Legal mistakes made in the past can haunt you for the rest of your life. Your legal history can be accessed online by potential employers, neighbors, financial institutions, and even romantic partners. The stress of having an arrest on your record can be life-changing. Approximately 5.17 million people in the United States were dealing with the consequences of felony convictions in 2020.
If you are one of these people, you are not alone and you may be interested to know that here is a way to erase everything, start over, and do things differently. In Texas, those with problematic legal histories may be able to get a fresh start by getting rid of the stigma attached to their criminal record by having their felony expunged. Expunging a felony in Texas or not disclosing one’s records can alleviate the burden of the stigma of a criminal record, however, not everyone qualifies. So, understanding the rules for expunging a felony is crucial. Discover how Texas expungement and non-disclosure laws work, as this may be a life-changing process for you or someone you love.
Do I Qualify for Record Expunction in Texas?
Many people do not realize they may qualify for expungement as it is not specifically mentioned in the constitution and may not realize they are entitled to it.
Expungement is a statutory criminal procedure. To qualify for an expunction of criminal records in Texas, you must meet certain requirements:
- You must have been arrested or wrongly arrested;
- The charge you want to erase must have been a misdemeanor or felony; and
- You cannot have been convicted or served probation.
You may not qualify for an expunction if you were convicted of the charge, however some exceptions do exist including if your conviction was later reversed. If you are acquitted or if you were pardoned of the offense, you might be able to have misdemeanors expunged along with the felony charges.
Petitioners must meet one of the above requirements in order to submit a petition form. If you think you qualify, consult a lawyer who specializes in expunction.
It is important to note that detainees on community supervision are ineligible to have their criminal records expunged under state law. One exception is deferred adjudication, which refers to a different type of probation in Texas that allows you to keep your conviction off your record. You may be placed on probation rather than a finding of guilt if you plead guilty or entered a no-contest plea to the charges.
How Long Does the Expungement Process Take?
The first step to having your record expunged is to file a petition to get your criminal record expunged and appear in court. Expunction petitions can only be filed after the statute of limitations has expired or after the waiting period has expired. Typically, it takes a month from when you file to when you get your expungement hearing. During the hearing, the court may grant the expungement, but the decision may not be registered for up to six months later.
In the event that you are not eligible for expungement, you may still be able to limit access to your criminal record by requesting an “order of non-disclosure” from the court. Once granted, your criminal record is sealed from the general public and only certain government agencies can view it.
Texas Felony Expungement Law
Individuals seek to have a felony expunged in Texas in order to seal or erase their criminal record. This is especially important for those who have been wrongfully arrested or charged with a crime as a felony on your record can make it difficult for you to get a loan, a job, or even rent a home.
Even if a felony arrest does not result in a conviction, it can still cause personal and legal problems. The Texas expungement process allows individuals to officially claim that they never committed the felony. The act of erasing a record essentially wipes the slate clean, liberating those with a criminal record. Records of proceedings and files will also be destroyed as part of the expungement process.
What Charges Can Be Expunged?
Expungement is possible for the following scenarios:
- Felony charges have been dropped or dismissed without action;
- An individual was acquitted of the crime after going to trial;
- An innocent verdict was found by the court after an initial conviction; or
- An individual was pardoned for the offense.
Expungement petitions can only be filed after the statute of limitations or applicable waiting period has expired, if the charges were dropped, or the case was never brought forward.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Felony Expunged in Texas?
The cost of expunging a felony is generally higher than that of a misdemeanor. Typically, the cost of expunging a felony will be at least $1,000 but it may reach as high as $2,500. Expunging misdemeanors typically costs $1,000 or less.
For any record expungement or expunction, a filing fee of $300 applies and is a required part of the expungement process. In Texas, expungements typically cost around $1,500 on average. On top of the fees associated with the actual expungement, a lawyer can charge as much as $3,000 in order to expunge a criminal record.
How Do You Get a Felony Off Your Record in Texas?
You may have difficulty filing for an expunction if you’re not familiar with how to expunge a felony in Texas. A criminal lawyer can help if you’re unfamiliar with the process. First and foremost, when you commit felony offenses, you are typically required to wait three years before you can file an expunction. When this time has passed, you may file the expunction in the country where law enforcement arrested you. The Department of Public Safety will also require that you provide appropriate identification and/or a fingerprint card.
After you file all the paperwork, the clerk will set a date for your hearing. The hearing usually happens 30 days or more after you file all the paperwork. You can ensure that everything is in order when you file your criminal case with an attorney.
There are many crimes that carry severe consequences, and others that are less serious. Crimes are typically designated into one of tw...
When Expunction is Not an Option, File a Non-Disclosure Petition
With an expunction, a person’s criminal record is erased, and when available, it is the best option. However, it is not the only option. Even if you are not eligible to apply for an expunction, depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to petition for an order of nondisclosure of your criminal records. The order of non-disclosure of a criminal record is simply the sealing of that record.
A non-disclosure works much like an expunction, but it differs in one major way: your criminal records are not destroyed. Since they are not destroyed, your criminal records may still be viewed by government agents. However, public access to this information will not be available. Non-disclosure is highly beneficial to those who are looking for a job or apartment, especially since, once sealed, prospective employers and apartment agencies cannot access these criminal records and cannot use them against you. There are specific requirements that must be met for nondisclosure in both felonies and misdemeanors, so it is important to seek help from a qualified attorney.
The Final Words
Having a criminal history can be a heavy burden to lay aside when trying to move on with your life. Everyone deserves a second chance. Anyone with a prior record may have trouble getting a job, obtaining a loan, or even finding a romantic partner. The nondisclosure and expungement laws of Texas give those who qualify a new chance at a fresh start. A felony charge that you were wrongly accused of may be eligible for expungement, or you may be able to request non-disclosure of the record. You will have the best chance of stealing or destroying your records if you have an experienced lawyer on your side.