At best, a criminal conviction is a serious impediment to things like getting a job or finding a place to live. At worst, a conviction may make these things impossible.
There is usually a way to mitigate these problems or make them go away entirely. Texas law on this subject is extremely complex, and there are many possible solutions. But most of the expungement/sealing cases we handle fall into the following categories.
If your record is expunged, all paperwork goes away. It is like the incident never occurred. If your record is sealed, the paperwork remains, but only certain people may view it for certain reasons. That category is usually limited to courts and law enforcement.
For a long time, the Legislature has struggled with this issue. People who are wrongfully accused definitely deserve to have their records expunged. But procedural irregularities and other “technicalities” trigger some dismissals. According to the Legislature, these people do not receive the same protection.
So, in order to expunge a record base don a dismissal, the statute of limitations must have passed. Once that event occurs, there is no way the prosecutor can refile charges. All misdemeanors have a two-year statute of limitations. Most felonies have a three-year statute of limitations. In some cases, the SOL is five, seven, or ten years. A few cases, such as murder/manslaughter and human trafficking, have no SOL. It’s usually not possible to expunge these cases.
Expungement is once in a lifetime. If the defendant has any criminal record whatsoever, expungement is usually not an option.
Deferred Adjudication-Based Sealing
Especially in misdemeanors and low-grade felonies, deferred adjudication probation is often a good choice. The defendant pleads guilty and receives probation. But the judge does not enter a finding of guilt at that time. Instead, the judge defers that part of the proceeding. If the defendant successfully completes the probation, the case is dismissed.
There is considerable risk involved, especially in serious felonies, if the defendant violates probation in any way, which could include spitting on the sidewalk, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum. That does not occur very often, but I have seen it happen.
Deferred results in no conviction on your record. However, the other records, including the arrest records, remain behind.
Sealing takes care of the leftover records. After a waiting period expires, defendants may apply for sealing. The records remain, but they are invisible to most people. Perhaps more importantly, when a job application or other document asks about a criminal history, the defendant may truthfully answer “none.”
A criminal record does not necessarily follow a defendant forever. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We have several offices in the Parker County area.