Innocent until proven guilty is the standard by which the criminal justice system is supposed to operate in Texas and the rest of the United States. While that is the ideal, the reality is that clouds of judgment tend to begin to form very quickly over those who become crime suspects.
The issues may start shortly after the arrest is entered into the public record. If charges are filed and a conviction is obtained, the matter becomes a matter of your permanent record. The effects on employment, a person’s efforts to obtain higher education and even to find housing can be devastating.
Considering the consequences of a run-in with authorities it makes sense that a person would want to have the records erased or at least put under seal. The good news is that those objectives may be possible to achieve, but only under certain circumstances.
Specifically, under Texas law, the expunction or expungement of a record requires one of two things. Either the charges against the defendant have to have been dismissed, or the defendant has to have been found not guilty at trial by a judge or jury.
In the first instance, a request for expunction can be made once the statute of limitations for the crime charged has expired. In the event of an acquittal, the expunction can be sought immediately. Obtaining an expunction means that in nearly all situations you can honestly deny ever having been arrested at all.
Sealing a record is available under limited circumstances. It might be obtained for a defendant who accepts a plea for deferred adjudication. If the terms of the deal are completed successfully, then a sealing or an order of nondisclosure can be sought, preventing nongovernment entities from seeing the information.
For the preservation of one’s rights and future, working with experienced criminal defense counsel is always advisable.