• What is an Expungement?
An Expungement or, Expunction under Texas law, is a legal action that will completely clear the record of a criminal offense. Most people refer to this action as an Expungement so I will use that terminology here. When an Expungement is granted every entity that has any record of the criminal offense is ordered to destroy the record. The result of the Expungement is that the criminal offense expunged will never show up on a criminal background check. People who have received Expungements are legally allowed to deny they have ever been arrested in interviews and on job applications and the background check results will support their answers.
• Is there any timeline someone has to wait before applying for this?
There are various timelines that apply to Expungements. First, if you are found not guilty at trial you are immediately eligible for an Expungement. It does NOT happen automatically. If you are found not guilty at trial and you never take action to clear our background of the arrest and court charge, you will always have it on your background.
If your criminal charge is dismissed from court because you successfully completed a first offender program, you are immediately eligible for an Expungement. The only “waiting period” in this scenario is the time it takes to successfully complete the first offender program.
If your criminal charge is dismissed for any other reason beside a first offender program, you will need to wait out the Statute of Limitations for the specific offense you want to Expunge. Class A and B Misdemeanors have a Statute of Limitations of two (2) years. Most felonies have a Statute of Limitations of three (3) years. However, many felonies have longer Statutes of Limitations, sometimes much longer. Your Expungement Attorney will have to know the Statute of Limitations that applies to your specific situation. Expungements are available on Class C Misdemeanors and with shorter waiting periods. Unlike higher level offenses, it is possible to serve a Deferred Adjudication Probation on a Class C offense and still receive an Expungement.
There are circumstances wherein the waiting period can be shortened to less than the full period of the Statute of Limitations. One example is making an agreement with the prosecutors of the offense that they no longer need their records. Another example is accepting less than a complete Expungement of all records. If you are willing to allow the prosecutors and police to maintain their records of the offense, you can get an Expungement in less than the total time of the Statute of Limitations. This can be a good option for felonies with long limitations periods. You can get your record cleared say for employment purposes but, they authorities can keep their records confidentially should they be needed in the future
• How does someone qualify for an Expungement?
To qualify for an Expungement a person must have either, been found not guilty or, had their criminal charges dismissed. The person seeking Expungement must also have waited the full waiting period on the charge they want Expunged. A person who served jail time or a period of court-ordered probation (that was not a first offender program) is not eligible for Expungement.
• How does an Expungement help someone and their reputation?
A granted Expungement makes it so that the criminal offense expunged legally never happened. The Expungement Statute specifically authorizes Expungement recipients to deny ever having had the charge. Background checks will be completely free of offenses that have been expunged. Therefore, interview answers denying crime and written answers on applications will be supported by a background check.
Criminal charges on a background check can make it difficult to find work, housing and to get credit. A person can be denied government benefits, grants and loans based on criminal history. An Expungement removes the cloud of criminality from the person who was accused. When a person is restored to his or her law abiding status it becomes much easier to obtain employment, gain promotions, pursue better employment opportunities, acquire housing and receive credit for large purchases.
• Does it work for both Felony & Misdemeanors?
Expunctions are available for Class C Misdemeanors, Class B Misdemeanors, Class A Misdemeanors and all levels of Felony. Waiting periods for Expungement vary with the different levels of offense. The Class C Misdemeanor is the only offense that you can serve a successful period of Deferred Adjudication Probation on and still be eligible for an Expungement.
• Can you give me an example of how someone hired you for an Expungement, and how you helped them?
Nursing is a profession that is licensed by the State of Texas. The State Board of Nursing has access to criminal records for use in deciding whether or not to license a aspiring nurse. Because the Board of Licensing is very strict in who they will license, nursing schools are very strict in who they will admit into their program. They will not waste limited program space on a student who will not be licensed because she cannot pass a background check.
I recently had a young client charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident. She was trying to turn around on a dark street in the middle of the night and she struck a van that was parked in the street. As it was the middle of the night and she was a young female all alone, she did not feel comfortable knocking on various doors at that hour to find the van owner and give him the bad news. She resolved to tackle that task first thing in the morning and with help.
Unfortunately, the police arrived at her door before she woke up. She never had the chance to find the van owner. Someone either saw the incident take place or got up early, saw the damage and called the police. My client told her story but, the police were not willing to accept it. Probable cause is a very low burden of proof and that is all that is required to make an arrest. So, she was arrested.
She hired me almost immediately. I went to work contacting both the police agency and the Intake Division of the local District Attorney’s Office. The government red tape made it a difficult and time-consuming endeavor but, ultimately, we got our client’s story impressed upon the decision makers. Charges were not filed.
We took the necessary steps to bar any future prosecution and sought an Expungement. The Expungement was granted at a hearing without significant resistance. Because of the time required to be sure charges were not filed, my client was not able to enroll in nursing school when she wanted to. However, because the record was Expunged she was able to enroll in nursing school. She is now on her way to becoming a nurse without any legal impediment
• What value does your firm offer that other competing firms don’t? (why should someone choose you)
The Peugh Law Firm is uniquely qualified to Expungements when compared to other lawyers of Firms that offer Expungement as a service. Expungements arise from criminal matters but they are Civil Law causes of action. As such, they require knowledge and expertise across two legal disciplines.
Many criminal defense attorneys won’t touch Expungements because they are not comfortable with the Civil Law aspects of them. Very few lawyers who practice Civil Law handle Expungements because they are so intertwined with Criminal Law. When I first went into private practice I handled Civil Law matters along with my Criminal Defense Practice so that, I would not starve. I ended up handling numerous civil matters over the years until I was sure I could make it on criminal business alone. As a result, I am very comfortable with Civil Procedure and I certainly know the criminal aspects of Expungement.
In addition, we have over 15 years of experience handling Expungement. We have kept up with the statutory changes and we know all of the applicable case law. Further, we partner with a non-profit organization (we are keeping the name to ourselves) to see to it that a certified copy of our clients’ Expungements is served on over 500 entities that keep and report crime data. That is far more than the 12 entities that our competitors serve. Likely, we cost at least a little more than our competition does. But when a job or housing is on the line, 12 is no competition for 500. We have successfully obtained hundreds of Expungements for our clients and we can do the same for you. Contact us at (940) 566-0271 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your case.