Can I get my criminal record expunged, deleted or sealed?
If you were arrested but not convicted, you may be eligible to file for an expunction, which deletes and destroys all records of your arrest and prosecution.
If you successfully completed deferred adjudication probation, you may be eligible for non-disclosure, which seals the records from the general public, but leaves them available for law enforcement and state licensing purposes.
Note: This page answers the most frequently asked questions about expunction and nondisclosure of criminal records in Texas only. If you are interested in clearing arrest records from another state then the information below will not help you.
I am a Criminal Defense Attorney in Austin, Texas
Many people mistakenly believe that arrest records on their criminal history are automatically removed or sealed when a case is dismissed or they’ve successfully completed deferred adjudication probation. The truth is that an arrest will remain a matter of public record and it will appear on pre-employment background checks and online database searches until you get an order granting expunction or non-disclosure from the appropriate court.
I can help you with a petition for expunction or non-disclosure if you were arrested or charges were filed against you in Travis County, Texas.
This page contains only general information. If you have specific questions about a case, you should consult a criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction.
Frequently Asked Questions – Expunction & Nondisclosure
This page contains general answers to the most common questions about expunction and non-disclosure in Texas, and how these cases are handled in Travis County, Texas.
- What types of cases are eligible for expunction?
- Do deferred prosecution cases qualify for expunction?
- Do deferred adjudication cases qualify for expunction?
- Is non-disclosure the same as expunction?
- What if I pled guilty, no contest, or was convicted at trial?
- Do straight probation cases qualify for expunction or non-disclosure?
- Can other cases impact my eligibility for expunction or non-disclosure?
- How do I find out if a case is on my criminal history?
- Who decides if I am eligible for expunction or non-disclosure?
- Can I combine multiple cases in a single petition?
- Is a waiting period required before seeking expunction or non-disclosure?
- How long before an expunction or non-disclosure is effective?
- Can you help me if my case was not in Travis County?
- Other Criminal History FAQs
What types of cases are eligible for expunction?
In Texas, if an arrest did not lead to a conviction, it may be eligible for expunction, which involves obtaining a court order to have the arrest records destroyed and allows you to legally deny the arrest ever occurred on an employment application or apartment rental application. The law even allows you to deny it under oath in a civil case.
You may be entitled to an expunction if you were arrested but never charged, if you completed pre-trial diversion, if your case was dismissed, if it was no-billed by a grand jury, if you were acquitted at trial (i.e., found “not guilty”), if someone else was arrested using your name without your permission, or if you were convicted but later pardoned.
In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3579 that would have allowed defendants to seek an expunction of every charge that did not result in a conviction. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Governor Greg Abbot. Suppose you were pulled over for reckless driving but then mistakenly arrested for murder. So, thanks to Greg Abbot, even if the murder charge is dismissed by the prosecutor, your criminal history will continue to show that you were arrested for murder unless the reckless driving charge is also dismissed or you are found Not Guilty at a trial for reckless driving.
Do deferred prosecution cases qualify for expunction?
Deferred Prosecution is a type of dismissal agreement in Travis County that is sometimes an option in pre-trial negotiations for class A and B misdemeanors and for non-violence felonies when the defendant has a clean criminal history. It results in a dismissal, which does qualify for expunction if the program is successfully completed. Although the names are similar, deferred prosecution is very different from deferred adjudication, which is a type of probation.
Deferred Disposition is a similar program for class C misdemeanors filed in Travis County JP Court or the Austin Municipal Court and success with it also leads to an expunction-eligible dismissal.
Do deferred adjudication cases qualify for expunction?
Expunction is an option for deferred adjudication only in Class C misdemeanor cases. If you were sentenced to deferred adjudication probation for a Class A or B misdemeanor or any level of felony, you are not eligible for an expunction. However, you may still qualify for an Order of Non-Disclosure, which seals your arrest record from access by the general public.
Is non-disclosure the same as expunction?
WARNING: This page has not yet been updated to reflect the big changes to the non-disclosure law as a result of Senate Bill 1902 that went into effect in September 2015.
Like expunction, non-disclosure allows you to legally deny that an arrest occurred, even on employment applications. Unlike expunction, when an order of non-disclosure is granted, the records are still available to law enforcement; to certain state agencies that are responsible for licensing and certification, care-giving functions, and regulating certain professions; and to certain private entities that are responsible for the safety of children and the elderly or that hire employees for security-sensitive positions.
The law regarding expunctions appears in Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and the law for non-disclosure appears in Article 411 of the Texas Government Code.
What if I entered a plea of guilty or no contest, or if I was convicted at trial?
A no contest plea has the same impact as a guilty plea on your Texas criminal history. Any case that resulted in a conviction, whether by plea or trial, is not eligible for expunction or non-disclosure unless you are one of those rare and lucky souls who was pardoned by the governor. Governor Perry’s office was notoriously stingy with pardons, even those approved by the Board of Pardons and Parole. The new governor, Greg Abbott, is on track to be even worse.
Do straight probation cases qualify for expunction or non-disclosure?
Unlike deferred adjudication probation, a straight probation case does not qualify for expunction or non-disclosure because it counts as a conviction. However, if you haven’t yet been discharged from probation, then you may qualify to apply for judicial clemency.
Can other cases impact my eligibility for expunction or non-disclosure?
If you were arrested and ultimately convicted of any offense arising out of the arrest, then the arrest may not be expunged. You can also lose the right to expunction by jumping bail or violating the terms of probation.
You can become disqualified for non-disclosure if you are convicted or placed on deferred adjudication for any offense more serious than a traffic ticket while you are on deferred adjudication probation or during any required post-discharge waiting period.
- Murder or Capital Murder
- Aggravated Kidnapping
- Injury to a Child, Elderly, or Disabled Individual
- Endangering a Child or Abandoning a Child
- Any offense that requires sex offender registration
- Any offenses involving family violence (even if no affirmative finding)
- Human Trafficking
- Violation of a Protective Order or Bail Bond in family violence, Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, Stalking, or Trafficking case.
If you think you may be eligible for expunction or nondisclosure of a particular charge, and your criminal history contains anything else more serious than a traffic ticket, then you may need to hire an attorney to review your case and the applicable rules to determine your eligibility status.
How do I find out if a case is on my criminal history?
You can get a copy of your official criminal history from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). In Austin, you can expedite the process by going directly to the DPS office on Denson Drive. If your DPS criminal history is clean they will provide a certified letter stating that you have “No record on file”.
Who decides if I am eligible for expunction or non-disclosure?
In most cases, if you qualify for an expunction, then you have a legal right to have the records of your arrest and prosecution deleted and destroyed. There are a couple of paths to expunction eligibility that are within the discretion of the District Judge, but those paths represent a tiny fraction of the total number of eligible cases.
Non-disclosure is different in that qualifying for non-disclosure means that a judge will have the authority to order the records sealed from the general public if he or she believes that sealing them would be in the best interest of justice. In other words, judges are not required to grant non-disclosure to everyone that qualifies.
The types of charges that are simply not eligible to be sealed are listed in the exception list above.
Can I combine multiple cases in a single petition?
Expunction: Because petitions for expunction are filed in District Court, it is possible to file a single petition for the expunction that covers multiple cases as long as those cases were filed in the same county. The cases do not have to arise out of the same incident nor must they have been filed in the same court.
Nondisclosure: Petitions for order of non-disclosure must be filed in the same court that put the defendant on deferred adjudication probation.
Is a waiting period required for expunction or non-disclosure?
In most cases, a waiting period is required before filing a petition for expunction or non-disclosure. Arrests for lower level offenses generally have a shorter waiting period than those for higher level crimes, but the precise duration depends on the specific offense and the disposition of the case (i.e.: how it was resolved.)
Expunction: The most common route to expunction eligibility requires waiting for the time specified by the statute of limitations to pass. The limitations period is two years for all misdemeanors and three years for most felonies.
Nondisclosure: The waiting period is five years after the termination of community supervision for all felonies and two years for those misdemeanors defined in the following chapters of the Texas Penal Code:
- 20 (kidnapping, unlawful restraint, etc)
- 21 (sexual offenses)
- 22 (assaultive offenses)
- 25 (crimes against the family)
- 42 (disorderly conduct, harassment, etc.)
- 43 (public indecency)
- 46 (weapons)
- 71 (organized crime and gangs)
There is no waiting period for misdemeanors that are not listed above.
Eligibility for nondisclosure is forfeited if you are convicted or put on deferred adjudication probation, for any crime worse than a traffic ticket, either while serving community supervision or during the waiting period after probation is terminated.
How long before an expunction or non-disclosure is effective?
It typically takes 40-60 days to get a petition for expunction or non-disclosure before a judge in Travis County due to statutory notice requirements and depending on how quickly you and your attorney can gather the necessary documents and complete the required paperwork.
Once the order is granted, you can deny the arrest on employment applications, but the Texas Department of Public Safety may take a few weeks to seal your records after non-disclosure is granted and several months to confirm that records of an arrest were deleted and destroyed pursuant to an expunction order.
Can you help me if my case was not in Travis County?
No, I take cases only in Travis County, Texas. Although the laws that apply to expunction and non-disclosure are the same across Texas, the local procedures can vary significantly from county to county. Your best bet for a successful expunction or non-disclosure is to hire a criminal defense attorney with experience in the county where you were arrested.
Additional FAQs About Criminal History Records:
- What is my criminal history?
- How are criminal records created?
- Which organizations compile criminal history data?
- How can I get my Texas DPS criminal record?
- How can I get my FBI criminal record?
- What if my criminal history contains errors?
- Who can access expunged records in Texas?
- Who can access sealed criminal records in Texas?