A criminal record can follow you the rest of your life, taking a toll on your wellbeing long after you’ve made amends with victims and your community, paid your fine and did your time. And if you were wrongly convicted, you still paid the price.
Under some circumstances, your arrests, charges and convictions can be totally erased from your record as if they never happened. You can even legally deny they happened at all.
What items on your record can be expunged?
The court system can consider expunction (or expungement, they mean the same thing) of the following:
- An arrest with no charges filed.
- A criminal charge later dismissed.
- Marks on your record due to identity theft, but only after the perpetrator is arrested and charged or convicted for it.
- A conviction for which you were later acquitted.
- A conviction for which you were later pardoned by the Texas Governor or the President of the United States.
Also, a variety of offenses by a minor can be expunged when the person reaches a certain age. (You can’t ask for juvenile offenses to be expunged until you’re no longer a juvenile.) Crimes that might be eligible include a misdemeanor committed before 17 years old and punishable by a fine, as can certain alcohol offenses and failure to attend school.
None of these occur automatically, and specifics matter, so it’s best to consult a qualified and experienced attorney.
Not everybody can apply
If the crime you’re eyeing was part of a “criminal episode,” and you were either convicted or charges are pending for other crimes around the same time, you won’t have much of a chance. Also, consider the five years after the arrest you want expunged. If you were convicted of a felony or received probation or a “deferred adjudication” (often, you pleaded “no contest”) you’re not eligible during those five years.
And for a felony charge for which charges were dismissed, you must wait for the statute of limitations for that crime to expire.