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Expungement and Record Sealing: Starting Fresh

New laws have created new opportunities for people to move on with their lives.

Texas law, unlike the law in many other states, includes multiple criminal records and sealing options. Almost every first-time offender, whether they were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and whether that offense was violent or nonviolent, is eligible for some kind of relief in this area. This relief gives these defendants more career options, housing opportunities, and employment opportunities, among other things.

Although relief is available, a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer must continue advocating for defendants after the judge’s gavel falls. In most cases, judicial officers do not simply give away fresh starts. Additionally, attorneys advocate for defendants in other post-conviction arenas, such as criminal appeals and probation revocation, modification, and/or termination matters.

Record Expungement

Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure outlines the rules for record expungement, mostly eligibility and procedural rules.

Expungement orders are like paper shredding orders. An order to expunge all criminal records issued under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Section 55.02 results in the destruction of files containing a reference to your crime, arrest, and punishment. Once your case is expunged it is gone from public records. Some agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, however, may still have knowledge of the crime.

Broad relief usually has very specific eligibility requirements, and expungement is no exception. The minimum expungement qualifications are:

We stress that these are the minimum requirements. Job applicants who meet the minimum qualifications usually do not get hired, and minimum qualification expunction applicants often do not get relief.

As is the case with all forms of post-conviction relief, a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer must convince a judge that the requested relief is in the best interests of society.

Nondisclosure (Sealing) Order

First-time misdemeanor offenders are eligible for automatic sealing. “Automatic” means the judge must grant the application if the defendant meets minimum qualifications.

Discretionary record sealing is an option as well. A judge has the power to seal most conviction records, with the exception of most:

These restrictions apply to your entire criminal history, including the offense you want to seal. You are never eligible to receive an order of nondisclosure for any offense if you have ever been convicted of or put on deferred adjudication for one of the above crimes.

A record-sealing order is like a computer’s delete key. The file is still on the computer, but only a few computer professionals can find it. Sealed records still exist, but only judicial, law enforcement, and a few licensing agencies can find them.

Juvenile Offenses

Until recently, the expungement and sealing (nondisclosure) laws applied to adult and juvenile criminal convictions.

The new Automatic Restriction of Access to Records System now applies after a former juvenile defendant turns 21 if they have not been arrested since they turned 17. This relief is available in addition to other forms of relief, such as expungement or sealing and other similar provisions in the Texas Family Code.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal convictions don’t always stay on your permanent record. For a free consultation with an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Kyle Whittaker. We routinely handle matters throughout North Texas.