criminal background checks.
First, You Must Qualify
In order to get your record deleted, you must first qualify. Under Texas law, people are able to have their records cleared 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 eligible for expunction. Finally, people who have certain misdemeanor offenses on their juvenile records may also qualify.
Check Your Eligibility
When looking to clear your criminal background, you must first determine if your offense is eligible for an Order of Nondisclosure (sealing your record) or Expunction.
The basic requirement for an adult expungement order are to meet one of the following conditions:
- You were charged, went to trial, and found to be innocent (acquitted)
- You were convicted but later pardoned by the Governor
- You were formally charged with a crime but the charge was dismissed, and the statute of limitations for the crime has run out
- You were arrested but never formally charged with a crime and the waiting period prescribed by law has been satisfied
The lengths of the waiting periods after you were arrested but never charged are based on the nature of your arrest.
- Class C misdemeanor, 180 days from the date of your arrest
- Class A or B misdemeanor, one year from the date of your arrest
- Felony, three years from the date of your arrest
Our eligibility test does not require submission of personal contact information and provides immediate feedback.
Consult a Lawyer
It’s always a good idea to consult with a lawyer before beginning the expungement process. Sealing 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 for sealing or erasing entirely. People who qualify for expunction will not necessarily be granted it by the court. If you file a petition without help, you may encounter potential delays that could cause your case to drag out for years.
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.
Although you do not need an attorney to manage your petition for record sealing or expunction, it cannot be expressed in strong enough terms that these requests are not something that you want to try on your own. Aside from not collecting all the information that will be necessary for you to even file your petition, you run the chance that you may not be able to refile if your petition is dismissed on any technical point. You also must remember that your petition may be opposed by the District Attorney’s office and that they will be represented at your hearing.
As is the case whenever you are dealing with the criminal justice system, you need to remember that the legislature can amend an existing law, repeal a law, or pass a new law that is relevant to the process of filing expungement or non-disclosure petitions. In order to make sure that your petition is heard by the court it is strongly advised that you consult an attorney that has experience with the filing of these petitions.
If your case is truly clear cut, the [www.TexasLawHelp.org] website may be able to assist you with detailed forms and instructions outlining the process of expunging your record for free, aside from filing costs of course.
You can initiate the process of seeking an expunction of your record by filing a petition with the court that originally handled your case or charge. Once you have filed the petition, the clerk will notify all of the interested parties and schedule a hearing on the petition. The respondents may include the arresting agencies, facilities, and prosecutors who were involved in the case, and they will have the opportunity to contest the expunction at the hearing.
There are typically two parts to the cost of getting an expunction of your 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 $267. In addition, the county charges $3 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 these 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 $1,500, but some attorneys charge $3,000 or more. At our law firm, we charge a flat fee that starts at $950 for expunction.
Record Sealing vs. Expunging
If your record meets the state-mandated requirements, expunction 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 non-disclosure to have your record sealed. Sealing does not have the advantages associated with expungement but it is an option if your petition for expungement is denied on eligibility grounds.
Non-disclosure of Criminal Records
If you are not eligible for expunction, you may still be eligible for a non-disclosure of your criminal record. In this process, agencies that hold your criminal record are told to restrict access to it. If an employer asks for a criminal background check, the agency will not disclose information about your criminal record. However, certain agencies are excepted and will be able to see the information. Non-disclosure of a criminal record is also known as sealing your record, and it prevents most private employers and others from learning about your previous conviction or adjudication. Like expungement, there are some offenses that are not eligible for non-disclosure. Offenses Not Eligible for Non-Disclosure
The following offenses are not eligible for non-disclosure in Texas:
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Indecency with a child
- Burglary committed in order to commit one of the above-listed offenses
- Sexual performance by a child
- Compelling prostitution
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Promoting or possessing child pornography
- Capital murder
- Injuring a child, elderly person or disabled person
- Abandonment or endangerment of a child
- Violation of a protective or magistrate’s order
- Any offense involving family violence
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.
Despite what you may have been told, your juvenile criminal records are not automatically sealed when you reach the age of 18. Unless sealed by the court, juvenile criminal records will be available to read law enforcement, juvenile justice system workers and probation officers, prospective employers, educational institutions, or if you apply for scholarships or student loans.
Record expungement or sealing of juvenile records is possible, but the procedure for making these requests differs from those of adult petitions. The basic requirements for filing a petition to seal juvenile records are:
- You were not arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor which a jail time sentence could have been given
- At least 5 years have passed since your 16th birthday (you must be 21 years of age or older)
- You have not has been convicted of a felony since your original arrest
There are many other laws and regulations that can significantly impact juvenile petitions to seal or expunge a record. The potential complexity of juvenile petitions makes it vital that an attorney be consulted at every stage of these requests.
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.