Dismissals, Expunctions & Records Sealing
All arrests and tickets create criminal records that indicate the date of incident, any crimes you were accused of, and the outcome. If your case is dismissed and you take no further steps, the record of your arrest or citation, a criminal charge, and ultimate dismissal will be a public record that anyone in the world can access and read. You cannot deny being arrested. If you want to have the records erased from public records (known as an expunction), you must spend money and ask for your records to be erased. To be eligible for an expunction, you cannot have been convicted of any crime related to the arrest, and you cannot have served formal probation.
If you are arrested or charged with a crime, the best possible outcome is to have the case dismissed from the court. Getting a case dismissed is similar to putting the court's paperwork in a trash can. The record is not destroyed and can be easily found by anyone looking through the trash. Even if the court dismisses the case, the police still have a copy of the ticket, DPS has a record of it, it can show up on a background check, the Sheriff still has your mugshot and booking documents. You have to go through a formal expunction process for the case to be erased.
After your charges are dismissed from the court and the statute of limitations has expired for your case, you can ask the court to expunge the arrest record and court files. Getting a case expunged is like taking the trash can containing the dismissed case outside and burning it. All official records are destroyed.
If you were not convicted but did serve formal probation (ex: deferred adjudication), you may be eligible to have the record sealed (formally an Order of Nondisclosure) from public disclosure. Getting a record sealed is like putting a lid on the trash can. Like prosecutors or police departments, people with authority can still open the can and look inside, but ordinary employers and people cannot.
Criminal records are written logs about penal code crimes that you've been arrested for, charges filed against you, and the outcomes in the court of the arrests and charges. Criminal records are public, which means that anyone in the world can pay a small fee to find out if you have been in trouble. Your criminal records can be used to deny you employment, housing, and financial loans. Criminal records last forever unless you request and are granted an expunction.
Driving records are written logs about transportation laws you have been cited for breaking, like speeding, driving without insurance, or switching lanes without signaling. Driving records are also public records and often used by insurance companies to raise or lower your car insurance rate. Driving records generally show the last five years of your driving history and any accidents or convictions regardless of when they occurred. There is no way to have a driving record erased.
You may be eligible to expunge a criminal record if you were accused of a crime and the charges were dismissed entirely 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 be 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.
Texas law requires a defendant to wait out the applicable Statute of Limitations for the accused crime before seeking an expunction. The statute of limitations means a two-year wait for misdemeanor crimes, a four-year wait for most felonies, and possibly a ten-year wait for severe felony charges.
However, Texas law now allows for some dismissed cases to be expunged early. Misdemeanors 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 determine if the local prosecutor is willing to expunge early.
You must file a petition in the county where you were arrested and charged to ask permission from the court to erase all records related to the criminal accusation.
Class C Misdemeanors (tickets): Sometimes, a case is dismissed outright, and you would need to talk to the prosecutor or judge about how long before your case would be eligible for an expunction. However, in most cases, you need to have received a Deferred Disposition for your offense and not have another similar or greater charge within six months of pleading to the charge. You will need to file a petition and, in some Texas courts, include:
- A DPS criminal background check.
- Fingerprint card.
- Certified copies of the dismissal order to be filed alongside the petition/order.
- The court filing fee.
Other Texas courts just require the petition and court filing fee (typically around $100).
Class B Misdemeanors or Higher: You must prove that the arrest and charges did not result in a final conviction and that you did not serve formal probation (although there is an exception if you received a Pre-trial Intervention). The costs will include a filing fee (typically around $290) and notification costs to alert DPS and other agencies that you intend to erase the record. On average, if you hire an attorney, you should expect to spend around $1500+ for an expunction, which includes the filing fees, notice costs, and attorney fees. If you wish to file the petition on your own (and save about $1,100), it is a fair amount of work but can be done.
Contact the AFS office for assistance with an expunction.
AFS can not assist with expunctions or criminal records from other states as AFS attorneys are only licensed in Texas.
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. The completion of the probation period is known as deferred adjudication and only applies to Class B misdemeanors or higher.
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 arrested, charged with a crime, and served probation without being convicted is not eligible to have the record expunged. Still, they may be eligible to have it sealed from public disclosure. Sealing the record 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
YES! The internet exists, and people's memories are not erased. A private foreign company that purchased your mugshot is not likely to remove it because a Texas court tells them to. In addition, federal agencies are not required to destroy the records of arrest or charges in the agency database. 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.
Regardless of legal status, noncitizens are usually required by immigration agencies to reveal arrests, charges, and tickets regardless of the expunction when completing immigration-related forms and applications. Noncitizens MUST consult with an immigration attorney before completing any immigration applications or answering questions by immigration officials.
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 arrest and charges in most situations and can honestly say that your record is clean.
Texas law states that, in most circumstances, you can legally deny the incident once it has 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.
However, federal government agencies can retain criminal records in the federal agency database. Employment applications with federal government agencies, immigration forms, and applications for state or federal professional licenses may require you to reveal charges when applying for employment regardless of an expungement. Please consult an attorney if you have any questions.
It is crucial that Non-citizens, regardless of legal status, who obtain an expungement, consult with an immigration attorney before completing the expungement as it may be necessary to keep a personal copy of their records for immigration purposes before records are destroyed.
The list of agencies and public offices that can still access a non-disclosed criminal record is relatively lengthy. Click HERE for a full list.