Do you have a criminal record that is negatively impacting your future plans? You have probably discovered that even an arrest record where the case was dismissed can drastically affect every aspect of your life, from employment opportunities and financial standing, to finding a place to live or fighting child custody arrangements, and so much more. Most criminal convictions appear permanently on a criminal record, but Texas law allows for the expungement of some things in specific circumstances.
The process of expungement in Texas is a lawsuit, typically filed in a civil District Court, where the judge orders the law enforcement agencies involved in an arrest to destroy all documents and records of the case. An expunction order instructs agencies responsible for criminal records to treat expunged arrests, charges, and prosecutions as if they had never occurred, removing them from the criminal and public records. In Texas, expunctions permanently erase records of and data relating to eligible criminal offenses. However, the process can have limits depending on the situation and outcome of the case.
Oftentimes, someone is arrested and charged with multiple crimes. For example, if someone is arrested for DWI and they had cocaine and a gun in the car, there would also be charges for Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCS) and Unlawful Carrying of a Weapon (UCW). As a part of a plea deal, the government sometimes agrees to dismiss some of the charges against that individual in exchange for a guilty plea on one of them. Prior to 2015, Texas law in the 1st and 14th District Courts of Appeals (jurisdictions cover Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Waller, Galveston, Brazoria, Chambers, Washington, Austin, Colorado, and Grimes counties) permitted partial expunctions of criminal records. A partial expunction means that records of the dismissed crimes in such a case were destroyed, leaving on the record only the single charge for which the guilty plea was entered. In 2015, the First District Court of Appeals issued a legal opinion, “In re Expunction,” closing the door to a partial expunction. It basically concluded that if a defendant gets convicted or takes a plea on any charge, any other charges that were dismissed from that same arrest were ineligible for expunction.
In 2021, there was a new change in the law in Texas when the Supreme Court of Texas issued “Ex Parte R.P.G.P.”. After a review of the prior expunction case law, the Court overturned the previous appellate courts’ decisions that interpreted the expunction statute to mean that you could only carry out an expunction if all the charges stemming from a given arrest were dismissed or the defendant was found Not Guilty at trial. Now, partial expunctions are allowed again for misdemeanors and felonies in certain circumstances in Texas. In situations where two or more felony charges out of the incident end up resulting in a felony conviction or deferred adjudication supervision, neither charge can be expunged. This may change in the future, but that will require a new opinion from an appellate court or the legislature to change the language in the current statute. Time will tell what happens.
Many crimes are eligible for expungement in Texas. The results of expungement for criminal offenses from one’s record provide an opportunity for that individual to leave his or her mistakes in the past. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is key when it comes to handling your expunction case.
Houston criminal defense attorney Collin Evans has over 15 years of experience working on expunction cases in Texas, including many involving full and partial expunctions. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance in Houston, Texas, or the surrounding area, contact Collin Evans Law at any time online or by calling 713-225-0650.