Maybe it was that ticket for excessive speeding or the minor in possession of alcohol conviction from college, and now you’re hoping to have that Texas misdemeanor conviction expunged, or removed, from your criminal record. If you’ve been arrested, but not convicted of a misdemeanor, you have more options, but in Texas, the circumstances that allow for expungement after a conviction are fairly limited. In short, Texas courts may only grant an expunction if there was a conviction for certain misdemeanors committed as a juvenile or for convictions that were later pardoned or overturned. For most expunction-eligible arrests or convictions, you must file a Petition for Expunction in the court where the offense or arrest occurred and attend an expunction hearing.
What Is an Expunction?
Before embarking on the expunction process, you’re probably wondering exactly what it means to expunge a criminal record, and perhaps most importantly, do expunged cases show up on a background check? All information pertaining to an expunged conviction or arrest is permanently removed from your criminal record, so an expunged record does not show up on a background check. If you are granted an expunction, the court will order the conviction, as well as the complaints, verdicts, law enforcement files or any other records held by any agencies or organizations pertaining to your criminal conviction to be destroyed. Anyone seeking the information will no longer be able to access that record. Legally, unless you are under oath, you are able to deny the incident ever happened. For example, after expunction, you are not obligated to disclose the conviction on job or apartment applications. Even under oath, with an expunged record you are able to simply state the matter was expunged, but are not required to give details.
Can Misdemeanors Be Expunged in Texas?
Texas law does allow for expunction of misdemeanor convictions in these instances:
- If you were convicted of a misdemeanor punishable by fine only or of a violation of a penal ordinance of a political subdivision before your 17th birthday, under Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, you may be eligible to have that record expunged.
- Minors convicted of a tobacco-related offense may apply for expungement if they successfully completed a court-ordered tobacco awareness program or tobacco-related community service.
- If you were convicted of a violation of the alcoholic beverage code as a minor, you may apply for an expunction after you turn 21.
- Truancy convictions may be expunged on or after the day you turn 18.
With all of these juvenile convictions, you will not be eligible if you have more than one conviction on your record. Finally, convictions that were later pardoned or overturned are eligible for expunction.
Outside of these limited circumstances, expunction is reserved for cases where there was an arrest, but no conviction. Specifically, Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provides four reasons for expunction:
- If you were charged with a crime and then found not guilty by a jury, you are qualified for an expunction.
- If you were arrested and no charges were brought, and the statute of limitation has expired, you may seek expunction.
- If charges were brought but dismissed, and the statute of limitation has expired, or if there was no probable cause that you committed the crime you were charged with, you can seek to have the record of the arrest and case expunged.
- If you received and successfully completed a deferred adjudication on a Class C misdemeanor, you can get an expunction.
Class C misdemeanors are cases where the fine is limited to $500 and there is no jail time. Offenses include traffic tickets, disorderly conduct, gambling, petty theft and public intoxication. Deferred adjudication is community supervision, or probation, that is ordered by a judge. A sentence of probation allows a defendant to plead guilty or no contest to a crime without the conviction being placed on the record if the period of supervision is successfully completed. For misdemeanor cases, the probation period is no more than two years.
Those with misdemeanor convictions not eligible for expunction may still be able to obtain an Order for Nondisclosure, which won’t erase the conviction, but will limit access to the criminal records.
Petition for Expunction in Juvenile Cases
For an expunction of a juvenile conviction, you’ll need to wait a minimum of 30 days after your case is completed to file the petition. In Texas, the court is required to provide you with information about your eligibility for expunction at the time of your conviction. Before filing, you should gather the necessary information and documents. For a juvenile conviction, you’ll need a copy of your case file to submit with your petition for expunction. There are form applications for expunction in juvenile cases, which can be found on the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center website. Be sure to find the form that is relevant to the kind of conviction you want to have expunged, as the information needed for the petition can vary. Fill out the petition with the relevant information, including name, offense, date of conviction and case number.
Once you have prepared your petition, you must have the document notarized. Every Texas county has its own rules for filing a petition for expunction, so consult your county’s court for the exact procedures. Generally, you can either file in person or by mail. The cost to expunge a record in Texas is a $30 nonrefundable filing fee for a juvenile expunction. You will need to pay this fee when you submit the petition.
Petition for Expunction in Adult Cases
If you were tried and acquitted of a crime after a trial, you do not have to file a petition, but instead may request an expunction at the trial court level. The trial court will then enter an order of expunction no later than 30 days after your acquittal.
Otherwise, in an adult case, after you have determined that your pardoned or overturned conviction or your arrest record may be eligible for expunction, you will first need to order a copy of your criminal history record from the Texas Department of Public Safety. If applicable, you will also need a certified copy of the Order of Dismissal from the clerk’s office in the court where your case was dismissed. Next, you’ll need to prepare a Petition for Dismissal. The petition must include:
- Petitioner’s full name, sex, race, date of birth, driver’s license number, Social Security number and address at the time of arrest.
- The charge, the date the offense was alleged to have occurred and the date of arrest
- The name of the county or municipality where the arrest took place and the name of the agency that made the arrest.
- The case number and court of the county of the offense.
A list of all agencies or organizations that the petitioner believes has records or files subject to expunction, along with their physical or email addresses. Sample forms that meet the legal requirements for different types of expunction cases are available from the nonprofit Texas Law Help.
Once the petition and other documents are ready, they can either be filed online with E-File Texas or in person with the district court, justice court or a municipal court in the county where the arrest took place or where the offense was alleged to have occurred. For adult cases, the cost to expunge a record in Texas starts with a $100 filing fee. This fee is waived if the expunction is sought within 30 days of an acquittal or may be returned if ordered by the court. If you file in person, you will receive a court file stamp on your copies of the documents, which indicates the date and time that you filed the petition. Send one file-stamped copy to the state prosecutor for your case by certified mail with a return receipt request.
What Happens After Filing a Petition for Expunction?
When you file your petition, ask the clerk for a hearing date. The hearing date will be set at least 30 days out to give the court time to notify the agencies and organizations named in the petition of the hearing. Bring proof that you sent a file-stamped copy of your petition to the state prosecutor. Also bring a prepared order directing the expunction of your records. You can find sample orders on the Texas Law Help website.
After the hearing, if the court finds that you have met all of the requirements for expunction, it will grant an Order of Expunction. Expunction is not up to the discretion of the court, so if you have followed the filing rules and you have an expunction-eligible arrest or conviction, the order will be granted. If the expunction is ordered, you must then file the signed order with the court clerk’s office. Once filed, agencies have 60 days to comply with the order and destroy all relevant records and files.
Orders of Nondisclosure for Other Misdemeanor Convictions
For misdemeanor convictions that are not eligible for expunction, there is a possibility that a court may grant an Order of Nondisclosure, which states that public entities cannot disclose your criminal records. Similar to an expunction, with a Order of Nondisclosure the criminal record covered by the order will not show up on a background check. Likewise, you would not be legally required to disclose any information about your criminal background on job applications. However, unlike an expunction, these files and records still exist. Despite an Order of Nondisclosure, law enforcement agencies are still able to share your criminal record with other law enforcement agencies, and criminal justice agencies can share your information for criminal justice or regulatory licensing purposes.
Changes to the Texas nondisclosure law went into effect in 2017, making some misdemeanor convictions eligible for nondisclosure orders. Misdemeanors for driving or operating watercraft under the influence of alcohol by a minor, flying or boating while intoxicated, assembling or operating an amusement ride while intoxicated and organized crime are not eligible for an Order of Nondisclosure. You are also not eligible if you have committed other serious crimes. To determine whether you can pursue an Order of Nondisclosure, look at Texas Government Code, Section 411.
Similar to filing for an expunction, you must file a Petition for Nondisclosure with the court and pay a filing fee. The specific procedure for filing depends on the statute your conviction falls under. You can find model petitions and model orders for each statute, along with filing instructions for nondisclosure on the Texas Judicial Branch website. Unlike expunction, nondisclosure orders are up to the discretion of the court, so even if you are eligible and meet the filing requirements, you still may not be granted nondisclosure.
To expunge eligible arrest records or convictions in Texas, you must file a Petition for Expunction in the court where the offense or arrest occurred and attend an expunction hearing.
- Texas Constitution and Statutes: Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 42A.
- Texas Constitution and Statutes: Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 45
- Texas Juvenile Justice Department: Texas Juvenile Justice System Files and Records
- Texas Constitution and Statutes: Juvenile Justice Code, Chapter 58
- Texas Constitution and Statutes: Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 55
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Criminal Records Service
- Texas Law Help: Instructions & Forms for Completing a Petition for Expunction of Criminal Records
- Texas Young Lawyers Association: Expunctions in Texas
- Houston Texas Government: Juvenile Expunction Information
- Texas Municipal Courts Education Center: Expunctions Bench Book 2017
- Texas Judicial Branch: Orders of Nondisclosure
Sally Brooks is a writer living in New York City with her chunky toddler and patient husband. She graduated magna cum laude from the University Cincinnati College of Law and her work has been featured in Jurist and the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.