Getting a clean slate isn't easy, but an expungement lawyer can help
Even if you've repaid your debt to society, a criminal record can penalize you long after your sentence is complete. Past arrests and convictions that appear in background checks can compromise career, housing, education, and other opportunities.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
It is possible to get entries on your permanent record sealed or expunged in Texas. This means that qualifying criminal history would no longer pop up in most public CORI and background searches.
However, the Texas expungement and sealing processes are complicated and require a lot of legwork and knowledge of state and federal law. Many factors influence who can apply and which convictions can be expunged or sealed. That's why if you're being held back by your criminal past, it's in your best interests to at least talk to an expungement lawyer.
At The Webb Firm, P.C., we've been cleaning up criminal records in Texas for years—and we know how the system works. Attorney Amanda Webb is a former Assistant District Attorney in Montgomery County and understands what it takes to get you a fresh start.
Here's what you should know.
Texas criminal records may be sealed
In general, Texas allows for concealment of misdemeanors, arrests that did not lead to conviction, and pardoned felonies.
There is typically a waiting period of 2 to 5 years before you can apply to conceal a record. However, there are many exceptions where you may apply immediately.
Basically, you have two options to clean up your Texas criminal record - expungement or an order of nondisclosure (OND). Both prohibit many public agencies from viewing concealed criminal records, with some exceptions. The difference is expungement removes marks from your record while an OND maintains the marks but hides them from public view. An expungement lawyer can help you decide which process is right for you.
Grounds for expungement, OND, or record sealing include:
- Full pardons
- Being a survivor of human trafficking or domestic violence who wishes to have related records concealed
- Pardoned felonies
- Most arrests that result in an acquittal, pardon, or there is no conviction
- Some firearm offenses
- Completion of a veterans treatment court program
- Juvenile records
Orders of non-disclosure
Having a record concealed by an OND means that criminal justice agencies cannot disclose your sealed history to the public. They may, however, provide information to the justice system and for some licensing and employment entities like banks, schools, and hospitals. If you have an OND, you do not need to disclose the concealed action on applications for employment or licensing.
ONDs may be sought for:
- First-offense misdemeanor convictions so long as you do not have prior convictions or deferred adjudications. For minor misdemeanors, you can apply for an OND as soon as you complete your sentence, otherwise, there is a 2-year wait.
- First-offense DWI (driving while intoxicated, also known as DUI) may be sealed if your BAC was less than 0.15 percent and the incident did not involve a motor vehicle accident with another person. The wait to apply for first-offense DWI concealment is 2 to 5 years, depending on your circumstances.
Some ONDs are "automatic," but it is not wise to assume that the government process took care of your record. You should check and, if necessary, take action to seal qualifying criminal history.
Expungement can remove convictions as well as some non-conviction records, like documents related to an arrest that did not end with a guilty finding. There may be a waiting period of 180 days to 3 years before you can apply, but the prosecuting attorney may choose to waive the wait time.
Non-conviction expungement cannot be released for any purpose. If questioned about it under oath, you may state only that the matter has been expunged.
In 2021, some firearm offenses became eligible for expungement if the underlying conduct is no longer considered a crime.
A Texas expungement lawyer can help you get a fresh start
When it comes to cleaning up your criminal record, it is a good idea to have an experienced expungement lawyer on your side who's familiar with the Texas criminal justice system. In some cases, even if a judge ordered that you should not be eligible for an OND, it can still be possible to successfully petition for concealment.
That means if you thought you didn't qualify for expungement or a sealed record before, you may now. Texas has passed many new laws updating the process and defining which offenses qualify for concealment. Our law firm can help you find out if you are eligible to apply to seal your record.
To find out how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.