Almost every day, I’m contacted by people who are trying to get ahead and get along, but their Texas criminal record won’t allow them to do so. I’m sympathetic and often wish the answers were different, but I don’t include much comfort, in an effort to keep it shorter. You may have questions and concerns in common with others, so here’s a list.
If I got convicted of [insert your charge here], can I get an expunction?
The answer is almost always no. Unless you can get a pardon or a reversal of your conviction, Texas expunction laws don’t allow you to remove it from your record.
What if it happened a long, long time ago?
The same answer still applies.
What if my criminal record is causing a great deal of grief and suffering in my life and that of my family, including my dependents?
The same answer still applies.
What if I’m a much better person and have made amends, been a great member of my community, and been an all-around wonderful person ever since?
The same answer still applies, but you might want to look into a pardon. Pardons are extremely rare.
If I was arrested for [insert original charge here], and it was reduced to [insert lesser charge here], can I get an expunction?
No. It may seem unfair or unreasonable, but until the Texas Legislature makes a change, you aren’t eligible.
I got a deferred for [insert your charge here], can I get an expunction?
No. The only exception is your charge was a Class C misdemeanor. Otherwise, your only possible option would be a nondisclosure, if you are eligible. Some charges don’t qualify for nondisclosure at all. You also must wait for a nondisclosure until after the end of your deferred, plus a waiting period. Misdemeanors have a two-year waiting period, and felonies require a five-year wait. As bad as that may sound, it’s better than the previous option, which was no possibility of any relief ever.
If a nondisclosure won’t keep police agencies, judges, prosecutors, and a whole list of other government agencies from seeing my criminal record, why should I bother with a nondisclosure?
You have nothing to lose by getting a nondisclosure. However, you need to weigh the cost against the benefit you would receive to determine whether it’s right for you. I cannot make that decision for you, but I understand it may not serve your purpose.
I had a federal charge…
Let me stop you there. Congress hasn’t seen fit to allow you to get an expunction. (There may be one tiny sliver of a chance if you had one particular charge.)
If you thought your record would automatically be destroyed or sealed, it won’t. It takes a court order after applying for an expunction or nondisclosure.
If your case was dismissed, you may still have to wait years to apply for an expunction.
If you were charged with a criminal offense for which there is no statute of limitations, you may never be able to get an expunction.
If you are seeking a position with the military, secret service, CIA, or obtaining FBI clearance, or anything in or around a federal government agency, be aware of this: expunction is a remedy provided by the Texas Legislature and ordered by a Texas judge, and a federal agency is not required to follow the order of a state judge. It probably can’t hurt to get an expunction, but you may not get the benefit you want from it.