These days, getting a job, a mortgage, applying for college or even renting an apartment often requires the applicant to undergo a personal background check. This includes looking at the applicant’s financial and criminal history (if they have one). Depending on the policies of the company conducting the check, an applicant may be rejected based on the results of their background check.
Unlike a person’s credit report, which usually only goes back 7 – 10 years, a person’s criminal record will remain on the public record indefinitely. For example, if a person is 40 and they were arrested for a DWI when they were only 18, that arrest will still be on their record, even if they were subsequently acquitted of the charges, 20-plus years later. How a criminal record impacts the application decision process varies from company to company. A single conviction on a minor misdemeanor charge that happened several years ago might be overlooked; it’s doubtful that would be the case if the applicant’s history includes a conviction on a felony charge.
While the record of an arrest may not go away after a certain period of time, it may be possible, under certain circumstances to get an arrest removed or “expunged” from the public record.
Expungement of Arrest Record in Texas
In Texas, expunction is a civil action in which an individual petitions the court, requesting that all records relating to an arrest be sealed — effectively removing or “expunging” them from the public record. If the court agrees, and the record is expunged, it will be as if the arrest never happened. In fact, a person who has an arrest expunged can legally say that the arrest never happened.
Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that a person who has been arrested for either a felony or misdemeanor is entitled to have all records and files relating to the arrest expunged if the meet certain criteria. These criteria can include:
- They were arrested, but charges were never filed.
- They were acquitted (found “not guilty”) by a judge or jury.
- Their case was dismissed for lack of probable cause, insufficient evidence or unavailable witnesses.
- The grand jury “no billed” an indictment against them.
- They were convicted at the trial level but then acquitted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
- Their criminal record is the result of identity theft.
- They were pardoned based on their actual innocence.
(NOTE: If your arrest resulted in a fine, incarceration or any form of court-ordered probation, you are probably not eligible for expunction.)
Texas Record Sealing (aka Orders of Non-Disclosure)
If a person is not eligible for expunction, they may be eligible for a “Texas Record Sealing,” also known as Orders of Non – Disclosure. An Order of Non-Disclosure does not completely remove an arrest from your record like that of a criminal expungement but seals it from public record.
Only certain government agencies are allowed to view records that have been ordered sealed through an Order of Non-Disclosure.
Arrests for Serious Crimes in Texas May Not Eligible to Be Removed from the Public Record
An arrest record in Texas cannot be expunged or sealed for certain crimes, including capital murder, sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, possession of child pornography, child endangerment, violating a protective order and family violence.
Is Your Arrest Record in Texas Eligible for Expungement?
Having an arrest record in Texas come up during a background check can really complicate your life. Even if you were found not guilty or received deferred adjudication, it could still work against when it comes to applying for a job, getting insurance, buying a house or even during a divorce or child custody dispute.
Does your situation qualify you to have your arrest record expunged? The best way to find out is to speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer.
Schedule a free consultation to speak with Lisa Shapiro Strauss, a skilled Houston criminal attorney dedicated to protecting the rights of her clients.