Moving beyond your past: How an Expunction or Nondisclosure can help you secure a bright future
By Noah Moss, Legal Assistant at Gunter, Bennett & Anthes
When someone has a charge to contend with, they frequently are made aware of the time spent carrying a record of their arrest and or alleged crime. Maybe a jury will find them innocent of the charge. Or maybe it’s the exact opposite. Regardless of the final outcome of a charge, many folks simply want to move past this history of theirs and establish themselves to continue working on their lives, their careers, and supporting their families. This can be difficult when past charges and arrests stay upon someone’s personal record, creating a roadblock to securing the right job, the perfect home, scholarships, loans, and other life essentials. This is why our attorneys fight for your right to move beyond your past, via an expunction or a non-disclosure.
What is an expunction?
An expunction is a petition made to the Court to destroy all records of your arrest and court proceedings, so that no one can ever find those records. Once the process is complete, the record of the expunction itself is destroyed. This means that the client is legally free from any obligation to say that the incident ever happened in the first place.
What is a non-disclosure?
A non-disclosure operates somewhat similarly to an expunction, in that your record is sealed and made inaccessible to non-governmental agencies. The key difference is that the record is not destroyed, and is still made available to courts, law enforcement, jails, and other governmental agencies.
Why should I pursue an expunction or non-disclosure?
Regardless of your history, we believe that you deserve to move past it to live your best life. Unfortunately, even the simplest charges from many years ago can be a roadblock to many life essentials, including securing a job, a loan, or a home. Sealing or destroying these old records will allow you to remove those roadblocks and give you more control over the story of your life.
Am I eligible to seal or destroy my records?
Many cases can at least be sealed by the court. If your case ended with a dismissal, you may be eligible to have these records destroyed, so that government and non-government agencies have no records of any incidents or court cases that may have occurred. If your case ended with a deferred adjudication probation, you may be able to have your records sealed by the government and made unavailable to non-government agencies.
Every case has a statute of limitations, or a prescribed period of time for agencies to bring about legal action relating to an incident. This period will vary depending upon the alleged crime, however or misdemeanor cases In Texas, this period is typically the length of two years, meaning that two years must pass following the dismissal of the case for it to be eligible to be expunged.
According to The State Bar of Texas, the following situations may be eligible for an expunction:
- An arrest for a crime that was never charged within the statute of limitations;
- A criminal charge that was ultimately dismissed;
- Certain qualifying misdemeanor juvenile offenses;
- Conviction of a minor for certain alcohol offenses;
- Conviction for Failure to Attend School;
- Arrest of a person that is not charged if a case is not filed and there is no felony offense arising out of the same transaction for which the person was arrested;
- Arrest of a person that is never formally charged, regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired, if the prosecuting attorney’s office certifies that the records and files are not needed for use in any criminal investigation or prosecution of another person;
- Arrest, charge, or conviction on a person’s record due to identity theft by another individual who was actually arrested, charged, or convicted of the crime;
- Conviction for a crime that was later acquitted by the trial court or the Court of Criminal Appeals;
- Conviction for a crime that was later pardoned by the governor of Texas or the U.S. president.
If your particular situation does not meet any of these requirements, you may be eligible to seal your records via a nondisclosure.
What if I was never charged following an arrest?
Occasionally, some folks may find that they don’t face charges following an arrest. This can happen for a number of reasons, but it is important to know that this does not mean that you are legally in the clear. The arrest will still be on your record, and law enforcement and prosecutors may still bring about charges against you. Our attorneys will monitor your case for the length of the statute of limitations in order to be prepared to defend you and help you move past the incident. In the state of Texas, you may be eligible for an expunction if you were arrested but never formally charged with a crime.
What can I expect during this process?
Following a free consultation, our attorneys will determine the best course of action for your situation and prepare a petition to be served to the court at your discretion. Upon the careful creation and review of your petition, it is electronically filed in the court and assigned a hearing date, typically within two months of filing. During this period, the court staff or the judge may review the expunction and suggest edits to ensure that it can ultimately end up signed by the judge. On the final date of the hearing, a judge will sign the order of expunction and notice will be sent to private and governmental agencies to destroy any relevant records. From then on, you will maintain the only copy of the expunction having ever occurred, while our office will maintain a copy for the duration of ten years, before that copy is destroyed.
If you feel like an expunction or nondisclosure can help you, give our office a call or shoot us a message at any time, and we will be happy to review your situation for free to determine the best course of action for your situation. Our attorneys have nearly a century’s worth of cumulative experience successfully expunging or sealing cases from our clients records, and whether we handled your initial case or not, we are here to help you move on and begin anew with a clean slate.