The following is a video transcript.
Your Criminal Record Will Haunt You
Were you arrested for a crime, but never formally charged? Charged with a crime that was later dismissed? Arrested and charged for the crime, but you were subsequently found not guilty by a jury of your peers? Or, convicted of a crime but later pardoned? While you may have won your case, the hurdles down the road can be daunting. You might think you’re off the hook and can move forward with your life, but you are mistaken.
Why? Because you have a criminal record which could haunt you for the rest of your life. Criminal arrests and convictions can have severe consequences, regardless of the outcome of your case or arrest. While your charges may have disappeared, your record did not. Even if your case is subsequently dismissed or you’re acquitted, your record is still out there available to the public eye.
Law enforcement agencies and courts maintain records of all your arrests, charges, proceedings, and dispositions, and unfortunately, these records are public. And nowadays, with advancements in technology, your records aren’t just subject to those conducting criminal background checks. Your records are generally accessible by anyone who’s willing to pay a small fee or conduct a search on Google. Let’s discuss the ways to prevent the public from accessing your criminal record: expunctions and non-disclosures.
What is an expunction? An “expunction” is an order by a court that permanently removes and destroys any information concerning an arrest, charge, or conviction from an individual’s record. When a record is “expunged”, all the information regarding the criminal event is erased from your record, giving you the ability to deny the event ever occurred. You can act like it never happened. There’s no record of it.
This sounds great, right? Why doesn’t everyone get an expunction after they’ve been arrested or charged with a crime? Well, expunctions aren’t available to everyone and are limited to particular situations. Most commonly, expunctions are available to those who have had their cases dismissed, been tried and acquitted of an offense, or convicted but subsequently pardoned.
Expunctions are not available to you if you’ve received deferred adjudication or probation, unless it’s a Class C misdemeanor; were convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest that you want expunged; or you have been convicted or charged with another offense arising out of the same “criminal episode” as the offense you wish to expunge.
Once you’ve determined you’re eligible, you can begin the process of obtaining an expunction. First things, first: you need to file a petition of expunction. These petitions serve as a request to the court to issue an order of expunction. Filing a petition for expunction requires specific information. It can be tricky.
After your petition is filed, the court will most likely schedule a hearing to determine if you’re eligible for an expunction. If successful, the court will sign an order of expunction which will then be submitted to all public entities and organizations that file information pertaining to the expunged offense, and order them to delete or destroy such information.
When You’re Not Eligible…
If you’re not eligible for an expunction, that’s okay. You may still have another option available to you. Under Texas law, you may still qualify for what’s called an “Order of Nondisclosure,” a procedure that’s very similar to an expunction. In most cases, you’ll be eligible for an Order of Nondisclosure if you’ve received and successfully completed deferred adjudication. Like an expunction, an Order of Nondisclosure is an order from the court instructing specific organizations and agencies not to disclose certain aspects of your criminal record. However, unlike an expunction, an Order of Nondisclosure does not destroy or remove the information from your record, but instead seals or shields the information from the general public. Unfortunately, this means that government agencies and organizations still may have access to your information and can still keep copies. However, you can now legally avoid disclosure of the arrest or charge to friends, employers and other private citizens who don’t have access to these records.
If you have any questions concerning expunctions, non-disclosures, or anything else, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.