The Bearden Law Firm specializes in helping people obtain Expunctions or Nondisclosure Orders.
Everyone, at some point, has made a bad mistake or has been in the wrong place at the wrong time resulting in trouble. Unfortunately for some, trouble can result in a criminal record reflecting an arrest, charge or conviction. While most convictions cannot be removed from a person’s record, Texas law does allow individuals to permanently remove information about an arrest, charge or conviction from their permanent records in certain circumstances. This is called an expunction. Once a person’s record is expunged, all information is removed from the criminal record and that person can deny the incident ever occurred.
Not all individuals with records eligible for expunction above qualify to receive an expunction. The Court will not grant an expunction to adults who have received deferred adjudication or probation or who have been convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest the person is seeking to have expunged. Finally, a person cannot file a petition seeking expunction of a felony charge that has been dismissed if the statute of limitations for the crime subject to the dismissal has not yet expired. The statute of limitations is the amount of time that the state or county has to prosecute an action against a person after that person has been arrested for an offense. The statute of limitations is different depending on the crime, but most are at least three years.
If expunction is not an option due to the nature of the offense, charge or conviction, it may be possible to obtain an Order for Nondisclosure. A nondisclosure order does not completely destroy all record of any offense, but will limit the accessibility of the records. Records subject to a nondisclosure order are removed from public record and cannot be released or accessed by certain private parties. However, the records will remain available to government agencies and will be admissible in certain court actions. Under the Government Code §411.081, a person who has successfully completed deferred adjudication and received a discharge and dismissal of the deferred adjudication may apply for a nondisclosure order.
In addition to successful completion of probation or deferred adjudication, an individual must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for a Nondisclosure Order. For example, a person cannot apply for a nondisclosure order until after the statutory waiting period has passed. During that time, the applicant cannot have been convicted of any other offenses. The waiting time varies anywhere from 0 to 10 years depending on the offense. Individuals charged with family violence, a sex offense requiring registration, aggravated kidnapping, murder and some other specific types of offenses will likely not be able to obtain a Nondisclosure Order.
The process for obtaining an Order of Nondisclosure is substantially similar to obtaining an Order for Expunction. A petition must be filed with the court that was involved with the original offense. A hearing will be conducted after proper notice to the required parties and the court will determine, at that time, whether to grant the order. It should be noted that the court generally has more discretion to decide whether or not an Order for Nondisclosure should be granted than a judge would when an expunction is requested. The judge will deny the order if justice would not be served by granting the order. No agency, system or person is perfect and mistakes can happen. Although the criminal justice system may be tough on offenders, the law tries to allow those mistakes to be remedied. Whether the error is made by the system or the offender, the law attempts to right wrongs and, when deserved, give second chances.