Having a criminal record can make it difficult to find a new job, apply for an apartment, or obtain a professional license. In some cases under Texas law, you can request that your criminal history be expunged or sealed, which means that the general public won’t be able to see it under most circumstances.
Expunction and Record Sealing Explained
In Texas, expunction (called “expungement” in some states) and record sealing are two different processes. But when a record is sealed or expunged, most potential employers who conduct background checks, for example, will be prohibited from accessing the information. And, in many cases, once your record has been expunged or sealed you do not have to disclose it. (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article. 55.03; Texas Government Code § 411.0755 (2018).)
Expunction. If a court orders your record to be expunged, it may not be released or used for any purpose. After receiving an expunction, you are permitted to deny that you have been arrested or had a record expunged, unless you are asked about an expunged record while under oath in a criminal trial. In that case, you need only state that the record in question has been expunged. (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 55.03 (2018).)
Record sealing under an Order of Nondisclosure. Some criminal records in Texas can be sealed by a court under an Order of Nondisclosure. Once a criminal history record is sealed, the general public will not be able to view it. Under Texas law, criminal justice agencies will have access to sealed information, and they may disclose it only to you, other criminal justice agencies, or the licensing and employment entities specified in the law. That means that if you are applying for a job at a school, for example, a Texas law enforcement agency would be required to share your sealed record with your potential employer if it requests the information. (Texas Government Code §§ 411.076, 411.0765 (2018).)
Does My Criminal Record Qualify for Expunction in Texas?
Your criminal record may be eligible for expunction if you were arrested for a misdemeanor or felony and:
- you were acquitted at trial
- you were convicted and subsequently pardoned or found innocent
- you were charged but the case against you was dismissed and the statute of limitations has expired, or
- you were not formally charged with a crime and satisfy the required waiting period (described below).
If you were arrested and not charged with a crime, Texas law requires you to wait a certain period of time before applying for expunction. The waiting periods vary depending on the severity of the crime for which you were arrested and are as follows:
- Class C misdemeanor, 180 days from the date of your arrest
- Class A or B misdemeanor, one year from the date of your arrest
- felony, three years from the date of your arrest.
(Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 55.01 (2018).)
If you are a close relative of a deceased person with a criminal record that is eligible for expunction, you can apply to have the record expunged on that person’s behalf. The law defines a close relative as a parent, grandparent, spouse, or adult brother, sister, or child of the deceased person. (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 55.011 (2018).)
Does My Criminal Record Qualify for an Order of Nondisclosure in Texas?
Your criminal record may be eligible for sealing under an order of nondisclosure if you pled guilty or no contest to a crime and were placed on deferred adjudication community supervision, meaning that:
- the judge deferred proceedings without finding you guilty
- placed you under court supervision, and
- at the end of your period of supervision dismissed the proceedings against you.
There is a five-year waiting period for felonies and a two-year waiting period for serious misdemeanors. (Texas Government Code §§ 411.0715, 411.0725 (2018).)
Additionally, most misdemeanor convictions are eligible for sealing. If your punishment consisted of a fine only, there is no waiting period. Otherwise, you must wait two years after you have successfully completed your sentence to apply to have your record sealed. (Texas Government Code §§ 411.073, 411.0735 (2018).)
However, some crimes are never eligible for sealing under an order of disclosure, including:
- any crime that requires you to register as a sex offender
- aggravated kidnapping
- human trafficking
- child endangerment or abandonment
- any family violence offense, and
(See Texas Government Code § 411.074 for the full list of disqualifying crimes.)
How Do I File for Expunction or Record Sealing?
If your record is eligible for expunction or sealing, you will need to complete a Petition for Expunction or Petition for an Order of Nondisclosure form and file it with the court where your case was handled. The forms require you to provide personal information and details about each record you want expunged or sealed. Contact the arresting agency or the court if you need copies of records related to your case.
Get Legal Help
Texas’s expungement and record sealing rules are complicated, and the law can change at any time. To learn more about the law—and to find out if your criminal record is eligible for sealing or expunction—contact an experienced criminal law attorney.