Your Criminal Record and Its Long-lasting Effects
Attorney Phillip W. Goff has helped clear the records of many people, giving them a fresh start. Call today to find out what he can do for you.
Over 350,000 arrests are made in Texas annually, and each arrest generates criminal records, such as police reports, jail mug shots, fingerprints, magistration, bail bonds, and court filings. Corpus Christi alone sees many thousands of arrests.
What often begins with aggressive, unreasonable law enforcement decisions to arrest can have lifelong consequences, even if the case is dismissed or never formally filed by a prosecutor with a court. Even blatantly bogus arrests result in criminal records. Dismissal does not result in a criminal record being erased.
Cops often have leaderboards in squad rooms boasting of how many arrests they can make, and the more serious charges made, the better. Whether those charges are going to stick make no difference to cops’ bragging rights.
Typically, this type of enthusiasm is most powerful in newer cops. As cops tend to gain more experience, the novelty of arresting large numbers of people wears off, and more mature, responsible policing begins. Meanwhile, the carnage they started continues unabated.
Once an arrest is made, the records don’t expire. Without legal action, those records remain indefinitely and cause lasting harm unless an experienced criminal defense attorney files a lawsuit to expunge the record.
Collateral consequences are civil penalties beyond the criminal penalties of incarceration, fines, and probation. An ever growing number of collateral consequences imposes barriers to many opportunities for people with criminal records, even if they were never convicted. Many of these burdens are imposed by statutes.
Individuals and companies also frequently hold arrest records against people, and there is little that can be done to prevent such discrimination. Dismissals often mean nothing to those private parties, and false arrests are considered to be no different than valid arrest. Most often, the circumstances of arrest mean nothing and are not even considered.
Examples of collateral consequences include loss of voting rights, ineligibility to qualify for student loans and other public assistance, the inability to obtain certain professional licenses, missed job opportunities, and disqualification from good residential options. Conviction is required to impose some collateral consequences, but arrest alone can cause great suffering, as well. Many collateral consequences are life long.
Families are Victimized
Dependents and loved ones share in the burden of being arrested and are often haunted by it. This burden often seems to never end. Children can be excluded from good apartment complexes and are further limited by the financial restrictions of parents who have criminal records. In Texas, we are largely callous to such circumstances, and our short-sighted, malicious laws continue to punish people far beyond anything reasonable.
It may not be punishment by incarceration, but when every employer tells you “no” because of your criminal record, punishment continues. If a person is rejected for a $20/hour job and can only land an $8/hour job, due to a criminal record, technical “collateral consequences” become REAL PUNISHMENT.
How can we expect people to “turn a new leaf” or “get a fresh start” when everywhere they turn, they are rejected or must accept reduced status as people? One way to help is expunction. By obtaining a ruling by a District Court that your arrest records be expunged, many background checks become impotent. It is the best remedy available to clean the records of people who have been arrested.
Expunction is a statutory remedy made possible by the Texas Legislature in Article 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Our state laws authorize a state judge to order public agencies to remove, destroy, or erase records of an arrest, detention, and prosecution. To expunge a criminal record, a licensed attorney may file a lawsuit in the state district court and county where the arrest occurred.
Previously, actual innocence, acquittal, pardon, or lack of probable cause was necessary. Over the last few sessions of the Texas Legislature, however, several instances now qualify for expunction, subject to some timing considerations and the totality of your criminal record. If you were never charged, and the statute of limitations has expired, you could obtain an expunction. Successfully completing a pretrial intervention (also called pretrial diversion) program under Chapter 76 of the Texas Government Code, you could obtain an expunction. There has never been a better time to apply for expunction than now.
While representing one’s self is legal, virtually no one does so successfully. That leaves one alternative: find the right attorney to clear your record. Phillip W. Goff has helped many people in Corpus Christi and beyond to obtain expunctions and clear their criminal records.
What Isn’t Subject to Expunction
Not all criminal records can be fixed. Sometimes, the records are there to stay for life. Conviction generally renders a record permanent. Going to prison is obviously difficult by itself. If you’ve been found guilty, sentenced, and have served your sentence, little remains to be resolved in your favor. At the very least, you deserve to be told the truth: expunction is not an option for you. Appellate and pardon procedures are your only long shot possibilities to obtain an expunction.
Federal crimes have no similar statute to Texas’ expunction law. Arrest by a federal agency, even if you are never officially charged with a crime by a grand jury, stays on your record forever. Few exceptions exist to this rule. Even detention without arrest by federal authorities could haunt people for the rest of their lives. If you have been arrested by a federal law enforcement agency, your record is there to stay.
Federal agencies are not required to obey a state judge’s order of expunction. Therefore, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are not obligated to honor a Texas District Court judge’s order.
Ban the Box
Even when one’s “debt to society” is paid, the punishment continues. Although expunction and non-disclosure are unavailable to people with convictions, one worthy movement to help is “Ban the Box” (http://bantheboxcampaign.org/). Ban the Box effectively removes the question about criminal records on job applications. While the information may arise during an interview, the employer has already determined the applicant is worthy of a closer look. Support initiatives like this help re-integrate those who have been incarcerated and served their sentences, as well as those who didn’t have to be incarcerated but are burdened by their criminal records.
Deferred adjudication is a court-ordered form of probation. In such a case, a judge places the accused on a form of probation after a plea of guilty or no contest (also known as nolo contendere). The court finds the charge is substantiated by the evidence but puts off the legal decision finding the person guilty of the charge. The judge also must find the probation is in the interest of the public and the accused.
In the event the person successfully completes probation, the official charge is dismissed. If the person fails to successfully complete the probation, the person may be rearrested, found guilty, and sentenced within the full range of punishment for the offense.
Expunction is not available to those who were placed on deferred adjudication. Expunction is available to people who have successfully completed deferred adjudication for a Class C misdemeanor. For more serious offenses, criminal records can be hidden from the public using a method called Nondisclosure. It is a limited remedy for people who have successfully completed deferred adjudication.
Nondisclosure is effectively a watered down version of expunction. The record is not removed, but the general public would be denied access to them. Police, prosecutors, and judges, however, will still access those records. Additionally, a laundry list of state agencies and interested parties are able to access those criminal records.
Nondisclosure was passed as a remedy by the Texas Legislature, largely because people on deferred adjudication routinely understood it to mean their criminal records would automatically be cleaned after successful completion of probation.
While nondisclosure is not ideal, it is better than nothing. Before nondisclosure was available, nothing existed to help people who finished deferred adjudication.
Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns
Click here to see a list of common questions and concerns.
Corpus Christi Attorney Phillip Goff Can Help Clean Your Record
Job opportunities and increased pay are obvious reasons to apply for expunction or nondisclosure. New careers could be available to you. Even making $1 per hour more for one year can often cover the cost of cleaning your record. A better living space could be in your future soon. You may be able to improve your life significantly in a matter of a few months. The benefits you may experience are nowhere near what it will cost.