Perhaps you made a mistake when you were younger and now you have a criminal record following you, rearing its head every time you apply for a job or an apartment, or even volunteer. This can even happen without a conviction. You keep waiting for it to go away, but it doesn’t. That’s because you must request the court clear your record.
Texas has two methods for doing this: expunction (also called expungement) and a petition for non-disclosure.
Expunction is the more difficult process to go through. Not everyone is eligible for expunction. Eligibility requirements include the following criteria:
- You were arrested and the court dismissed your case, or the court tried you, but then acquitted you at trial or you were convicted and later pardoned.
- After your arrest, the court released you and failed to convict you and now enough time has elapsed that either the statute of limitations has passed for the charge or another time period depending on the type of charge.
- You cannot have previously received an expunction of your record. You are also ineligible if you tried to flee the jurisdiction after your arrest.
If you succeed in having your record expunged, the court wipes your record clean and orders all evidence of the arrest destroyed. You may claim you have never been arrested or charged with a crime. Anyone running a background check on your criminal history will not find anything.
Petition for nondisclosure
If you have completed the requirements for a deferred adjudication, you may petition the criminal court to ask that they seal your record regarding that particular case.
The record still exists, however. Government agencies will still be able to find the record, although the public, including potential employers, cannot see it. Legally, you cannot say the police have never arrested you.
Not all cases are eligible for deferred adjudication and an order for non-disclosure. In addition, deferred adjudication does not make you eligible for expunction.
Sealing of juvenile records
Note that Texas courts now seal juvenile records automatically in most cases. You do not need to petition the court to seal a juvenile record, as long as the case meets criteria.
A criminal record can interfere with many areas of your life. You may be eligible to clear your criminal record using one of these methods, however, making your future much brighter.