As part of your criminal case, you might come to a point where you are offered a plea agreement. Plea agreements may allow you to be charged with fewer or lesser crimes. You might be wondering, “If I enter a plea to a felony, can I get an expunction in Texas?” This is an important question to ask because a criminal record can have a lasting impact on your life for many years to come. Expunction may be able to eliminate this negative impact, but it is not available in all cases.
If you are thinking about expunction, consider contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer with Jason English Law by calling (512) 454-7548.
What Is an Expunction in Texas?
According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 55, Texas allows some individuals to remove information about an arrest, charge, or conviction through a process known as expunction. If an individual's record is expunged, all information related to it is removed from their criminal record. If they are asked if the arrest or conviction ever occurred, they can lawfully say no, among other benefits of expunction.
Differences in Expunctions and Non-Disclosure Orders in Texas
An expunction is a clearing of a criminal record. All information relating to that record is removed or destroyed from official sources, and the individual can legally deny the record that has been expunged. However, it is important that individuals understand that an expunction only applies to the one instance they are petitioning for. Individuals should also remember that the information being removed or destroyed is from court and police records. Other records of the arrest may still exist, including police blotters, newspaper or blog articles, and the memories of people involved, including law enforcement and alleged victims.
Not all individuals or offenses are eligible for expunction. In some of these cases, an alternative may be to seek an Order for Nondisclosure. A nondisclosure order does not destroy all records related to the offense like an expunction does. However, they are removed from public record and cannot be accessed by most private parties. Nonetheless, law enforcement agencies and other government agencies may still be able to view these records. Additionally, they may be revealed during certain court actions.
Who Is Eligible for Expunction or Non-Disclosure in Texas?
Not every record is eligible for expunction. Criminal records that may be eligible for expunction generally include:
- Arrests that were never charged
- Criminal charges that were dismissed
- Arrests where someone is not charged if a case was not filed and there is no felony offense related to the incident for which they were arrested
- Arrests, charges, or convictions on a person's criminal record due to identity theft in which the thief was arrested, charged, or convicted of the offense
- Convictions that were later overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals
- Qualifying misdemeanor juvenile offenses
- Convictions for a minor for certain alcohol offenses
- Convictions for failure to attend school
- Convictions for crimes pardoned by the president or the governor of Texas
Texas law provides specific guidelines for expunction and non-disclosure. Even if someone meets the definition of one of the provisions above, they may not qualify for expunction due to other factors, such as the crime involved, their prior criminal history, when the crime was committed, or another specific element. An experienced criminal defense lawyer from Jason English Law may be able to review the circumstances of your case and explain whether you may qualify for expunction or non-disclosure.
What Types of Crimes in Texas Qualify for Expunctions?
Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure applies to many different crimes, including felonies, misdemeanors, and juvenile offenses. The ability to have a record expunged depends largely on how the case was resolved.
Can You Get a Felony Conviction Expunged in Texas?
As explained above, individuals can only get an expunction in Texas for an offense for which they are convicted if that conviction is later overturned or pardoned. Specifically, if an individual is placed on community supervision for a crime other than a Class C misdemeanor, they likely will not be able to expunge the record. Unfortunately, when you enter a plea of guilty or no contest to a criminal charge, you are not able to get the charges tied to that arrest expunged.
Sometimes entering a plea may entail waiving certain rights. Individuals considering a plea bargain may want to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer before taking this action so they are aware of all of the possible consequences when making their decision.
What Felonies Cannot Be Expunged in Texas?
Generally, a person cannot expunge a felony in Texas that resulted in their conviction unless that conviction was later overturned or pardoned. Additionally, individuals cannot expunge an offense for a felony charge that was dismissed if the statute of limitations for the crime has not yet expired. If the prosecution is seeking a conviction against another person and the information related to the charges or arrest are relevant, an individual may not be able to expunge their record.
Arrests related to a probation violation warrant or related to a person fleeing the jurisdiction are also not eligible for expunction in Texas. Other offenses that may not be eligible for expunction include:
- Sex offenses requiring registration as a sex offender
- Violent crimes, including murder, or aggravated kidnapping
- Family violence
How Long After a Felony Can You Get an Expunction In Texas?
The time someone must wait to apply for an expunction depends on the charge against them and how their case is resolved. Here are some example timelines for expunctions in Texas:
- At least six months from the arrest date for crimes punishable as a Class C misdemeanor if the case was never filed
- At least one year from the arrest date for crimes punishable as a Class A or B misdemeanor if the case was never filed
- At least three years from the arrest date for crimes punishable as a felony if the case was never filed
- No later than 30 days if a trial court receives notice of a pardon or acquittal based on actual innocence
Additionally, if the individual has been convicted of any other felony within five years of the date of the arrest they are seeking to have expunged, they may not be granted the expunction.
Consider Contacting an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help With Your Expunction
Before you enter a plea, it is important you understand the potential downsides. You may or may not be eligible for an expunction in Texas, depending on the situation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to evaluate your circumstances and advise you of your options.