If you are arrested or tried for a crime in Texas, you know how the arrest can change your life, even if you are ultimately acquitted of the charges. Many jobs and rental applications require you to disclose any arrests or criminal activity in your background and a less than stellar record can seriously hinder housing and employment opportunities available to the public at large. Thanks to the process of expungement, or expunction, there is a solution to this issue.
Fortunately, under Texas law people who are cleared of charges, as well as some charged with certain minor crimes, are eligible to have their criminal record expunged (or at least partially protected from public disclosure). This means that the criminal records associated with your arrest or prosecution are destroyed, allowing you to deny that you were ever arrested or prosecuted on future background checks and escape minor crime stigma in your everyday life.
RIGHT TO EXPUNGEMENT
The right to expungement (also called expunction) in Texas is dictated by Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Under the code, if you are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor, but were found not guilty in a subsequent prosecution (or the charges were dropped), you are automatically eligible to ask the court to expunge the arrest from your record.
In addition to those cleared of criminal charges, expungement is also available to those who are convicted of Class C misdemeanors, but receive deferred adjudication. These are the most minor types of crimes such as criminal trespass, petty theft, disorderly conduct and certain traffic violations that are punishable by a fine but no jail time.
ORDERS FOR NON-DISCLOSURE
Those who are granted deferred adjudication for all felonies or misdemeanors other than Class C misdemeanors are not eligible for expungement under Texas law. However, such individuals may ask that their records be sealed under a non-disclosure order. Since criminal records are public records, any person or company may access them. Records subject to a non-disclosure order are no longer considered public records, so private individuals and companies may no longer access them. As a result, if you have a non-disclosure order, you may deny that the arrest occurred on employment or most other applications.
However, unlike expungement, non-disclosure orders do not protect the record of your arrest from the state. As a result, your arrest would still show up on criminal history searches conducted by law enforcement, state agencies and certain professions that are regulated by the state (e.g. state nursing homes and medical and legal boards).
CALL AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY
Expungement and orders for non-disclosure are intended to protect those who make (and learn from) a minor mistake from having to pay for it their entire lives. To learn more about the process, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can fully advise you on your eligibility and will work to give you the best possibility of success.