You’ve heard the saying “crime doesn’t pay” before.
Not only can a criminal charge result in jail time, fines, probation,
and legal costs, but a criminal record can follow you around for a lifetime.
Future employers and landlords will ask about a criminal history for liability
reasons, and by law you must inform them of any of your previous charges.
A criminal history, even if you are a first-time offender, will bar you
from potential job prospects, mortgage applications, and even apartment
rentals. However, you don’t have to live with the criminal charge
for the rest of your life with a legal process called
What is Expungement and Why is it Important?
Expungement sounds like some strange and difficult legal process, but trust that it
can be a lifesaver. Expungement happens when the finding of guilty in
a charge is annulled, vacated, or withdrawn. Essentially, it can seal
your arrest and conviction record permanently and keep it from impeding
on the rest of your life. Expungement laws were put into place in order
to incentivize rehabilitation, add incentives for acceptance of
plea bargains, and keeping the punishment of the offense in proportion with the degree
of the crime. The laws also allow rehabilitated citizens to integrate
back into society. The general need for expungement is greater than ever
as our society runs more and more background checks as concerns of security
and safety skyrocket. The availability of such reports has significantly
increased as businesses now only have to pay an affordable fee to receive
them. After your records have been expunged, you are allowed to legally
deny that you were ever arrested, even to employers, higher education
campuses, and landlords. It’s as if they never happened. Expungement
offers a fresh start by virtually erasing criminal charges from your record
and makes them unavailable to almost everyone.
Who Can Still See My Record?
In some jurisdictions, your expunged conviction will still be accessible
to certain law enforcement, government agencies, licensing boards, or
sentencing judges, but not to the general public. However, if you plan
on applying for a position in public office or any job that requires a
high security clearance, you are obligated to confess to your expunged
crime. This rule also extends to anyone who wants to enlist in the military.
If you fail to reveal your expunged record when applying to the Armed
Forces, then you will be immediately disqualified and may even be liable
for fraudulent enlistment. Lastly, if you are being questioned under oath,
you must not deny the charge. For the most part, though, you’ll
go through your day-to-day life with as someone with a clean criminal record.
Am I Eligible for a Fresh Start?
The considerations a judge takes in processing your expungement request
can vary, if your conviction is viewed as minor or as a relatively inferior
crime, you can often qualify for expungement. You may be required to fulfill
the following to be expunged:
Wait a specified amount of time after your conviction
Not exceed a specified amount of prior incidents (individuals with several
prior convictions are not likely to be expunged).
Completed your sentence or probation, or paid any fines without incident
Be charged with a minor or inferior crime (If you were convicted of a crime
such as rape, sexual battery, a felony or first degree misdemeanor in
which the victim was a minor, or any federal crime, you can kiss chances
of expungement goodbye. Also, immigrants cannot have their crimes expunged.)
Any other requirements within your jurisdiction
In Texas, you can easily expunge records of your arrest if you were found
not guilty or if the crime was a class C misdemeanor if you received deferred
adjudication. Deferred adjudication is simply a plea deal in which the
defendant pleads “guilty” or “no contest” in exchange
for reduced punishments like community service, probation, or rehabilitation
programs. Once you’ve completed deferred adjudication, you can get
your charge expunged or get an Order of Nondisclosure.
What About Juvenile Offenses?
People who were convicted in juvenile courts may have an easier time in
general with expungement. Once the person has reached the age of 17/18
and hasn’t committed any other crimes and has stayed out of trouble
with the law, many states automatically require expungement of juvenile
records when kids reach a certain age. These laws are to allow kids have
a fresh start when they become an adult and protect them from the negative
effects of their criminal record follow them around for the rest of their
life. In Texas, typical charges that
minors can get expunged are any misdemeanors that are punishable by fine, crimes
committed under the Alcoholic Beverage Code, and crimes committed for
Failure to Attend School under teh Texas Education Code.
How Do I Get It? Do I Need A Lawyer?
Every state has laws in place that allows citizens to expunge their records.
In Texas, chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure contains
all of the procedures and requirements to expunge your records. However,
you should contact a licensed attorney who has experience in expungement
and knows how to navigate the statute. Note that you can get additional
information petitioning for expungement by approaching the county’s
criminal court in which the arrest was made.
Every jurisdiction requires you to to first complete your sentence. This
means you need to have fully paid all associated fines, served all jail
time, completed probation, taken all of the court-appointed classes, and
must not have been convicted of another crime during rehabilitation. All
punishments associated with the crime need to be completed, and you should
be in good standing with the court.
Then, you must draft a file a motion in order to ask to reopen your case
and change the finding to “not guilty”. This is another instance
where a lawyer will come in handy. If you have multiple convictions, each
one must be filed separately. The rest depends on the jurisdiction that
you were convicted, but in Texas, expungement laws can be complex and
difficult to navigate without an attorney. You are not required to have
an attorney to pursue expungement, but they can be helpful in guiding
you through the process.
If you or a loved one need a criminal charge expunged or simply want to
explore your options,
contact Austin expungement
attorneys today at
Carroll Troberman, PLLC for a free consultation.