Common Expungement Myths Exposed

All criminal convictions have both direct consequences, such as jail time or court supervision, and collateral consequences, like immigration problems. One of the most significant collateral consequences of a conviction is the conviction itself. Convicted criminals often go through life with targets on their backs. Their credibility suffers, both in court and in the everyday world. Additionally, police officers always look their way when something around them goes wrong.

Many people need not suffer these consequences, at least not forever. Texas has rather broad expungement and sealing laws. Expungement erases criminal records; sealing makes the records private. A good Weatherford criminal defense attorney can file a petition and often obtain a successful result without a court hearing.

They Automatically Seal Juvenile Records

You would think so, but that’s not true. The state does not automatically seal or expunge juvenile records when the defendant turns 18 or 21.

However, juvenile records are usually sealable or expungeable. In fact, certain kinds of juvenile offenses, such as failure to attend school and MIP (Minor in Possession of alcohol) might be expungeable even if the defendant pleaded guilty and received probation.

A Criminal Background Eventually Falls Off Your Record

This myth is plausible as well. Bankruptcy, repossession, and other negative information only stays on credit reports for a few years. Specifically in the criminal law realm, many employer criminal background checks only go back seven years. And, for enhancement purposes, DWIs fall off criminal records after ten years.

But even if the case of DWI, the record remains. Criminal records are like the mythical “permanent record” in a public or private school. When people are charged with or convicted of crimes, expungement or sealing is the only way to remove them or limit their effect.

Criminal Records are Permanent

This view is quite fatalistic and also quite erroneous. If the defendant pleaded guilty or was found guilty by a jury, the record is difficult to undo. And, some criminal charges are not expungeable or sealable. Generally, however, if the charges were resolved in one of the following ways, the charge is expungeable:

  • No court charges filed,

  • Case dismissed before trial,

  • No felony court charges filed as part of a misdemeanor arrest,

  • Identity theft issue,

  • Conviction reversed in Court of Criminal Appeals, and

  • Executive pardon.

In many cases, if the defendant pleaded guilty or was found guilty, the conviction is sealable, if the defendant had no prior criminal record.

Pardons are Impossible to Obtain

This myth might be the most inaccurate one of all. In many cases, an executive pardon is the easiest way to obtain expungement.

Frequently, the governor issues pardons in cases that have been closed for many years. The conviction must simply jive with the governor’s political agenda. Former President Barack Obama granted over 1,700 clemency petitions. Most of them involved drug sentences which he believed were unduly harsh.

Criminal records often are not permanent, but they never go away by themselves. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Parker County and nearby jurisdictions.