Q: What is an expunction?
A: An expunction is a procedure that allows the records from a criminal charge (that was dismissed) to be completely erased from all public information systems. Once the case is expunged, you are allowed to say “it never happened”. In other words, if you are asked if you were arrested (for this charge), you can claim that you were not.
Q: I can legally lie?
Q: If the case was dismissed, isn’t it automatically erased?
A: No. All the records from the arrest/charge are public record and still visible until you have the case expunged. For example, the county clerk maintains the documents of an arrest and disposition indefinitely. This documentation (both physical and online) will describe the charge and say it was “dismissed”. But if the case is expunged, there would be no record at all.
Example: Screenshot from PublicData.com of a dismissed case that has not been expunged. Click image to enlarge.
Q: Won’t it eventually come off my record? Like in 10 years?
Q: Why didn’t you insist that the charge be expunged when you got my case dismissed?
A: There is no way to do that. Neither the prosecutor nor the judge has the power to expunge an arrest/charge without going through the expunction procedure (and waiting period). My job during the criminal stage is to get a result that can eventually be expunged.
Q: Why should I get my records expunged?
A: You should use every available legal avenue to remove any arrest/charge from your record. Unfortunately, employers/landlords/creditors are allowed to consider what you’ve been charged with – even if the charge was eventually dismissed. The internet makes it easy to see records – either via the official Travis County website or a business that aggregates criminal records from around the U.S. (such as PublicData.com).
Q: Are you sure this is really necessary?
A: In addition to the practical reasons, an expunction is also a good way to get “closure” on the event. Psychologically, it can help you forget it even happened.
Q: When can we start?
A: Usually, we have to let the Statute of Limitations expire on your case before we can file the expunction petition. This is approximately two years from the date of the offense on a misdemeanor and even longer on a felony (depending on the charge). If you were in Pretrial Diversion or SHORT, we can file for the expunction petition as soon as you successfully complete the program.
Q: If the charge was dismissed, why do I have to wait? Why do they make it so difficult?
A: The culture of law enforcement (which includes prosecutors) wants to be able to see and know everything about anyone charged with a crime. If it were up to them, no one would be able to expunge anything. Prosecutors think that if you successfully expunge a case, they might later agree to dismiss a subsequent case – because they didn’t know about the first one.
Q: That doesn’t seem like a very compelling explanation for making it so difficult.
A: I agree. If you can somehow get me elected Governor of Texas, I will not veto the bills that make it easier to get an expunction (like Perry and Abbott have done).
Q: Do I have to wait until I’m eligible for an expunction to hire you?
A: No. You can hire us at any time. We will begin putting together the necessary paperwork immediately. We will put your eligibility date in our calendar and file the petition on that day.
Q: Can I do it myself?
A: Even lawyers that have worked in this field for 10 years are not always competent at filing expunctions. I don’t want to say that it is impossible for a non-lawyer to do it correctly, but it would be extremely difficult because the process is complicated. An expunction requires compiling a large amount of information about the arrest and disposition, identifying all the agencies that might have records of the arrest/charge (which can be up to 20 different entities), filing the petition in District Court, countering any objections that may be raised, and appearing in court to defend the expunction to the judge.
Q: Can I expunge more than one case at a time?
A: Yes, if the cases are from Travis County and were dismissed.
Q: Do I have to go to court?
A: No. We will go for you.
Q: How long does it take for the arrest/charge to come off my record? I’m going to apply for a new job in 4 weeks – can I get it expunged that quickly?
A: Once we file the petition, it takes about a month to get a court setting. After the judge signs the expunction, the agencies have six months to delete/destroy the documents relating to your arrest/charge. Unfortunately it cannot go any faster than that.
Q: I still have questions.
A: No problem. Give us a call anytime (512) 472-1113.