An arrest changes your life forever. Even if all charges against you are dropped, you may encounter discrimination because of the fact that you were arrested. Every time you apply for a job, a home rental, a loan, or some types of financial aid, the anxiety over your criminal record can come back to haunt you time and again.
Fortunately, you may not need to spend the rest of your life running from your past. There is a way to eliminate your criminal record known as expunction. By working with an expunction lawyer in San Antonio, you may be able to start over with a clean slate.
Here at the Hillier Law Firm, we help clients petition for expunction or nondisclosure of their records. We want you to understand your options and get the guidance you deserve.
The High Demand for Expunction in San Antonio
In January 2019, the City of San Antonio reported that there were 772 violent crimes reported in San Antonio. There were also 5,532 property crimes and 1,620 simple assaults during the same month. In 2018, the City reported that there were a total of 9,647 violent crimes reported for the year. In January 2019, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office made 102 felony and 148 misdemeanor arrests.
It is important to remember that not everyone who is arrested, or charged with a crime is guilty. Many of the individuals arrested for these offenses may be convicted of crimes, while others will have their charges dismissed outright. For those whose cases were dismissed, even though they did not have a viable case brought against them, they will have to live with the stigma of a criminal arrest appearing on their record. Other individuals were guilty but made a small mistake that doesn’t merit a lifelong criminal record. In either case, you don’t have to live with this embarrassment. An expunction attorney will fight to have your record cleared. Once your record is clear, you can start over with a clean slate and walk with your head held high.
How To Clear Your Record
There are two ways in which you can clear your criminal record.
Firstly, there’s an order of nondisclosure. Although a nondisclosure limits who can access your record, it doesn’t completely remove it. During the process, all private entities delete your record from their files. However, the State of Texas still has access to your criminal record. If a court order or government entity requests your record, the state will grant them access.
Second, an expunction, if available, will completely remove the arrest and or charge from your record. Once the process is complete it is as if any arrest never happened. Virtually no one can find out about it, and you can honestly tell employers and loan officers that you have a clean record.
Who Is Eligible for Nondisclosure?
Only certain individuals are eligible for nondisclosure. You should speak with an expunction lawyer in San Antonio to learn more about whether you qualify. If your case has been closed and you have had no more recent convictions, you may be able to successfully obtain nondisclosure status.
It’s important to note that this does not usually occur automatically, you must petition for nondisclosure and allow the appropriate waiting period to pass. According to State law, misdemeanors have a waiting period of two years and felonies have a waiting period of five years.
Who is Eligible for Expunction?
If your case meets any of the following criteria, you may be able to seek an expunction:
You were only arrested but never charged
The court dismissed your criminal charge
Your offense qualifies as a juvenile misdemeanor offense
The offense was as a minor and is related to alcohol
You successfully completed a pretrial diversion
The Court of Criminal Appeals acquitted you
The Governor of Texas or the President of the United States pardoned you
That said, there are many details that can exclude you from expunction. For instance, all of the following could exclude you from clearing your record:
You have a guilty conviction resulting from your arrest
The conviction was punished with probation
You went to prison for your conviction
The court gave you a deferred adjudication
Within five years of the arrest, you had a felony conviction
The statute of limitations has not passed on your crime
It may be difficult for you to know whether or not you are eligible for expunction. If you are questioning your eligibility, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in San Antonio. They will be able to tell you more about the requirements and exclusions for expunction.
How Do You File for Expunction?
Generally, the expunction process is simple. However, there is no guarantee the court will approve your request and a denial means your application fee will not be refunded. For the best results, you should consider working with an expunction lawyer in San Antonio. They give you a chance at success the first time around and can appeal the process if it isn’t successful.
Nevertheless, it’s important to know the steps you need to take to get your record cleared. First, you need to ask the district court for your criminal record and ask them for a copy of the record. Then, you should bring your file to an expunction attorney. They will look over your record, determine whether or not you qualify, and get you the paperwork needed to move forward.
It’s also crucial to decide whether you want a nondisclosure or a full expunction. Although expunction is usually preferred, it’s not always an option. Your lawyer will help you make this decision.
You’ll also need to write a statement on your reasons for wanting expunction. Specifically, you should explain how your life will improve if your record is cleared by the court. You also must show evidence that you’ve attempted to better yourself since your arrest.
Eventually, you will receive a hearing date and you must attend the hearing. Although you’re not required to have a criminal defense attorney at the hearing, having a criminal defense attorney representing you will improve your chances of success at the hearing. If the court approves your request, you need to notarize and copy your expunction petition. Once that’s done, your record will be either sealed or destroyed. You will be able to move forward without everyone being aware of your criminal history.
Recent Changes with Texas Expunction/ Nondisclosure
Recently, Texas expunction/ nondisclosure laws changed drastically. In 2017, new laws were passed to make nondisclosure more widely available. The new laws give first-time offenders another chance at life and allow more people to qualify for relief.
These new laws now allow certain offenders to seek nondisclosure. Now, the future is a little brighter for those who receive DWI or misdemeanor convictions. They have a better chance at a successful petition and can rectify their mistakes.
Do you still have questions about expunction? If so, you’re not alone. With a crime rate of 56 per 1000 residents in San Antonio, there are many people in need of expunction. This FAQ answers some of the most common questions regarding expunction in Texas:
What Cases Usually Qualify for Expunction?
All of the requirements for expunction are listed above. But as a general summary, most cases that qualify for expunction involve people who:
Never had criminal charges filed against them
Were acquitted by a court
Had criminal charges filed, but then dismissed
Had indictment allegations “no-billed” by a grand jury
Were convicted but proven innocent at a later date
Were pardoned by the Governor of Texas or the U.S. President
There are some other circumstances that could qualify you for expunction. To learn more, you should contact someone with experience with criminal defense in San Antonio.
Why is Expunction So Important?
For many individuals who have been arrested or convicted of a crime, expunction is the holy grail. This is because your criminal record holds you back from living your life.
Every time you apply for a job, an employer can run a background check and find out about your criminal history. Then, they may be unwilling to hire you. If you’re looking for a new apartment or house to rent, you face the same risk. Most property owners and managers are reluctant to rent to those with criminal histories. When you apply for a loan, you’re likely to encounter the same problem.
Perhaps the worst consequence of having a criminal record is fear of exposure. People often live in constant fear of their record becoming public knowledge. When someone finds out about your crime, they look at you differently.
Expunction allows you to stop living in fear.
Can I Have My Record Expunged If I Have Deferred Adjudication?
You may be eligible for expunction if you received deferred adjudication. However, this is usually limited to people who committed Class C misdemeanors. If you were convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, Class A misdemeanor, or a felony offense, you are likely ineligible for an expunction.
There is still another option. You can't completely clear your record, but you can hide it from prospective employers, property managers, and loan officers. An order of nondisclosure keeps your record hidden from members of the public.
The major difference between expunction and nondisclosure is the fact that a government entity can request your record. So, your record is not completely destroyed. Law enforcement or another government entity can request your record and view it.
Do You Have to Wait to Seek Expunction or Nondisclosure?
Depending on your crime, you might need to wait before filing for expunction or nondisclosure. The amount of time depends on the type of crime you were charged with. For a Class C misdemeanor, you need to wait 180 days from the date of your arrest. Class A and B misdemeanors require a waiting period of one year, while felony crimes demand a waiting period of three years.
It's crucial to get the timing right on your request. If you file too early, you'll be denied and will lose the application fee. You'll also waste your own time.
How Long Does Expunction Take?
It's impossible to say how long your expunction will take. However, it usually takes at least 30 days to get a hearing date. Of course, this only happens after you file the petition. The petition itself takes time and should not be done in haste.
Once you receive an expunction, the process still is not immediate. Agencies need to destroy all records of your arrest, and that does not happen overnight. Usually, it takes up to 180 days for all of your records to be destroyed.
If you attempt the process on your own, it's likely to take some time. By working with an attorney, you speed up the process. You don't need to waste your time researching expunction laws and looking for paperwork. Additionally, your lawyer may be able to get you a hearing sooner than you would be able to.
Do I Need an Attorney?
You don’t need an attorney to file for expunction or nondisclosure. However, you should give yourself the best chance of success, and in most cases, this means working with an experienced and aggressive attorney who will take care of all the details and ensure your petition isn’t missing anything.
The Hillier Law Firm wants to help you move forward with your life. We know how much expunction or nondisclosure means to our clients, so we work hard to get results. If you’re ready to leave your past behind you, contact us today.