Who Can Have a Criminal Record Expunged in Texas?

There are tens of thousands of people with criminal records in Texas. But how many of them can get that record expunged?

Arrest Records

Arrest records, when charges were cancelled, qualifies for expungement.

Misdemeanor Records

There is a possibility for misdemeanor criminal records to be expunged.

Felony Records

Felony records are harder to get expunged, but the possibility exists when qualified.


Expungement in Texas

The state of Texas, like many others, offers certain individuals the opportunity to expunge or seal their criminal records. Expungement can provide a much-needed fresh start for individuals who have previously been involved with the criminal justice system. It essentially erases certain aspects of a person's criminal history, making it as though the arrest, charges, or conviction never happened. However, eligibility for this relief is not universal and depends on several criteria.

Expungement vs. Record Sealing

Before diving into who can have a criminal record expunged in Texas, it's essential to understand the difference between expungement and record sealing. Expungement (also known as expunction) entirely removes the record, while record sealing, or an order of nondisclosure, limits who can view the record. Although sealed records are still accessible to certain government entities, they are hidden from public view, including potential employers or landlords. Both expungement and record sealing aim to alleviate the negative impacts of having a criminal record, but they have different eligibility requirements and effects.


Eligibility for Expungement in Texas

In Texas, eligibility for expungement is quite specific. According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, individuals may be eligible if they were arrested but not charged, if their case was dismissed, or if they were acquitted, that is, found not guilty at trial. Moreover, people who have been convicted and then later pardoned or proven innocent can have their records expunged. However, if an individual was found guilty or accepted a plea deal, they would generally not be eligible for expungement.

Class C Misdemeanors and Deferred Adjudication

One notable exception to the rule lies with Class C misdemeanors. If an individual received deferred adjudication for a Class C misdemeanor and subsequently completed the deferment period successfully, they could potentially qualify for expungement. Deferred adjudication is a form of plea deal where the defendant pleads guilty or no contest in return for meeting certain requirements, such as probation, community service, or completion of a treatment program. If the requirements are met, the case is dismissed.

Expungement Waiting Periods

Even for those who are eligible, Texas law stipulates specific waiting periods before an application for expungement can be filed. These waiting periods vary depending on the severity of the offense. For example, Class C misdemeanors require a waiting period of 180 days from the date of arrest, while felonies require a wait of three years. These waiting periods are designed to ensure that no further charges will be brought relating to the same incident.

13 Broad Relief States
21 Limited Relief States
19 People with Felony Records (Millions - 2010)
13 Misdemeanor Cases per year (millions)

Record Sealing in Texas

In cases where expungement is not an option, individuals may be able to have their criminal records sealed. Texas allows record sealing for many offenses, provided the person has successfully completed deferred adjudication probation, and meets other criteria. However, certain offenses, such as aggravated sexual assault, murder, or offenses involving family violence, cannot be sealed.

The Expungement and Record Sealing Process

To have a criminal record expunged or sealed in Texas, one must petition the court, which generally involves hiring an expunction lawyer. The process can be complicated and time-consuming. There's no guarantee of success, and the final decision lies with the judge. Even if a person meets all the criteria, the judge may still choose to deny the request.

Conclusion on Expungement in Texas

Overall, the opportunity for criminal record expungement or sealing in Texas offers a potential path for past offenders to reintegrate into society more seamlessly. However, the complex legal requirements and potential roadblocks highlight the importance of legal guidance in navigating this process. It is always recommended to seek legal counsel when considering this option to ensure a clear understanding of eligibility and the steps involved.