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Criminal procedure


When a person is charged with a crime or convicted of a crime, the information stays on the person’s criminal record and may be accessed by the court or other federal, state, municipal, or county agencies—or by private persons or entities conducting a background check.

Under limited circumstances a person with a criminal record of arrest or conviction may be able to have the criminal record expunged—meaning the record will be permanently destroyed or deleted so it is no longer accessible by the court or other federal, state, municipal, or county agencies—or by private persons or entities conducting a background check.

Such an expungement or expunction of a criminal record is different from having a record sealed—which means the record still exists, but access to it is limited. A person whose only criminal record has been expunged may truthfully answer “no” when asked on an employment, licensing, or other application whether the person has ever been convicted of a crime.

Under both state and federal law, in most cases it is not possible to have a person’s criminal conviction expunged. For example, under federal law only a person who is guilty of a minor drug offense under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. §844) may have their record expunged. See 18 U.S.C. §3607(c).

Under state laws a person who has been convicted of a crime, pleaded guilty, or pleaded no contest (nolo contendere) is often ineligible to have their criminal record expunged. When a person is eligible to have a criminal record expunged, it is often dependent upon the person successfully completing a probation or deferred adjudication program. And in some states juveniles may be eligible to have a criminal record expunged if the criminal offense was committed before they turned 17 years of age, for example.

Expungement or expunction laws vary from state to state and are generally located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code.

In Texas, expungement, also known as expunction, is a legal process that allows an individual to remove a criminal record from public view, effectively destroying or deleting it. This process is available under limited circumstances, such as when a person is acquitted, wrongly charged, pardoned, or if the charge did not lead to a final conviction and certain waiting periods have been met. Texas law also allows for the sealing of records through orders of non-disclosure, which restricts public access to the record but does not destroy it. Generally, convictions cannot be expunged in Texas, with some exceptions for juvenile offenses and certain first-time misdemeanors under specific conditions. The eligibility for expunction or sealing of records is detailed in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, primarily in Chapters 55 and 411. Individuals who have successfully completed a deferred adjudication for certain offenses may apply for a non-disclosure order, which is different from expunction. It is important to consult with an attorney to understand the specific eligibility criteria and the process for expunging or sealing a criminal record in Texas.

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Can You Erase a Criminal Record? Understanding Expungement
In the world of law and order, expungement often emerges like a glimmer of hope for those burdened by a criminal record. It's the prospect of a fresh start; a chance to put past mistakes behind you.