In Texas, the process of expunging a criminal record is often called "expunction." In addition, some criminal records may be sealed by court order, called an "order of nondisclosure." If a criminal record is expunged or sealed, it will no longer be visible to the general public, including potential employers. In most cases, the person may say they've never been arrested or convicted of a crime. Learn who and what criminal records may qualify for these remedies under Texas law.
Texas law provides several avenues to seal one's criminal record and limited options to clear it. The state doesn't use the term "expunge," rather, a person will be asking the court for an "expunction order" or "order of nondisclosure."
An expunction order directs agencies that hold a criminal record to destroy or remove it and delete any references to it. The criminal record will no longer be available, and the person can deny its existence except when questioned under oath in a criminal proceeding.
(Tex. Code Crim. P. arts. 55.02, 55.03 (2023).)
An order of nondisclosure will seal (rather than destroy) a criminal record. The law prohibits criminal justice agencies from disclosing sealed records to the public. A person can deny the existence of a sealed record in most employment and licensing applications. Exceptions exist for sensitive positions, such as in the areas of law enforcement, education, law, and health care.
(Tex. Gov't Code §§ 411.075, 411.0755, 411.076, 411.0765 (2023).)
Because expunction results in the destruction of records, it's a very limited remedy. A person may be able to clear arrest and charging records in certain cases not resulting in a conviction or upon being pardoned or acquitted. (Deferred adjudications must go through the sealing process, except Class C misdemeanors.)
Numerous exceptions apply that may limit one's eligibility for expunction or full expunction. It's best to consult a lawyer to learn more.
(Tex. Code Crim. P. arts. 55.01, 55.02 (2023).)
While orders for nondisclosure apply to a greater number of criminal records than expunction, the law imposes certain eligibility requirements.
Ineligible offenses. A person can't request an order of nondisclosure for, or have any record of a past conviction or deferred adjudication for, any of the following offenses:
Remain law abiding. Also, to be eligible for an order of nondisclosure, a person must remain crime free (other than traffic tickets) while under supervision or sentencing for the offense and during the applicable wait period. More on these requirements in the next section.
(Tex. Gov't Code § 411.074 (2023).)
For eligible offenses, orders for nondisclosure apply to a broad range of criminal records, including some convictions. Below are some examples based on the result of the case.
A person may ask the court for an order of nondisclosure if they pled guilty or no contest to an offense and successfully completed deferred adjudication community supervision. A person can only receive one order of nondisclosure for deferred adjudication.
The following waiting periods apply after discharge and dismissal of the case:
There's no waiting period upon completion of discharge and dismissal of a nonviolent misdemeanor, however, 180 days must have passed since adjudication was deferred.
(Texas Gov't Code §§ 411.072, 411.0725, 411.0726 (2023).)
Many misdemeanor convictions are eligible for sealing. Different procedures and wait periods may apply depending on whether or not a person received and completed community supervision (probation).
If punishment consisted of a fine only, a person can seek an order of nondisclosure right away (no wait period). Some nonviolent misdemeanors may also qualify immediately for nondisclosure (if the person was sentenced to community supervision). Otherwise, a person must generally wait two years after the successful completion of all sentencing terms to apply for an order of nondisclosure.
(Tex. Gov't Code §§ 411.073, 411.0735 (2023).)
A misdemeanor DWI conviction may qualify for sealing, as long as the offense did not involve a high BAC (.15 or over) or a collision. The wait period to apply for an order of nondisclosure varies from two to five years, depending on the terms of the DWI sentence.
(Tex. Gov't Code §§ 411.0731, 411.0736 (2023).)
The law permits orders of nondisclosure in cases resulting in deferred adjudication or conviction for those who complete a veterans treatment court or reemployment program.
For those in a veterans treatment court, a two-year wait period applies after completion, during which time the person can't be convicted of a felony. Certain past convictions, including those for violent offenses or sexually violent offenses, will disqualify a person from receiving an order of nondisclosure.
For those in a veterans reemployment program, the court must determine that an order of nondisclosure is in the best interests of justice. There are no disqualifying offenses or wait periods.
(Tex. Gov't Code §§ 411.0727, 411.0729 (2023).)
For most expunctions and orders of nondisclosure, a person must file a petition in the district court in the county where the arrest or conviction occurred. Filing fees may apply.
The Texas Judicial Branch has petitions and instructions available online for orders of nondisclosure. TexasLawHelp.org is another good source of information for orders of nondisclosure and expunction.
(Tex. Code Crim. P. art. 55.02; Tex. Gov't Code § 411.0745 (2023).)
Cleaning up your criminal history can be complicated. If you're unsure whether your record qualifies for expungement in Texas—or for advice about your personal situation—contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.