As a practicing criminal defense attorney, clients often ask me how to get a criminal record expunged in Texas. The quick and easy answer is to consult with an experienced Texas expungement attorney. You must first determine if you qualify for expungement in Texas. If you qualify for expungement, find out how long you have to wait to expunge the records. Once you know that you are eligible, a petition for expunction must be filed in civil court, which starts the expunction process. The only remaining question is whether to do this yourself or to hire an experienced Texas expungement lawyer.
Do You Qualify for Expungement in Texas?
Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure dictates who qualifies for expungement in Texas. To determine whether you qualify for expungement in Texas, it is important to know how the criminal case was resolved. If your case was dismissed or if you were found not guilty at trial, you qualify for expungement in Texas. If a pretrial diversion was successfully completed, you qualify for expungement. If you plead guilty, served time or completed a deferred adjudication, you do not qualify for expungement in Texas...with two exceptions. 1) Class C misdemeanors in which deferred adjudication was successfully completed are eligible for expunction. 2) Any unlawful carrying of a weapon charge before 2021 qualifies for expunction, whether the case was dismissed or resulted in a guilty conviction. This second exception came into effect after Texas passed the Firearm Carry Act of 2021. Below is a list of arrest records that do and do not qualify for expungement.
Criminal records that are eligible for expunction in Texas:
an arrest in which you were released without being charged
a criminal case that resulted in a dismissal (without deferred adjudication probation)
a case that resulted in a not guilty verdict or an acquittal
an offense for which pretrial diversion was successfully completed
an arrest in which your name appears in the record by mistake
any class c misdemeanor offense, as long as the case was dismissed or you completed a deferred adjudication
Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon charges, whether you plead guilty or if the case was dismissed (new Texas gun laws allow for expungement due to a change in the definition of Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon)
Criminal records that are NOT eligible for expunction in Texas:
an arrest that resulted in a plea of guilty or a guilty verdict at trial
an arrest that resulted in probation or deferred adjudication (excluding Class C misdemeanors)
certain criminal charges that were dismissed but that are still within the statute of limitations period (see Chapter 12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to find out how long the statute of limitations is for a particular charge)
A common misconception is that you automatically qualify for expungement in Texas after a certain period of time, whether the case was dismissed or not. This is completely untrue. Arrest records will always remain on your criminal background unless and until you file for an expunction of records. You should always consult with an experienced Texas expungement attorney before moving forward with the expungement process. Once you determine that you qualify for expungement in Texas, the next question is how long you have to wait to expunge the arrest record.
How Long do You Have to Wait to Expunge Records in Texas?
Assuming you are eligible to file for expunction of records in Texas, there may be a waiting period after the criminal case was dismissed before you can file for expunction. To determine how long you have to wait to expunge records in Texas, you must find out why the case was dismissed. If the case was dismissed due to lack of probable cause or actual innocence, you are immediately eligible for expungement in Texas and you do not have to wait to expunge the records. If the case was dismissed for some other reason, such as completion of an anger management class or community service or successful completion of a pretrial diversion program, Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires you to wait until the statute of limitations expires in the underlying criminal case before you can expunge the records.
How Long is the Statute of Limitations for my Case
As discussed in the previous section, if your case was dismissed for some other reason besides lack of probable cause, actual innocence or reason to believe you did not commit the offense, you must wait until the statute of limitations expires on the underlying criminal case before you are eligible for expunction in Texas. Chapter 12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure governs how long the statute of limitations is for your case. Here is a non-exhaustive list to help you determine the statute of limitations for your case and when you are eligible to file for expunction of records in Texas:
10 years from the date of the offense for:
assault causing serious bodily injury to a child, elderly or disabled person
7 years from the date of the offense for:
credit/debit card abuse
fraudulent use or possession of identifying information
health care fraud
5 years from the date of the offense for:
felony theft or robbery
injury to an elderly or disabled person (not serious bodily injury)
certain felony Assault on a Family Member charges
3 years from the date of the offense for:
all other felonies not listed above
misdemeanor assault on a family member or family violence charges
2 years from the date of the offense for:
all other misdemeanors
Find an Experienced Texas Expungement Lawyer Near You
Assuming you qualify for expunction, the next step is to decide whether to find an experienced Texas expungement lawyer or to do it yourself. There are a number of reasons to hire an experienced Texas expungement lawyer to expunge your records. The expunction process is a complicated civil matter that requires the filing of petitions and orders that must include certain language. If the petition or order is inaccurate or incomplete, a judge will deny the expunction. Additionally, there are only certain courts that handle expungement matters and you must file your expunction petition in the correct court for the matter to be heard. The experienced expungement lawyers here at Mercer and Keirnan have filed hundreds of expunctions in Texas and are intimately familiar with the expungement process and what must be included in the petitions and orders that are filed.
The expunction petition requires that certain agencies be added as parties to the expunction. These are the agencies that created the arrest records. There are also other agencies, such as background check and news affiliates, that can be added to the expunction petition and order. An experienced Texas expungement lawyer knows exactly which parties to add to the expunction petition and will make sure that all trace of the arrest records are expunged.
You must also be certain that your case qualifies for expungement. Should you file a petition for expunction in a case that does not qualify for expunction, you not only lose the $400 filing fee, but you also lose the right to expunge the case in the future should it become eligible. Say, for example, you file for expunction in a case that is still within the statute of limitations and the judge denies your expunction. Even when the statute of limitations expires, you would not be able to expunge the case since a judge has already ruled against expunction. To be sure your case qualifies for expungement in Texas, call 713-236-9700 and speak with a Texas expungement lawyer at Mercer and Keirnan for a free consultation.
Can I Expunge My Criminal Record Myself?
While it is highly recommended that you hire an experienced Texas expungement lawyer to file your expunction, it is possible to expunge your criminal record yourself. You can visit the Texas.gov website to learn about the expungement process and how to expunge your criminal record yourself. The city of Houston website offers advice on how to expunge class C misdemeanors yourself without the help of an attorney. Just remember that should you expunge your criminal record yourself and a judge rules against the expunction due to some error in the filings or because the statute of limitations has not expired, you lose any right in the future to file for an expunction in that case.
As discussed in the previous section, there are certain parties that must be added to the expunction petition. These are typically the agencies where the arrest records originated. Should you fail to include any of these necessary parties, records of your arrest may still be available for the public to see even after an expunction. All the more reason to hire an experienced Texas expungement lawyer to assist you with filing the expunction petition.
How Long Does Expungement Take in Texas?
The expungement process in Texas typically takes between 60 to 90 days if everything is done correctly. The first step in the expungement process is the filing of a petition for expunction in civil district court. The court then grants a hearing date, at which time an agreed order of expunction is filed with the court. The last step in the expungement process is when the judge signs the final order of expunction. There is an additional period of time, however, between when the judge signs the order and when the arrest records are actually expunged. Once the final expungement order is signed, the order is sent out to all of the agencies included in the petition notifying them that the criminal case has been expunged and ordering them to comply with the expunction order and destroy the arrest records.
So, in addition to the 60 to 90 day legal process of expunction, there will be an additional month or two before the records are actually expunged. To make sure your criminal background is expunged as quickly as possible, hire an experienced expungement attorney in Texas to assist you with the process.
Should you have any questions about how to get your record expunged in Texas, feel free to call 713-236-9700 for a free consultation with an experienced Texas expungement attorney at Mercer and Keirnan Criminal Defense Attorneys.