How to expunge a criminal record

People with a criminal record understand the burden of a criminal record. A teenager’s one stupid mistake can follow them wherever they go. A criminal record may compromise rental agreements, loan applications and even prevent a citizen from exercising their right to vote. Even a misdemeanor can have a devastating impact on a person’s entire life.

Thankfully, people have options. Expunging a charge from a criminal record is challenging, but available to those looking for a fresh start.

How to remove a conviction

Each state has different requirements and expectations for expunging records. Michigan law calls it “setting aside a conviction” while California allows people to “clean their record with a dismissal.” Some states, like Florida, only expunge a record if the court dismissed the case.

Texas law will only expunge a Class C misdemeanor without a conviction and includes cases dismissed through deferred action, cases with charges dropped or dismissed, an acquittal by a jury, after receiving a pardon, after winning an acquittal in an appeals court, or after completing the Pretrial Diversion Program.

An individual whose crimes fall into one of these categories can file what Texas calls an expunction petition with the appropriate district court. This petition should include identifying information, description of the offense and details of the arrest. If charged, include the case number, court information, the date, and the resolution. As with all government documents, errors in these documents can set the process back indefinitely, but a lawyer familiar with Texas criminal law can help.

The court will then grant a hearing and, if the case falls within the above requirements, award the petitioner an expunction. After a judge signs the Order of Expunction and sends it to all involved agencies and organizations, authorities will delete the records or return them to the court.

A lawyer can help

Those looking to clean their records have more success hiring a local lawyer familiar with Texas criminal law. An attorney can help assemble the necessary documents and double-check them for errors. A lawyer can also help explore other options, including securing a nondisclosure order or sealing one’s record.