Sealing or Erasing Your Criminal Record in Texas
A criminal record can negatively impact your life in a number of ways. It can make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a quality job or admittance into college and professional programs. You may also be ineligible for financial aid provided by the federal government.
Rather than wait for criminal charges to expire from your record, you can take steps to clear it now. You should not have to wait for the charges to expire to secure a good job or further your education. The following methods are available to you when you want to clean up your criminal record in Texas.
Thoroughly Review Your Criminal Record
Before you can clear your criminal record, you must first obtain a copy of it and examine it carefully for any misinformation or errors. You can get copies of your criminal record(s) by contacting the court in the jurisdiction(s) where you were arrested and charged for the offense(s). If multiple jurisdictions were involved at the time of your prosecution, you may be able to obtain a consolidated copy of your criminal records. If a consolidated copy is not available, you will need to contact each jurisdiction separately to request a copy.
Once you have your criminal record(s) available, you need to carefully review the document(s) for the following details:
- Changes to the record
You should ensure that all the information in your criminal record(s) is correct and accurate. If you find any mistakes or omitted details, you should immediately contact the clerk of court in the appropriate jurisdiction and notify the court of the error. The clerk is able to correct some mistakes. Other mistakes will need to be corrected by the District Attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction.
Reduce the Categorization of Your Crime
If you were arrested for and found guilty of a felony, which could have been categorized as a misdemeanor, you can contact the District Attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction and request that the offense be reduced to a misdemeanor. These offenses are called “wobblers,” because they can be categorized as either a misdemeanor or felony. This is one possible way to clean up your criminal record.
The District Attorney may be willing to grant your request if you were charged and found guilty of lesser, non-violent crimes, such as driving without a license or disturbing the peace. Your request to lower the charge may also be granted if you have not committed any crimes since your earlier conviction and have taken meaningful steps to become a more productive member of society.
File for an Expungement
You can also clear your criminal record in Texas by filing for an expungement. This process, put simply, means the destruction of records. The state of Texas, however, does not actually destroy your criminal records. Instead, a successful expungement seals your criminal records so they cannot be viewed the following:
- Potential employers
- Financial lenders
- Educational institutions
- Landlords or mortgage brokers
In fact, sealing and expungement are considered interchangeable terms in Texas. If you are granted an expungement of your criminal record, it will be sealed and unavailable to almost everyone except for the following:
- Law enforcement officers,
- Court officials,
- Others who may need to see it in order to investigate a crime.
In order to file for an expungement, you must first submit the proper paperwork to the court and pay a filing fee. This fee can be as high as $1,000. You must also wait at least three years from the time of your arrest in order to petition the court for an expungement. You could be eligible for an expungement if you were arrested for an offense but not charged. Likewise, you could be granted an expungement if you were found not guilty at trial. It is even possible to have minor alcohol and traffic infractions expunged from your criminal record. The conviction will still show up on your record, but the clerk of court will add a note to it that the court dismissed the conviction in the interests of justice.
There are number of obstacles to consider when filing to clear your record and it is recommended that you have an attorney help you navigate this process. We offer a free consultation to determine if your record is eligible for an expunction or a non-disclosure.
Another type of expungement that you can ask the court for is a Certificate of Actual Innocence. This certificate is available if you were charged with a crime and the charges against you were later dropped. The certificate eliminates the possibility of the record being accessed. It will be like the criminal record never existed at all.
You can also file for Proof of Rehabilitation to clean up your criminal record. This avenue provides evidence to landlords, employers, and others that you have taken positive steps to become a better member of society. It essentially vouches that you have been proactive in correcting your past mistakes, that you have expressed proper remorse, and that you have paid full restitution to your victims if applicable.