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Dismissals, Expunctions & Record Sealing

Criminal records, driving records

Dismissals, expunctions, sealing the record

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Can my criminal record be erased?

You may be eligible to expunge a criminal record if you were accused of a crime and the charges were completely dismissed without you having to serve formal adult probation. If you were convicted of a crime, or served formal probation, the only way to have the record removed is to be granted a pardon by the Governor of Texas. There is very little chance that you will granted a pardon.

Driving records generally show the last five years of your driving history, as well as any accidents or convictions regardless of when they occurred. There is no way to have a driving record erased.

How long do I have to wait to get an Expunction?

Texas law requires a defendant wait out the applicable Statute of Limitations for the accused crime before seeking an expunction.  This means a two year wait for misdemeanor crimes, a four year wait for most felonies, and possibly a 10 year wait for severe felony charges.

However, Texas laws were amended in 2011 to allow for some dismissed cases to be expunged early.  Misdemeamors may now be granted as early as six months after dismissal if the prosecuting authority agrees to the early expunction.  Contact a lawyer in the county where your case existed to find out if the local prosecutor is willing to expunge early.

How do I get an expunction for a criminal record?

You must file a lawsuit in the county where you were arrested/charged and ask permission from the court to erase any and all records related to the criminal accusation. You must prove that the arrest and/or charges did not result in a final conviction and that you did not serve formal probation. The costs will include a filing fee and notification costs to alert DPS and other agencies that you intend to erase the record. On average, you should expect to spend between $1000-1500 for an expunction, which includes the filing fees, notice costs, and attorney fee.

Are there any alternatives to an expunction?

You may be eligible to receive an Order of Nondisclosure and have your criminal record sealed if you successfully completed probation but were not convicted of a crime. This is often known as deferred adjudication and only applies to Class B misdemeanors or worse.

What does it mean to have a record sealed?

An Order of Nondisclosure is the legal term for having a criminal record sealed. Sealing a criminal record from public view is not as complete or final as an expunction, but does prevent the general public from discovering that you were accused of a crime and served probation. A person who was arrested, charged with a crime and served probation without being convicted is not eligible to have the record expunged, but they may be eligible to have it sealed from public disclosure. This can be thought of as locking the criminal record file in a cabinet and only granting certain government agencies and businesses the ability to open the cabinet. The cost for an Order of Nondisclosure is similar to an expunction. 

After expunction, is there any chance someone could find out about my past ?

YES! The internet exists and people’s memories aren’t erased. A private foreign company that purchased your mugshot isn’t likely to remove it because a Texas court tells them to. You can’t force the friend you were arrested with to deny that it ever happened. There is always a chance someone will find out.

Why do I need an expunction if the charges were dismissed?

Erasing the criminal record will make it easier for you to find work, housing, and receive financial loans.  You will be able to deny the occurrence of the arrest and charges in most situations and can honestly say that your record is clean.

Also, Texas law says that, in most circumstances, you can legally deny the incident once it's been expunged.  Applying for jobs with private companies, renting an apartment, buying a car, and applying for a credit card are examples of situations in which you could deny that the arrest/charge ever occurred. 

Who can still see my record once it's been sealed?

The list of agencies and public offices that can still access a non-disclosed criminal record is fairly lengthy.  Click HERE for a full list.