Punishment for a criminal offense does not end once the cell doors open or the period of probation ends. In fact, sometimes the collateral consequences can be just as bad, or even worse, than the direct consequences. Even a minor criminal conviction often makes it hard to get a good job, find a nice place to love, get financial aid for school, or do other things that most people take for granted.
The state recognizes these problems, and for many individuals, there is a way to limit or avoid these consequences.
Sometimes, the best way to erase a criminal conviction is not to get one in the first place. Deferred adjudication probation makes such an outcome possible, even if the defendant is charged with a serious felony or has a criminal record.
As the name implies, in deferred adjudication probation, the Tarrant County judge accepts the plea of guilty or no contest but does not enter a finding of guilt at that time. Instead, the court places the defendant on probation. Assuming the defendant successfully completes that probation, the court dismisses the case. Some prosecutors recommend deferred adjudication as part of a plea deal. In other cases, an open plea to the court may be an option.
There are some significant pros and cons when it comes to deferred adjudication. We'll explore them in a subsequent post.
Deferred adjudication only takes care of the conviction record. The arrest and prosecution records remain behind. So, if you receive deferred adjudication in Parker County, people who search your record could discover that you were arrested and charged with a crime.
The record sealing process under the revised Chapter 411 of the Government Code takes care of all these records. You are eligible for record-sealing if:
· You successfully completed deferred adjudication probation, and
· The waiting period has expired.
Generally, that waiting period is five years for felonies, two years for Class A misdemeanors, and one year (or even less) for Class B and C misdemeanors. A few crimes, such as murder, domestic violence, and any sex crime, are not eligible for sealing or any other such relief.
Over the past few years, the state has tinkered with the expunction requirements. Here are the main qualifications under the current version of the Government Code:
· Court Exoneration: That could be a finding of not guilty either after a bench trial or a jury trial. If an appeals court overturns the defendant's conviction, that counts as well. Obviously, the deal is off if a higher court reinstates that conviction.
· Dismissal: The state dropped the old "dismissal due to lack of evidence or probable cause" requirement. Now, any dismissal may do, even if it's part of a plea agreement. The only other requirement in this area is that the statute of limitations must have expired.
· No Charges Brought: Sometimes, aggressive Parker County intake prosecutors file charges and the court prosecutors feel there's not enough evidence for a conviction. Once the waiting period expires (three years for most felonies and one year for most misdemeanors), a judge can expunge the record.
If the defendant is dead, a close relative may apply for expunction on the defendant's behalf. These types of expunctions happen more often than you may think. Even many years after the fact, some people want to "clear the names" of their departed loved ones.
A Texas criminal record does not have to haunt you forever. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We have multiple office locations where you can privately and comfortably discuss your case.