When trying to clean up an old arrest or conviction from your criminal record in Texas, you may have two options available: expunction and non-disclosure. These accomplish similar things but work in different ways, and you might only qualify for one of them.
Expunction is also known as expungement. It means the court has erased your criminal record as if it never existed. There is no way for any government agency, potential employer, landlord or anyone else can access an expunged criminal record in a background check.
Texas’ eligibility laws for expunction are very strict compared with other states. The only things you can ask to get expunctioned are arrests for Class C misdemeanors that do not lead to a conviction. This includes cases where the charges were dropped or where the defendant underwent deferred adjudication. Class C misdemeanors are the lowest-level offenses in the criminal code. They include crimes like public intoxication, disorderly conduct, shoplifting and traffic tickets. Any crime that carries a potential jail or prison sentence cannot be expunctioned, even if you were never convicted.
A non-disclosure order is a type of record sealing. A sealed criminal record is shielded from most background checks. For most practical purposes, it should help you as much as an expunction. However, your record is not totally erased. Law enforcement and other government agencies can still access it.
More arrests, convictions and deferred adjudications are eligible for a non-disclosure order, with several exceptions, such as:
- Human trafficking
- Child abandonment or endangerment
Consulting with a defense attorney who practices post-conviction relief can help you understand which one you should pursue. With your record expunged or sealed, you can move on with your life.