TEXAS EXPUNCTION OF CRIMINAL RECORDS
Everyday I am asked whether someone is eligible to have their criminal records expunged in the state of Texas. The following is a dallas criminal attorney summary of the laws in the state of Texas concerning expungement and the newer practice called Petition For Non-Disclosure.
WHAT IS AN EXPUNCTION?
Upon the petition of a criminal defendant, a court can direct certain law enforcement agencies to destroy all records associated with an arrest and subsequent prosecution. Many times the court will specifically direct law enforcement agencies to destroy jail records, police reports, prosecution reports and court files. In addition, a successful expungement petitioner, can legally deny ever having been arrested for or charged with the criminal offense for which he is receiving the expunction.
WHAT IS A PETITION FOR NONDISCLOSURE?
Upon the petition of a criminal defendant, a court can direct certain law enforcement agencies to refrain from disclosing to any third party any criminal records associated with an arrest, prosecution and deferred probation. A successful petitioner can legally deny the existence of his arrest, charge and deferred probation. The order requires that any third party who buys criminal history information from Texas remove that information from their databases. If these third party vendors do not do so in accordance with the court’s order, they would be subject to civil penalties. Therefore, website such as PublicData.com would be required by law to remove criminal history information subject to the court’s nondisclosure order or face civil penalties.
Expungement of Criminal Records
Dismissed Case or Grand Jury No Bill
If a case was dismissed by the District Attorney’s office or No Billed by the Grand Jury, the first thing to do is find out what the statute of limitations is for the particular offense. The statute of limitations usually begins to run on the date of the offense. The records can be expunged upon the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. For example, the applicable statute of limitation for any misdemeanor in Texas is two years. Therefore, if a misdemeanor assault case was dismissed more than two years ago, any record associated with that case can be expunged.
For felony offenses that were no billed by a Grand Jury (the Grand Jury refused to indict), the same rule applies. The limitations period for felonies range anywhere between five years and ten years. However, some felonies such as Murder do not carry a limitations period. Upon the expiration of the applicable limitations period, the felony case can be expunged.
If after a trial on the merits of any criminal offense in Texas the judge or jury returns a not guilty verdict, that Defendant is eligible to have an expunction.
Petitions For Nondisclosure of Criminal Records
Successful completion of deferred adjudication probation is the key to opening the door to a Petition For Nondisclosure (“PFN”). A petitioner is NOT eligible for a PFN is he was placed on regular probation or was placed on deferred adjudication and later found guilty by the court during probation.
What is deferred adjudication? There are two types of probation. Regular probation is a conviction in that the court actually finds the defendant guilty and suspends imposition of the jail sentence for a period of time. Under article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, a Texas Judge can alternatively place a defendant on probation for a period of time and DEFER any finding of guilt unless and until the defendant successful completes the probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the court will dismiss the case. It is critical that a potential petitioner obtain the judgment and sentence for their case to determine whether they received deferred adjudication probation or regular “conviction” probation.
For most misdemeanors, a defendant is eligible for their PFN immediately upon the successful completion of their deferred probation. For some misdemeanor offense such as sex-related offense (indecent exposure or public lewdness), there is a five year waiting period. During this period, the defendant cannot be convicted of or placed on probation for any offense other than a traffic ticket.
For all felonies in which the defendant successfully completed his deferred probation, the waiting period is ten years. This waiting period also operates in the same manner as described above regarding misdemeanors. That is, the successful probationer cannot have had a conviction or probation for any offense other than a traffic ticket during the ten year waiting period.
The only exception to the above is that if a defendant has previously convicted of or placed on probation for any offense which requires registration as a sex offender. In addition, if the defendant has been convicted of or placed on probation for any of the following he will never be eligible for a PFN:
• An offense with an affirmative finding of family violence.
• Violation of a Protective Order
• Aggravated Kidnapping
• Capital Murder
I hope the above will help you evaluate your potential success on your Petitions of Expunction and Petitions for Non-Disclosure.
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