Expunction & Nondisclosure
Expunging or Nondisclosing your Dallas County Criminal Record Will Open Your Future to Multiple Opportunities
In Texas, the 3 procedures that can be used to clean your criminal or arrest record are Expunction, Nondisclosure and Sealing. A criminal record or record of arrest can hold you back from getting good jobs, renting an apartment or house, getting a vocational license, applying for a loan or getting educational scholarships and grants. Criminal background checks are usually mandatory with applications for all the above. Until you clear your criminal record, your job, living arrangements and educational opportunities can be very limited. One of the most important things you can do is to Expunge, Nondisclose or Seal your criminal and arrest records.
The laws of Expunction, Nondisclosure and Sealing criminal records are relatively new in Texas and have been revised multiple times. The purpose of these laws is to provide relief to people who made a first-time mistake, had a temporary lapse in judgment or those who should not have been criminally charged. Expunction and Nondisclosure laws are rather complex and somewhat convoluted. With that in mind, not all records of criminal offenses can be Expunged or Nondisclosed. Determining which records will qualify for either requires a legal analysis, focusing, primarily on the charged offense, when the arrest occurred, how it was resolved and when it was resolved. The criminal offenses that can be Expunged or Nondisclosed range from the lowest level of crimes (traffic citations), which are Class C misdemeanors, up to and including all degrees of felonies, including capital murder. However, with the Nondisclosure laws, some of the higher criminal offenses are specifically excluded and any of the remaining charges could be excluded depending on how the case was resolved.
Unlike Expunction and Nondisclosure, the process of Sealing a criminal record is rare, because it is available only to Juvenile criminal records. Juvenile records are not available to the general public, but they may be viewed by law enforcement agencies. This includes prosecutors on any future adult charges. Sealing a juvenile criminal record hides the records even from law enforcement.
The principle of the Expunction laws is to erase the arrest and criminal records of someone who was wrongfully arrested and charged. With an Order of Expunction ALL records of the arrest and charge are destroyed. Not only are the records destroyed, but the person charged with the crime may later deny under oath that the arrest or criminal charge ever occurred!
There are 3 Categories of Expunction, but all Expunctions require 2 things: that the person is “released” from the charge without a conviction or any probation, and either the statute of limitations has expired, or the charging instrument was dismissed (along with the expiration of any waiting period). A “not guilty” verdict after a trial or a pardon from the Governor easily qualifies for Expunction. Similarly, criminal records created because crimes committed by another person (stolen identity) can be Expunged. Of course, proof of proper identity and proof of the stolen identity are required. The more complicated scenario is when criminal charges either do not get filed or are later dismissed before trial. In these situations, Expunction may be allowed, but there are waiting periods, the length of which depends on the severity of the criminal charge.
There are NO criminal offenses excluded from consideration for Expunction. From Class C misdemeanor traffic citations to felony capital murder, all can be Expunged, if the statutory qualifications are met. A judge has NO discretion when ruling on a petition for Expunction. Either the statutory requirements for Expunction are satisfied, or they are not.
Qualifying for an Expunction requires an analysis of the charged criminal offense and how it was resolved. The Expunction process is complex and can become even more convoluted when it involves multiple criminal charges from the same incident. We strongly recommend qualified legal representation before seeking an Expunction. We remain available to answer any questions you may have or to immediately start your Expunction process.
With an Order of Nondisclosure, criminal records are not destroyed. They are maintained, but are kept hidden from the public, allowing that person to pursue better employment, housing, or loans, without the burden of a prior mistake. Although the records are hidden from public, they are maintained, so that various State agencies including, law enforcement, regulatory, investigative, and vocational licensing, can continue to have access. A complete list of these entities is set forth in Section 411.0765 of the Texas Government Code.
Some criminal offenses are specifically excluded from Nondisclosure, including, generally, kidnapping, murder, human trafficking, violations of protective orders, injuries to children, elderly or disabled, stalking and family violence. Despite these exclusions, Texas laws of Nondisclosure have been expanded since their original enactment. They now include some criminal charges resulting in convictions, including some first time DWI’s. The best news is that the new law applies retroactively. This means that even old cases that were previously not eligible for a Nondisclosure may now be eligible, including DWI’s.
The new Nondisclosure laws provide for 8 Categories of Nondisclosures, each having their own specific qualifications. However, ALL Nondisclosures have 2 common qualifications: 1) No convictions or deferred adjudications for anything other than traffic violations from the time of sentencing of the crime to completion of the sentence, plus any applicable waiting period; and 2) No convictions or deferred adjudication for the excluded offenses referenced above.
Unlike Expunctions, with Nondisclosures, a Judge has discretion to determine whether to Order the Nondisclosure or not, using the standard of what “is in the best interest of justice.” Prior criminal history of the petitioner or the specific facts of the charge to be Nondisclosed are the most common factors to be considered by the Judge. Since the Judge has discretion, in some cases, a court hearing is required.
The Nondisclosure process is very complex! A very careful examination of criminal history and of each charge needs to be carefully evaluated to determine whether a Nondisclosure is possible and when the Petition for Nondisclosure can be filed.
Affect of Orders for Expunction or Nondisclosure
Orders for Expunction or Nondisclosure require either a complete destruction of, or an order not to disclose any records resulting from an arrest or criminal charge. The Orders apply to all courts, police departments, district and county clerks, jails, county public defenders, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, County Attorneys and the Texas Department of Public Safety. If a person’s criminal records are hidden or destroyed, they are free to pursue employment, housing, education, and loans without being rejected during the application process due to a criminal record. That is the intended result of these laws. To provide the wrongfully accused with complete destruction of the criminal charge, or to provide a person who committed a crime with a way to clear their criminal record for a one-time mistake or lapse in judgment. Expunction is so complete that it allows a person to deny under oath that they were ever arrested, charged, or that the entire incident ever occurred. So, not only are the records destroyed, but a person can deny or refuse to disclose anything about the arrest or criminal charge on any application for employment, renting a house or apartment or vocational license.
Legal Procedures for Expunctions and Nondisclosures
The statutes of Expunction and Nondisclosure are very complex and convoluted. Before starting the process of an Expunction or Nondisclosure, you must carefully analyze the charged criminal offense, when the arrest occurred, how it was resolved, when it was resolved, and the complete criminal history of the person seeking the Order. Further complicating the process are cases involving multiple criminal offenses in the same incident, complicated case resolutions and prior and subsequent criminal charges. Competent legal representation is a must for anyone seeking an Expunction or Nondisclosure of their criminal and arrest records!
After completing a careful investigation as stated above, a determination must be made whether to file for an Expunction or a Nondisclosure. In either case, a petition and order must be prepared and filed in the county of the criminal charge and in the appropriate court.
Once signed, Orders for Expunction and Nondisclosure are sent to all State agencies listed in the Petition and Order with instructions to either destroy the records, send them to the District or County Clerk for destruction or continuously refuse to disclose their existence, except to the appropriate State Agencies.
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