Expunction and Texas state law: 101

A criminal record can make it difficult to move on with your life. In some situations, expunction is an option.

Background checks are fairly routine. Applications for employment, housing and even scholarship opportunities often require the applicant complete and pass a background check before a decision to hire, house or provide funds towards educational pursuits is made. For those who have had criminal charges in the past, these checks can result in a denial of their application.

This can make it very difficult for an individual to move on with his or her life. Fortunately, depending on the details of the crime, there may be an option for a fresh start: an expunction.

What is an expunction?

Expunction is defined by the Texas State Bar Association as the permanent removal of information "about an arrest, charge or conviction from" an individual's permanent records. This is allowed in certain circumstances. Two examples include situations involving juveniles and cases that fail to result in a conviction.

How does expunction work for crimes committed as a juvenile in Texas?

In most cases, the following offenses are eligible to be expunged for an individual that committed the offense while under the age of 17:

  • Misdemeanor that results in a fine
  • Offense under the Alcoholic Beverage Code
  • Failure to Attend School violation

Removing the presence of these violations from your record can help to better ensure childhood mistakes do not make it difficult to move on as an adult.

How does expunction work for crimes where there was no conviction?

Texas state law also allows for expunction of certain criminal records that are present for adults. In general, expunction is available in the event the charges result in an acquittal of charges or if the individual is granted a pardon. Expunction is also allowed in the event that the individual charged of the crime is released and there was no final conviction.

What is the procedure to move forward with an expungement?

Certain protocol must be followed in order for the court to agree to expunge an individual's record. Juveniles generally need to reach a certain age before they can apply. The person applying for the expungement then must file a Petition. This application will include information about the person petitioning for expungement and details about the offense to be expunged. The petition is then filed with the proper court.

If the court grants the expunction, an Order for Expunction must be presented to the court so that the judge can sign off on the expunction. This order is then passed along to any agency that may have records of the crime in order to ensure the expunction is completed. At this time, state law notes that the "release, maintenance, dissemination, or use of the expunged records and files for any purpose is prohibited."

Do I need an attorney to get my record expunged?

It is wise for those who are attempting to navigate this system to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can review the details of your situation and guide you through the process and discuss alternatives if expungement is not an option for your case.