An arrest, even when it does not result in a conviction, stays on an individual’s criminal record indefinitely. This can hurt the person's likelihood of securing a loan, getting a job, finding a place to live or having the opportunity to pursue higher education. However, the individual may be eligible for expungement, the legal process through which an arrest is removed from his criminal record. An individual pursuing a misdemeanor or felony expungement in Texas can do this by filing specific Texas expungement forms with the county or district court that handled the original case.
Determine Eligibility for Expungement in Texas
The only individuals who are eligible for expungement in Texas are individuals who have been arrested and for whom charges were not filed or for whom charges were filed, but then later dismissed. It does not matter whether the arrest or charge was for a misdemeanor or a felony. Typically, convictions cannot be expunged from criminal records – the process of removing a conviction from an individual’s criminal record is known as record sealing. The only time a convicted individual is eligible for expungement in Texas is if she was convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, received deferred adjudication and completed community supervision.
An individual who would otherwise qualify for expungement in Texas cannot have an arrest expunged if:
- She has other pending charges.
- She was released on conditional discharge under the Controlled Substances Act.
- She failed to appear for trial after being released on bail following the arrest.
Complete All Texas Expungement Forms
The primary form for pursuing an expungement is a Petition for Expunction of Criminal Records. The individual seeking the expungement can download a copy of this form or obtain it from the county or district court. There are two versions of this document; when pursuing expungement, a filer must complete and submit the correct one for his case. The two versions of the form are:
- Petition for Expunction of Criminal Records (Charges Dismissed or Quashed)
- Petition for Expunction of Criminal Records (Charges Not Filed)
The person seeking expungement must completely fill out the petition and provide: all personal and contact information; information about the arrest for which he is seeking expungement; other arrests on his criminal record; and the law enforcement agencies involved in the arrest for which he is seeking a misdemeanor or felony expungement in Texas. Additionally, he must provide information about:
- Time spent in jail related to the arrest.
- The court where the complaint was filed and the court where the case was prosecuted, if they are different.
- Any counseling or education services received.
- Completed pretrial diversion programs.
- Names of any officials who may have a record of the arrest.
If a criminal charge was issued against the filer, he must submit a copy of the order dismissing the charge. He must also provide a copy of his criminal record, which can be obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Before submitting his Texas expungement forms to the court, the petitioner must also sign the unsworn declaration form stating that the information he provided is correct.
File Documents With the Court
After completing the documents for a misdemeanor or felony expungement in Texas, the filer submits them to the court. This can be done online or at the district clerk’s office in the county where the petitioner was either arrested or allegedly committed the offense. After submitting the documents to the county clerk, she receives two copies of the petition with the date and time stamped on them. She sends one copy to the state prosecutor.
The cost to file a Petition for Expunction of Criminal Records varies by county. If the individual seeking expungement cannot afford the filing fee, he can request that it be waived by filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.
After the individual files the expungement documents, she schedules a hearing of the case. At the hearing, the judge considers the request and any objections filed by law enforcement or other parties. If the judge approves the expungement, he signs an Order of Expunction. This is the document that tells all government agencies to destroy records of the arrest, erasing it from the filer’s criminal record.
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