Getting arrested or convicted of a crime in Texas is a mistake that can follow you long past you have served your prison sentence or paid your fine. It will become part of your criminal record and can affect your professional advancement, housing, educational opportunities, credit score, and reputation in the community. Thankfully, Texas has a way for individuals to clear (“expunge”) or seal their criminal record under certain circumstances.
Read below for more information about sealing or expunging your criminal record in Fort Bend.
What Does it Mean to Expunge Your Criminal Record in Texas?
Having your record expunged means that your criminal history record is permanently cleared. Your arrests, charges, court proceedings, convictions, and sentences are removed from your record. After your record is expunged, it is as if it never existed in the first place.
When Can You Expunge Your Criminal Record in Texas?
Expunction is only available in limited circumstances in Texas, including:
- Class C misdemeanors resulting in deferred adjudication, or
- The offense did not result in a conviction, charges were not filed, charges were dismissed, or the person was acquitted or pardoned.
You are not eligible for expunction if you are currently on deferred adjudication or court-ordered probation stemming from the charge. Offenses ending in conviction or regular community supervision can never be cleared or sealed from your criminal history record in Sugar Land.
How Long Does It Take to Expunge Your Record in Texas?
There are minimum waiting periods that you must meet before you can file for an expunction in Texas.
- If the offense is a Class C misdemeanor, you must wait 180 days from the date of your arrest.
- If the offense is a Class B or A misdemeanor, you must wait one year from the date of your arrest.
- If the offense is a felony, you must wait three years from the date of the arrest.
Furthermore, if charges were brought, the statute of limitations must expire for every charge for which you were arrested (not only those you were charged with). For the majority of crimes, the statute of limitations is two or five years. It is important to be aware of this rule so you do not waste time and money filing an early request the court will deny.
After filing your petition, it typically takes the court 30 to 90 days to complete the expunction.
What Does it Mean to Seal Your Record in Texas?
If you are not eligible to expunge your record, the next best thing is sealing your criminal history. In Texas, sealing your record is known as an “Order of Nondisclosure.” Sealing your record means that it is not accessible to the general public, and you are not required to disclose your criminal history on your job or other applications
However, it can still be accessed by certain government entities, criminal justice agencies, and professional licensing boards. Additionally, you must still disclose your record if you are under oath in a criminal proceeding.
When Can You Seal Your Record in Texas?
In general, your record can be sealed if your case was dismissed or deferred. You must have successfully completed your deferred adjudication.
Certain crimes are ineligible for sealing in Texas, including:
- sex offenses,
- family violence,
- aggravated kidnapping,
- human trafficking, and
- injury to a child, a disabled person, or an elderly person.
The waiting period depends on the severity of the offense.
- For most misdemeanors, where there was a fine only, you are eligible for an order of nondisclosure upon dismissal of your case.
- For serious misdemeanors, the waiting period is two years.
- For felonies, the waiting period is five years.
Do You Need an Attorney to Clear or Seal Your Record in Texas?
It is very helpful to have the assistance of an attorney when you are trying to seal or clear your criminal history. A qualified attorney can review your file and tell you whether your record qualifies for expungement or nondisclosure. They will guide you through the process and ensure that you are completing the correct forms. The legal process can be confusing, and simple mistakes can cause costly and lengthy delays.
In addition, after your record is expunged or sealed, your attorney can make sure that the appropriate agencies are aware of the court order (i.e., PublicData.com, Texas Department of Public Safety, FBI, and local police departments).
Your Fort Bend Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have questions about sealing or clearing your criminal record, you should reach out to a qualified Fort Bend criminal defense attorney. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.