How to File an Expunction in Texas

April 14, 2024 | By David M. White
How to File an Expunction in Texas

If you've worked hard to build up a reputable career and life, facing a DWI charge may leave you uncertain about your next move. Fortunately, you can erase certain charges to more easily apply for jobs, serve in the military, or exercise other opportunities. A petition for an order for expunction gives you a second chance, as does sealing your record.

You'll need help from a criminal defense attorney in San Angelo, Texas to ensure you are successful in expunging your record and maintaining your rights.

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What Can and Can't Be Expunged or Sealed

You usually cannot get your record erased if you're not acquitted, win an appeal, or are pardoned. You can apply for an order of nondisclosure to seal a record (hide it from public view) if you are convicted of a first offense or choose deferred adjudication.

You can't delete a record for a charge if you leave a jurisdiction after you're released on bond or get into trouble after an arrest.

When You Can Seek Expunction

How to File an Expunction in Texas

You may seek expunction in the following situations:

  • An arrest for an uncharged crime 
  • The dismissal of a criminal charge
  • Certain juvenile, misdemeanor-level offenses
  • Conviction of certain alcohol-related offenses when you were a minor
  • A conviction for failing to attend school
  • Cases where a prosecuting attorney certifies that the records are unnecessary for the investigation or prosecution of another person
  • The arrest, charge, or conviction on your record was due to identity theft by another person arrested and convicted.
  • A trial court or the Court of Criminal Appeals acquits a crime conviction later.
  • The conviction received a pardon.

However, it's important to remember that some people with records considered eligible for expunction may not qualify. That is why it's important to review your rights with a lawyer.

The Statute of Limitations

Your lawyer also can't file a petition for an order for expunction for a felony charge dismissed when the statute of limitations for the crime has not expired.

The statute of limitations represents the time a state or county has to prosecute an action against a defendant after an arrest. Most statutes expire after three years.

Filing an Order for Nondisclosure

Distinguishing from expunction, sealing a criminal record removes it from public view without erasure. This includes court records and Texas Department of Public Safety and FBI files.

While the public can't access these records, they still exist. Only people convicted of certain misdemeanors or who have completed a deferred adjudication program can have their records sealed.

How Expunction is Different

By comparison, expunction involves destroying an arrest record and subsequent conviction. The record's removal enables you to proceed as if the offense never occurred. You can only take this step if you're acquitted, had your charges dismissed, or a grand jury gave your case a "no bill."

Deferred Adjudication and an Order for NonDisclosure

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If you opt for deferred adjudication for a DWI, you can file a petition for an order of nondisclosure. Deferred adjudication is a program where you make a plea deal - pleading "guilty" or noncontender for a first-time offense in return for a probation-type court-supervised program.

By following the program, you can stay in the community instead of going to jail. As long as you meet all the conditions for adjudication, the judge will remove the conviction from your record. The waiting period for sealing a criminal record depends on the conviction and whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges.

The Steps for Sealing a Record

To seal a record, you'll need to wait a certain period after you've completed your sentence. Below are the steps you and your lawyer will follow to remove your arrest and conviction or adjudication from public view.

File a Petition

Your lawyer must file a petition to seal your DWI record with the court that oversaw your case. You must supply the court with a copy of your criminal record to proceed.

Notify the Proper Parties

Upon filing a petition for an order of nondisclosure, your attorney will notify the district attorney (DA) and other relevant parties about the submission.

Attend a Hearing

The court will set up a time for a hearing so it can review the petition. You're required to attend the hearing with your lawyer.

Get a Court Order

If the court grants the petition, it will issue you an order to seal your record for DWI or another eligible crime.

Inform the Proper Agencies About Sealing the Record

After the court order seals your record, you must inform the State Department of Public Safety and the FBI. This action ensures the complete sealing of the record.

Steps for Filing an Order for Expunction

As the person applying for the expunction, you're known as the petitioner. You'll need an attorney's help to ensure the order is properly completed and filed.

Fill Out the Petition for the Order for Expunction

The petition should include:

  • Identifying information of the petitioner
  • The charged offense
  • The date of the arrest
  • When the alleged offense happened
  • The name of the arresting agency
  • A list of agencies that may have record of the arrest

If law enforcement filed charges after the arrest, the petition should also show the case's cause number, the name of the court, how the charge was resolved (acquittal, dismissal, or no bill), and the resolution date.

Verify the Petition

You must have your lawyer confirm the petition or notarize it when you sign it.

Set a Hearing Date

The petition should include a blank "notice of hearing" to set a hearing date.

File the Petition

Where you file the petition will depend on the level of the offense.

Wait for the Notice of the Scheduled Hearing Date

After filing the petition, the court will send the respondents the notice of the hearing date.

Attend the Hearing

At the hearing, the court allows any respondents to contest the expunction. If the petitioner fulfills all the requirements for expunction, the court grants an expunction to remove the record.

Have the Order for Expunction Ready for the Judge to Sign

At the hearing, the court typically expects that the petitioner will have an order drafted and ready to be signed. Agencies holding a record of the expunged offense receive the order. In turn, the records are deleted or returned to the court clerk under the rules for the order for expunction.

Expunction/Sealing FAQs

You probably still have some questions about expunging or sealing a record. The following FAQs can give you a better idea of what to expect and clarify things.

How much does it cost to expunge a record in Texas?

Criminal Defense Attorney

The cost varies based on the circumstances and the court where the expunction occurs.

Fees generally cover:

  • Filing fees (from $50 to $250)
  • Service of process
  • Fingerprinting for a background check ($10 to $20)
  • Certification fees for a copy of the expunction order
  • Attorney's fees (per an hourly rate)

What are the waiting times for filing an order for nondisclosure (to seal a record) for DWI?

The waiting time for filing an order of nondisclosure for a misdemeanor DWI conviction is five years following the completion of your sentence. It takes ten years to file an order of nondisclosure for a felony DWI conviction after completing a sentence.

How fast can you file a petition for expunction for a DWI acquittal, dismissal, or no bill?

You can expunge the record immediately.

What types of crimes can't be expunged or sealed?

Certain sex offenses, violent crimes, and some DWI offenses aren't eligible for nondisclosure or expunction.

Contact a DWI or Criminal Defense Attorney about Your Rights for Expunction or the Sealing of Your Record

To ensure that you can move forward with your life more positively, it's important to have a crime eligible for expunction or sealing erased or removed from public view. The best way to get through the process is to work with an experienced attorney. Choose a lawyer who has handled cases like yours and has a high success rate.

David M. White Author Image

David M. White


David M. White is an attorney with offices in Abilene and San Angelo, Texas. His practice is focused on Personal Injury cases and Criminal Defense. Mr. White attended Texas Tech University where he earned a B.B.A. in Finance in Honors Studies in 2002, graduating magna cum laude. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Texas Tech University School of Law in 2006.

If you, a friend, or family member need legal advice, please feel free to contact our firm for a free consultation with David White, a Personal Injury attorney in Abilene, Texas.

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