Much confusion exists behind exactly what the law is pertaining to having your criminal record history expunged and/or sealed from public view. Often, I am astonished when I walk around the courthouse and hear other attorneys give simply wrong or bad advice to individuals regarding their ability to get their record expunged or sealed. It is important to be apprised of what your rights are, so you can properly exercise them if need be.
Simply put, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney, with the proper skillset and experience in handling these matters, to assist you if you are eligible for virtually ANY record sealing matter. My personal belief is that it is borderline malpractice for any lawyer who practices criminal law to NOT have at least a general fundamental understanding of how to advise on what avenues are available with having someone’s criminal history record expunged or sealed.
My goal in every case for those I represent is to hopefully put them in the same position in life they were before they came into my office and hired our firm. To effectively do this, you must have a very firm and sound understanding behind how all record sealing matters work in the context of criminal cases.
For example, if someone is arrested, but for a certain reason the case is ultimately dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office (the reasons for this could vary…from an agreement to complete certain classes to achieve a dismissal, the State deciding not to proceed with a charge, to successful completion of some version of a pre-trial diversion program, etc.). Regardless, I cannot tell you how often the situation arises when I talk with an individual about their prior criminal history, and they utilized another attorney previously for the matter, they claim they were arrested for a certain criminal charge, but it ultimately ended with a dismissal – and they claim with the utmost certainty that because of the disposition of the case – the matter is of no consequence because they were erroneously led to believe that nothing will show up on a background check. NOTHING CAN BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
Likewise, often people think that after successful completion of what is called “Deferred Adjudication” – which after a period of supervision, the case is ultimately dismissed – individuals believe they need to do nothing beyond the successful completion of whatever terms were agreed to – to effectively seal their records from public view. AGAIN – NOTHING CAN BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!
Simply put – one has to undergo the civil process of filing a petition to have the matter expunged and/or sealed through an Order of Non-Disclosure. It is a separate process, it is highly complex – and most importantly – IT DOES NOT HAPPEN AUTOMATICALLY.
An individual’s criminal history works in the following manner – if an arrest (or even a citation) occurs, information pertaining to this is automatically generated –usually in a variety of places almost instantaneously after the incident occurs. Depending upon the disposition of the case, and if one puts themselves in being able to exercise some form of record sealing – ONE MUST FILE THE PROPER PAPERWORK IN ORDER FOR THAT ARREST INFORMATION TO BE SEALED (OR EXPUNGED AS THE CASE MAY BE) FROM PUBLIC VIEW. ***IT DOES NOT HAPPEN AUTOMATICALLY!!!
It is a civil filing – and assuming one is eligible, one has to file with the appropriate clerk's office to start the process and to set the wheels in motion for the criminal background information to be cleared. The paperwork for the Petition and the Order must be done in a…***VERY SPECIFIC MANNER – if it is not, it will not have it intended effect (to expunge or seal the arrest records from public view). As well, if the language is not worded properly within the contents of the Petition and the Order, it can actually lead to one forever being BARRED from ever filing this type of record sealing matter again.
I have personally found that over the years, as the internet and technology have advanced, and the overall dissemination of information has significantly increased throughout the course of time, there is an increasing number of entities that will compile and maintain records pertaining to virtually any and almost EVERY arrest for a criminal charge. Any entity can simply purchase this information from the Texas Department of Public Safety for a small fee. It is integral, therefore, to have the knowledge when creating the petition to be filed – to know exactly how to ensure all of these entities all are forced to comply with the order after it is signed by the Judge. As of now, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands. Thus, completing this process and knowing how to best achieve the result is more important than ever.
I encourage every client I represent, as best I can, what their rights are, or will be, with regards to best their eligibility of what is possible in terms of either an expunction or sealing of their records of the arrest via a Non-Disclosure. I try to let all know from the very beginning what they may be able to pursue – because I want nothing more than for them to take advantage of this so it does not become an issue later in life further down the road.
Often – however, people wait, procrastinate, or prolong filing it…usually for a variety of reasons. In my opinion, This is VERY UNWISE– because often people finally decide to follow through with pursuing whatever mechanism is available to them….only when they are trying to apply for school, a new job, a promotion, etc. and do not want the information out there that may hinder an opportunity. While one should still complete if this is the case - in my opinion, instead they should ABSOLUTELY proceed with starting the process at their first available opportunity – AND NOT WAIT until you NEED IT.
If you wait until you know you will need it, ALMOST ALWAYS it will be too late for the entire process to take full effect for the immediate purpose sought. The reason for this is the entire process can take some time before it is entirely complete – especially for all relevant entities to get a notice which effectively orders them to purge, eliminate, or seal the criminal history – as the case may be with, whether it is an expunction or a record sealing matter. ***It is VITALLY important to not wait until you know you need it, but to first file for it when you are first able to.
Our office has completed countless of record sealing matters with great success – from expunctions to Orders of Non-Disclosures, to Juvenile Record Sealing matters. We are passionate about helping individuals understand their rights in order for them to take full advantage of what the law allows. It is imperative to utilize a very experienced attorney who is familiar with the process so that it is done with perfection and achieves the results you desire. The laws are constantly changing in this area, and so it is vitally important to employ an attorney that is always current and stays abreast of all possible updates to these procedures so that they have the knowledge and experience to best achieve whatever form of record sealing matter sought.
We take pride in our ability and past success in completing all forms of record sealing matters for those we have represented. The law allows many individuals various forms of relief with regards to sealing their prior criminal history – the specific avenue depends on a variety of factors, most specifically the final disposition of your case…BUT REGARDLESS, we encourage everyone to take advantage of whatever mechanism may be available to them at the very earliest opportunity to do so.
Again, it is best to start this process as soon as you are eligible and to ***NOT wait until you know that you will need it. I am Carl David Ceder, I am Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Legal Specialization – and I am passionate about trying to educate individuals on what their rights are when charged with a criminal offense, including and ESPECIALLY on advising the citizen accused on how best to proceed in the most effective manner possible to endure any prior criminal arrest histories are either expunged and/or sealed from public view.