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Expunctions and Record Sealing

One of the most important parts of my job as a criminal defense attorney is to clear up a person's criminal history (aka their "record"). I've been doing it for a long time and I feel very confident writing a blog about it.

After a case has been resolved, the charge can sometimes be expunged or sealed. This blog is a very basic run-down on the differences between expunction and record sealing and whether either apply to your case.

Let's first discuss the basic differences between expunction and record sealing (also called an Order of Nondisclosure). If a matter has been expunged, then all records related to that charge must be destroyed. It is as if the incident never occurred. It is perfectly legal to deny that you have ever been arrested or charged regarding that offense. On the other hand, having your record sealed is not quite as effective as an expunction, but still very useful. Once a record is sealed, it is no longer available to all private (i.e. non-State) entities. In other words, if you wanted to get a job at Dell Computers, for example, and they asked if you've even been arrested, you could legally deny that arrest and they would never be able to find any criminal record regarding the incident that was sealed. However, most licensing agencies, like the Texas Board of Nursing for instance, can "go through the seal" and see your criminal history regarding a sealed charge.

The first thing to keep in mind when considering cleaning up your record is how the case was resolved. Ultimately, the case had to have been dismissed, one way or another. If the case was dismissed without having to go on probation, you may be eligible for an expunction. However, if the case was dismissed after you successfully completed a deferred adjudication probation, the case may be sealed but not expunged. Class C misdemeanors (like Public Intoxication, Disorderly Conduct, etc) can be expunged if you received and successfully completed deferred disposition. If you simply paid the fine, you may not be eligible for either an expunction or having the record sealed.

Another aspect to consider is the various waiting periods. For expunctions, you typically have to wait for the Statute of Limitations for that charge has elapsed. There is now a new type of expunction that has different waiting periods, but that is beyond the scope of this blog. For record sealing, there is no waiting period for most misdemeanors. But there is a waiting period for felonies. The waiting periods can be tricky and it's best if you receive legal advice regarding this aspect.

If you feel you might be eligible for either of these record-saving legal devices, contact my office immediately. We are very experienced dealing with these matters. We will consult with you FOR FREE regarding whether you're eligible.