Escaping the burden of having a criminal record in Texas

 
 

Certain persons in Texas may escape their criminal pasts by through expunction or nondisclosure orders.

If you have been arrested or have any sort of criminal record, your day-to-day life can become much more complicated. In today's world where criminal background checks are routine matters, having a criminal record can mean the difference between being offered a job and unemployment. Additionally, both landlords and financial institutions routinely check backgrounds of applicants, so any unsavory past can mean the denial of a housing or loan application.

Fortunately for some, an arrest or criminal record does not have to hang over them their entire lives. Texas law allows certain individuals the right to keep their arrests or criminal records to themselves through expunction and nondisclosure orders.

Expunction

Expunction (also called expungement) is a remedy where the offender's criminal record is essentially destroyed or deleted by law enforcement. The right of expunction is one controlled by statute. Although most convictions cannot be removed from a person's criminal record, Texas statutory law allows certain individuals to remove arrests, criminal charges and certain convictions. Under the law, records that are eligible for expunction include:

• Arrests for crimes that never resulted in criminal charges

• Dismissed criminal charges

• Certain juvenile offenses (alcohol possession or failure to attend school)

• Certain convictions involving minors

• Convictions that were overturned on appeal or pardoned

Even those that qualify for expunction of their records do not always receive it. Courts will not grant expunctions to those receiving deferred adjudication, probation, or who have been convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest that is to be expunged. However, for those that do qualify, expunction is a powerful remedy that allows the applicant to forever deny that they were ever arrested or convicted, as the expunged criminal activity is forever destroyed and will not show up on background checks or be accessible by the government.

Nondisclosure orders

Those that are ineligible for expunction may be able to obtain a nondisclosure order from the court. This type of order prevents employers, landlords and other members of the general public from getting access to the criminal records subject to the order. However, unlike expunction, the records are not permanently destroyed and may be accessed by government agencies and are admissible in future court actions.

Under Texas law, those that have received deferred adjudication-when the judge withholds a finding of guilt, provided that the offender keeps a clean record for one to two years-may apply once they have completed the deferred adjudication process. Additionally, the following requirements must be met:

• The offense in question must not be for domestic violence, sex crimes or violent crimes.

• The applicant must complete a waiting period of up to ten years following the completion of deferred adjudication. The length depends on the offense.

• During the waiting period, the applicant must not have received any convictions, except for offenses punishable by a fine only (e.g. speeding tickets).

If the court grants the nondisclosure order, it is no longer necessary to disclose the affected criminal history to employers, landlords and virtually everyone else in the general public. However, as stated above, the criminal history may potentially be used against you if you apply for certain government jobs.

An attorney can assist you

The law surrounding expunction and nondisclosure orders is quite complicated. As a result, it is important to have the benefit of advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney, if you are interested in pursuing either. An attorney can help maximize your changes of success.

Keywords: expunction, orders of nondisclosure