Am I Eligible for an Expunction or Nondisclosure?
Clean Slate Texas is a coalition of community and advocacy organizations, business and faith leaders, directly impacted people and families dedicated to expanding access to criminal record sealing. We do not provide direct legal assistance, but rather work to change law and policies so that more people can benefit from having their criminal record sealed or expunged.
The following is a basic summary of who is eligible for expunction or nondisclosure of their criminal record under Texas law, to give you a general idea about whether current law provides you the opportunity to seal or expunge your record. This is not legal advice. For legal advice about your case, consult an attorney.
After reading the information below, we recommend using this Texas Fresh Start Guide from Georgetown University Law Center for more information about whether you are eligible. Check the Expunction Clinics & Record Sealing page of this site to see options for free legal assistance.
What is an “expunction”?
An expunction (also referred to as “expungement” or having your record “expunged”) means that a criminal record and criminal history are effectively deleted. All records related to the arrest, charges, court proceedings, disposition, sentence, etc. are destroyed when possible or if not possible, all references to the person charged are blacked out. After an expunction, a person does not have to disclose the incident and can deny having a criminal record.
Am I eligible for an expunction?
Expunctions are very limited in Texas, and few people are eligible. Expunction for misdemeanors and felonies is generally limited to people who were arrested and charged with a crime but who were NOT convicted or placed on formal community supervision (often called “probation”). So, if you pled guilty or no contest, if you were found guilty at trial, or if you were placed on community supervision during a period of deferred adjudication, you are generally not eligible for expunction. There are a few exceptions to this as discussed below.
You may be eligible for an expunction if you fall into one of these categories:
You had the charges against you dropped, or ultimately never had charges filed against you (and the statute of limitations for filing charges has run).
You who were acquitted (found “not guilty”) at trial or on appeal, or you were pardoned.
You successfully completed deferred adjudication in a Class C (fine-only) misdemeanor case.
You successfully completed a pretrial intervention or diversion program, including veterans court or mental health court, and as a result had the charges against you dismissed.
You successfully completed a deferred prosecution agreement, which may have involved informal community supervision, and ultimately had the charges dismissed.
You were convicted of Unlawful Carrying a Weapon before Sep. 1, 2021.
This list is not exhaustive but contains some of the most common reasons you may be eligible for expunction. Even if you fall into one of these categories, you can be disqualified from expunction for other reasons, such as fleeing while released on bail or if the arrest involved multiple charges and you were convicted of one of the other charges. If you are not eligible for expunction, you may still be eligible to have your record sealed.
What is “nondisclosure”?
A nondisclosure, also known as “sealing,” means that a criminal record — including records of the arrest, court proceedings, sentence, etc. — can no longer be accessed by the public. However, the record still exists, and law enforcement and some state agencies can still access it. If you obtain an order for nondisclosure, you can deny having a criminal record in many circumstances like applying for some private sector jobs and housing, but there are important exceptions when you will still have to disclose the criminal record, such as applying to the military, applying for a federal job, or in immigration proceedings.
Am I eligible to have my record sealed?
If you successfully completed deferred adjudication, or successfully completed probation or served jail time for certain misdemeanors, you may be eligible for nondisclosure, though it depends on what crime you were charged with, your other criminal history and other factors.
You are NOT eligible for an order of nondisclosure if any of the following applies:
You have at any time been convicted of an offense on a list of disqualifying violent offenses that includes any offense involving family violence, murder, aggravated kidnapping, human trafficking, child endangerment/abandonment, or any offense requiring you to register as a sex offender. If you have ever been convicted of or put on deferred adjudication for any of these offenses, you cannot get an order of nondisclosure for any other offense in your criminal history.
You were convicted of any other offense (not including traffic tickets) during your sentence or during the waiting period after your conviction for the offense you want sealed. These waiting periods are the time you must wait before filing a petition for nondisclosure and range from 6 months to 5 years, depending on the offense.
Those who completed a veterans treatment program or veterans reemployment program, or who were victims of human trafficking, have greater access to nondisclosure. If you fall into one of these categories, you may be eligible for nondisclosure even if the language above suggests you are not eligible.
You may be eligible to have your record sealed if you fall into one of these categories:
You successfully completed deferred adjudication for certain misdemeanors or felonies, not including the disqualifying violent offenses described above.
You successfully completed community supervision (also known as probation) after conviction of your first misdemeanor, but not including organized crime, boating while intoxicated and certain other intoxication-related offenses, or any of the disqualifying violent offenses described above. Plus, you can never have been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offense (aside from traffic tickets).
You were convicted of your first misdemeanor and served a jail sentence, except for organized crime, some intoxication-related offenses, or any of the disqualifying violent offenses described above. Plus, you can never have been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offense (aside from traffic tickets), and a judge must determine the offense you are asking to be sealed is not violent or sexual in nature.
There are special rules for those who successfully completed deferred adjudication for or who were convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). To be eligible for nondisclosure of a DWI offense, you (1) cannot have caused an accident involving another person during commission of the offense and (2) can never have been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offense (aside from traffic tickets). Further, if you were convicted of DWI (rather successfully completing deferred adjudication), you are not eligible for nondisclosure if your blood alcohol content was greater than 0.15.
Time Limits & Eligibility
Even if you are eligible for an expunction or nondisclosure, you must often wait a certain period of time from the date of the offense or date of the dismissal or conclusion of your case before filing a petition for the expunction or nondisclosure. The amount of time that you must wait varies depending on the offense you are trying to expunge or seal, as well as other factors, but is usually between 6 months and 5 years, though for some offenses there is no waiting period.
What is the process for having a record expunged or nondisclosed?
If you want to have your criminal record expunged or sealed, you will have to initiate the process in most cases. To do so, you file a petition for expunction or petition for nondisclosure in the proper court. Nondisclosure petitions are filed in the same court that handled the criminal case, while expunction petitions are filed in civil district court. You have to file a separate petition for each criminal record that you want nondisclosed. For expunctions, you can petition for multiple records to be expunged if the criminal records are all in the same county.
The process starts by the person who wants their record expunged or sealed filing a petition. For nondisclosures, the judge will first determine whether you are eligible for a non-disclosure, and if you are, will then determine that issuing the order of nondisclosure is in the interest of justice. For people who successfully completed deferred adjudication for certain nonviolent misdemeanors and who have never been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other crime (other than traffic tickets), no finding that the nondisclosure is in the interest of justice is necessary. The process can be complicated, and assistance of an attorney is recommended.
Can I seal or expunge my juvenile record?
If you were referred to court for delinquent conduct or for conduct indicating a need for supervision (“CINS”) before age 17, regardless of whether you were taken into custody, you have a juvenile record. All juvenile records are already confidential. Agencies that can access juvenile records include law enforcement, courts, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the Department of Family and Protective Services, the military and any agency allowed by federal law. But you may choose to apply for the records to be sealed in order to further restrict access to them. In some cases, this happens automatically and there is no need to request sealing.
Those who were referred to juvenile court for CINS and never for delinquent conduct will automatically have their records sealed at age 18 so long as they do not have another adult charge pending or an adult felony conviction.
Those who were referred to juvenile court for a misdemeanor or felony but never adjudicated (found guilty) or who were adjudicated for a misdemeanor alone will automatically have their records sealed at age 19 so long as they do not have another adult charge pending or an adult felony or misdemeanor conviction (except for a Class C misdemeanor).
Those who were adjudicated for a felony must file a petition with the court to have their records sealed and the court will decide whether to seal them. The court can only seal the juvenile record of someone who does not have another adult charge pending or an adult felony or misdemeanor conviction (except for a Class C misdemeanor).
One exception to the above is juvenile Class C misdemeanors, which are low-level offenses punishable by fine and no jail time, including traffic tickets, minor in possession of alcohol, theft/shoplifting of something less than $100 in value, public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Because of the way Texas courts are structured, adult courts handle juvenile Class Cs, so there are different rules for sealing and expunction. Like juvenile court records, these records are already confidential. If you have only been convicted of one Class C misdemeanor by the time you turn 17, you may request the court to expunge that record and are entitled to that expunction unless the conviction was an alcohol-related or tobacco-related offense.
Those who were tried as an adult or who received a determinate sentence in juvenile court cannot have their records sealed.