I am called daily by clients who want to get a case expunged off their records from years and a different lifetime ago. Often times, I’m confronted with the awkward task of letting them know their case will not be going anywhere. Before we discuss whether your case can be cleared off the map, we should discuss the distinction between an expunction and a non-disclosure.
An expunction is the grand prize for anyone trying to clear their record. If an expunction is granted, you can anticipate that the case will be cleared off every database in every government organization in the country. No one should see it. It’s gone. A Non-disclosure however, is not as good, but sometimes it does the trick. A non-disclosure (or getting your record sealed) does not wipe the case off the map but it merely seals it from most private companies and curious onlookers. The matter is still open to most government agencies or agencies that are affiliated or involved with government agencies such as banks or teachers unions or hospitals. Don’t get me wrong, if a non-disclosure if your only avenue open then it’s still worth it for peace of mind.
So the first question that everyone needs to ask is, “Do I qualify for an expunction or a non-disclosure?” Well, to qualify for an expunction, the matter is usually pretty easy to determine. If someone’s case was dismissed for a class B misdemeanor and up and the statute of limitations has passed then you most likely qualify for an expunction. If you were found “not guilty” in a jury trial then you qualify. If you were on some type of deferred adjudication for a class C misdemeanor and you completed and received a dismissal, then you qualify. Those who don’t qualify are people who received convictions or completed deferred adjudications for class B misdemeanors and up. If you find that you qualify for an expunction, the next step is easy: Hire a lawyer.
Now, if you don’t qualify for an expunction, the next thing to check for is if you qualify for a non-disclosure. Typically, if you have completed most types of misdemeanors with deferred adjudication and have not been accused of any crimes afterwards, then you qualify. If you have completed a felony deferred adjudication and five years has passed since the date of completion, there’s a good chance you qualify as well. Unfortunately, the laws surrounding non-disclosures are a little more complex than expunctions. For instance, family violence deferred adjudication cases don’t typically allow for non-disclosures. Certain types of felonies are precluded as well. Crimes that occur on the same day which result in one conviction and another dismissal will not be sealable. Many of these cases must be determined on a case by case basis. But if you do qualify, the next step is easy: Hire a lawyer.
The process for expunctions and non-disclosures is very simple for the client. In my office, typically I ask some very simple questions, a petition is drafted and you must sign and notarize an affidavit. With that signature, your job is done and I do the rest. In the case of an expunction, the petition is filed and I pay a filing fee of around $450. I receive notice of a hearing with the court a couple of months out which you do not need to attend. On that date, if the State agrees, an order is provided to the judge for signature and then filed with the district clerks. I provide you with two certified copies for you to keep. After all is said and done, those two copies in your hand should be the only existence on earth of the case. The district clerk filters the order to the state and national agencies to carry out the expunction of the records. This part can take anywhere from 2 to 4 months to complete. Typically the turnaround time from beginning to end on an expunction is 4 to 6 months. In the case of a non-disclosure, the petition is very similar but the filing fees are around half the price of an expunction. If the State agrees, I pick up the agreed order and take it to the judge for signature. Once signed, I get your copies and the clerks send the order to the agencies to seal your record. The total time to complete this is usually less than an expunction, but results vary.
Anyone who has the ability to clean or seal their record should seize the opportunity. This will allow you the freedom to seek better jobs, fear less about what a background check from people will reveal, and give you an overall better quality of life free from your past scars. If you have questions about whether your may qualify for an expunction or non-disclosure, please call my office at (210)222-9446 today.