A criminal history can harm your chances of getting a job, obtaining a professional license, or receiving a mortgage or loan. There are two common procedures in Texas for clearing or sealing one’s criminal history information – a petition for expunction or a petition for nondisclosure. Eligibility for either an expunction or nondisclosure depends on the type of case, the outcome, and when it happened. Consulting a criminal defense lawyer with a thorough understanding of the law governing eligibility and procedures for expunctions and nondisclosures for clearing criminal history in Houston and surrounding areas is essential to properly clearing or sealing your record.
How Do I Clear My Criminal Record?
For all practical purposes, there are two ways to remove criminal history information – a petition for expunction or a petition for nondisclosure. The appropriate remedy for clearing criminal history in Houston, Harris County, and other counties in Texas depends upon the circumstances of the case.
Petitions for Expunction
A person may file a petition for expunction when a case is dismissed or a person is acquitted at trial. An expunction is filed in a district court and is a civil proceeding. Because it is a civil lawsuit, expunctions often take several month to complete. The District Attorney’s Office is entitled to oppose an expunction, and the court ultimately decides whether to grant it. Under the law, a person must wait until the statute of limitations has run in order to be eligible for an expunction if the case is dismissed. The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is two years; for most felonies, it is three years (though there are many exceptions). Many District Attorney’s Offices will not oppose an early expunction as long as there are no unusual circumstances in the case. A person is entitled to an immediate expunction if acquitted at trial.
Petitions for Nondisclosure
A person may file a petition for nondisclosure upon the completion of a deferred adjudication and subsequent dismissal of the case. A petition for nondisclosure allows a person to have their criminal history information sealed from public view (unlike an expunction, which orders the destruction of all records of the offense). As a practical matters, a petition for nondisclosure will stop most non-governmental entities from being able to obtain information about a criminal charge. Petitions for nondisclosure are filed in the court in which the case was originally heard. Petitions for expunction can generally be heard fairly quickly after they are filed. As with an expunction, The District Attorney’s Office is entitled to oppose an expunction, and the court ultimately decides whether to grant it.
There is no waiting period for most misdemeanors to file a petition for nondisclosure after the period of deferred adjudication is complete. For most felonies, the waiting period is five years from the date that the period of deferred adjudication was completed. A person who has been subject to non-traffic criminal charges during the waiting period will generally be ineligible to file a petition for nondisclosure.
Clearing Criminal History in Houston
David A. Nachtigall has successfully helped individuals clear and seal their criminal histories through petitions for expunction and petitions for nondisclosure. Contact our firm to determine eligibility and procedures for clearing and sealing your criminal record and for clearing criminal history in Houston.