What Is The Expunction Process In Texas?
It works like this.
First, I type up a document called a Petition for Expunction. It contains a bunch of identifying information about your case, including what agency arrested you, the police report number attached to your case, the date you were arrested, the court and case number for your case, and basic identifying information for you such as your birthdate and social security number. Along with that, I type up the legal reasons why you are entitled to an expunction. I then file the petition with the court and make sure that a hearing date is set for the judge to rule on the petition.
I have to then serve that document on all of the agencies that keep records related to your arrest. At a bare minimum, that’s going to include the clerk’s office where your case was filed, the district attorney’s office that prosecuted you, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) because they keep your criminal history records, the police agency that arrested you, and any jail that you happened to be housed in. If it’s a multi-agency investigation, then I’ll have to serve other agencies.
Once all of the agencies have been served, I work on an Agreed Order of Expunction. If it’s clear that you’re entitled to an expunction, I try to get everybody involved in the case to sign off on an agreed order so that we don’t have to appear in court. Once everyone signs off on the agreed order, the judge approves it and the expunction is filed.
Depending on what county you’re in, the procedures are different. In some counties, you have to go to all of the agencies and get their individual representatives’ signatures. In Harris County, it’s more streamlined, since the District Attorney’s office has permission to sign for the police agencies and the District Clerk’s office.
Once the judge signs the order, you get a copy and all the agencies start the process of destroying their records.
After a couple of weeks have passed, I do a background check on you to make sure that all of the records have been expunged. I also check the District Clerk’s website to make sure your case has been expunged there.
Once your case has been expunged, you’re able to say to any licensing agency or potential employer that you’ve never been arrested or prosecuted for that offense. It’s the only legal document I know of that gives you legal permission to lie about your past.
How Long Does This Entire Process Take?
In Harris County, about two to three months. Most of that time is simply spent waiting for your case to get old enough to where it goes for the top of the stack for these different agencies to eventually get to it and sign off on the agreed order.
What Happens After My Record Is Successfully Expunged?
If I run a criminal background check on you and your record has been expunged, it will show nothing. If I go to the district clerk’s website and type in your name, nothing is going to pop up. If I call up the District Attorney’s Office or the police department that arrested you and request the records of your case, they’ll type it into their computer database and get no returns. The physical files are destroyed, the electronic records are destroyed, and there should be absolutely nothing for them to find.
That said, what I do run into on occasion, is that clients find out their expunged records appear on private websites that post criminal history information. There are tons of these sites.
These websites have automated programs that constantly search clerks’ websites across the country and pull everybody’s records. They’ll store them and then upload those records to their websites and charge people to search for them. This can cause problems.
For example, let’s say that you got a case dismissed two years ago. We wait for the two-year statute of limitations to expire and get your case expunged. These websites, depending on how often they update their criminal history searches, may still have your old information online. In that circumstance, there are things I can do to get them to take that information down, but it’s a separate process from the original expunction and can involve having to threaten to file a lawsuit.
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