Texas law allows residents to request removal of misdemeanors from their criminal records if they meet certain criteria. Essentially, you can undertake the process only if your arrest did not lead to a conviction. If you successfully completed deferred adjudication probation or probation granted before a case goes to trial, you may qualify to have your records sealed from public view. The record is not removed, but a background check won’t reveal the arrest.
Clearing Your Record in Texas
Removing a criminal charge or arrest from your record is called “expunction.” It may come as a surprise that even if you were found innocent of a crime or the charge was dismissed, the arrest remains on your record unless you obtain a court ruling to have it removed. Potential employers, future landlords and any organizations that run background checks can discover you were once arrested for petty theft, murder, carrying a gun without a permit or any other crime.
Texas law allows expunction of misdemeanors and felonies when:
- You were acquitted of the crime
- You were found innocent after conviction
- You were officially pardoned
- You were charged but the case was dismissed
- The statute of limitations for your crime expired before indictment
- You were arrested but not formally charged
If you were arrested but not charged with a crime, Texas requires that you wait a specific amount of time after your arrest date before you start the expunction process. Those with Class C misdemeanor arrests must wait 180 days before filing. Class A and B misdemeanors require a one-year waiting period. There’s a three-year waiting period for felony arrests.
Sealing Your Record in Texas
An order of nondisclosure exists in Texas law for those individuals who were found guilty, pled guilty, or pled no contest to a criminal charge. When you’re granted a nondisclosure, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies will continue to have access to the record, but members of the general public cannot see the arrest when inquiring about your background.
However, you must meet certain criteria to apply for the order. Class C misdemeanor arrests don’t qualify. Otherwise, the offer extends only to those who were offered, accepted and successfully completed deferred adjudication probation. This type of probation is ordered before a trial. If you proceeded to trial and were found guilty, and then the judge sentenced you to probation, you cannot request that the court grant a nondisclosure order.
Depending on your offense, there’s a waiting period of zero to 10 years before you can seek a nondisclosure order in Texas. Also, you must not have been convicted of any other crime during that waiting period. The judge deciding the case can deny your petition if she feels nondisclosure would not be in the public interest. Individuals convicted of a violent act, such as sexual assault, murder or family violence, generally have a difficult time obtaining a nondisclosure order.
Filing for Expunction or Nondisclosure
The first step is filing a petition, or request, for expunction or nondisclosure with the district court in the county where you were arrested. You can contact the court clerk for information regarding filing fees. The clerk will then schedule a hearing, and you’ll appear before a judge who will decide the case.
Because of the legal complexities involved in obtaining expunction and non-disclosure orders in Texas, it’s strongly recommended you seek legal counsel before filing. The Texas Bar Association frequently sponsors free legal clinics in various Texas jurisdictions for those who meet certain income criteria. More information is available on its website or through your local legal aid organization.