A criminal record of any type can cause serious problems when applying for jobs, seeking to rent a house or apartment, or even wanting to borrow money. These records are often viewed as a ‘black mark’ on a person’s character, affecting how a person is perceived long after judicial handling was concluded. For those experiencing problems because of this, a criminal attorney may recommend looking into expunction or expungement to get certain criminal records sealed and prevent others from seeing or learning about them.
Effects of Criminal Records
The most common problem that a person may face when it comes to past criminal records is the necessity of disclosing a prior criminal arrest or charges being filed on a document such as a job application or a rental agreement. Even without knowing the actual circumstances, it may be enough to lower an applicant’s chance of success, irregardless of how minor the charges may have been. If the records are sealed by expunction or an order of nondisclosure, it may be possible for a person to legally respond negatively to such questions.
How Does Expunction Work?
With the help of a criminal attorney, it must be determined if a person with an existing criminal record is eligible for expunction. In Texas, a request can then be made to the district court in the county where the offense occurred or where an arrest was made to have criminal records sealed. Each state has different rules in place to handle such requests, which is why seeking the help of a criminal attorney is so beneficial.
Who Qualifies for Expunction?
Determining whether or not someone is qualified to have their criminal record sealed can be complicated. Areas to examine include: is the offense eligible for expungement; is there a specific time frame for applying; and who can still access sealed records despite expungement? Sometimes the police and certain licensing boards will have access to such information; federal records are more difficult to seal and remain more transparent. A criminal attorney who is experienced in this process can help determine if a criminal record can be sealed and the best course of action to complete the process.
In most cases, qualification for expunction is based on the following conditions:
Acquittal – Charges were filed that did not result in conviction.
Innocence – A conviction of charges did happen and was later found to be innocent.
Pardon – Conviction did happen but a pardon was received at a later date.
There are waiting periods that must be observed before filing; consultation with a criminal attorney may be necessary in order to find the answers to all of the above question. Based on this, a decision can be reached about seeking expunction to seal prior criminal records.
What About Dismissed Criminal Charges?
If charges were filed and later dismissed or if a person was arrested but never formally charged, a record of the arrest and/or charges still exists, which means that person must still answer “yes” on certain applications. In this type of situation, it is also necessary to request for expunction of those records in order to have a clear criminal history to most potential viewers.
Criminal charges will always be looked at seriously – and are often a part of public records. When charges were later dropped or even never filed, such subsequent action and information does not erase the existence of such records. Expungement or expunction with the help of a criminal attorney can help anyone facing that type of situation eliminate such records from general public viewing – and not have to face disclosure of such information at a later date.
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520