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Expunction Prep Guide

Adult Criminal Records

Determine if you qualify for an expunction to clear your criminal record.

Guide Overview

An expunction order clears an event from your criminal record so that no one can view it. If you expunge your record, you have the right to deny the event except under oath in a criminal proceeding. 

This guide goes over:

  • Basic requirements for expunction
  • Whether you can use forms on TexasLawHelp to get an expunction

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Instructions & Forms

You must meet the legal requirements to get an expunction.

Checklist Steps

You are not eligible if:

  • You were convicted of the offense you want to expunge.
  • There are charges currently pending against you from your arrest.
  • You want to expunge a crime for which you were not guilty at trial but you were convicted of similar crimes in the past.
  • You were placed on deferred adjudication for the offense (unless the offense charged was a class C misdemeanor).
  • You were released on conditional discharge under the Controlled Substances Act. (Not applicable to charges brought after August 31, 1991.)

If any of these apply to you, see if you qualify for a Nondisclosure Order to seal your record.

To use these TexasLawHelp forms to fully clear your record, the statute of limitation must have expired.

What is the statute of limitation? When you commit a crime, the prosecutor has a limited time to charge you. That time period is the statue of limitation. Note that the statute of limitation pauses when you are formally charged by indictment or information.

Misdemeanors: The statute of limitations is two years for for a misdemeanor. (Exception: Three years for misdemeanor assault involving family violence.)

Felonies: The statute of limitation for felonies depends on the offense. It can range from three years (minor theft cases) to an unlimited time (murder). To find the statute of limitation for the offense, read the law here: Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 12.01

Tolling: Sometimes a statute of limitation is “tolled.”  Tolled means a certain time period doesn’t count. Examples:

  • The statute of limitation pauses when you are charged and does not start again until your case is dismissed. 
  • Time spent outside Texas does not count technically toward the statue of limitation. However, depending on the court and the circumstances, living outside of Texas might not prevent you from getting an expunction.

Take tolling into account when you calculate whether the statue of limitation has passed. You may want to ask a lawyer to help you. A safe way to calculate the statute of limitations is to start counting from the dismissal date. (If you know when you were charged, you can also subtract the time from between the offense and the charges.)

Alternative Waiting Period - Partial Expunction

If you were not formally charged, you can get a partial expunction if you meet the reduced waiting period:

  • Class C misdemeanor: 180 days
  • Class A and B misdemeanors: 1 year
  • All felonies: 3 years

This reduced waiting period runs from the date of the offense.

With a partial expunction, the prosecutor and law enforcement agency can keep your criminal records on file. They may even sell your records to private data collection companies. You would need to get an additional expunction after the statute of limitation has expired to remove the remaining records.

Prosecutor Certification or Recommendation

So long as you have not been indicted, you can get a full expunction at any time if the prosecutor certifies that they no longer need the records. Whether or not an indictment or information has been filed, the prosecutor can recommend you for expunction.

The statute of limitation must have expired on all offenses leading to your arrest--not just the crime you were charged with--unless your charges were dismissed or quashed because of one of the following “timing short-cuts”:

  1. your charges were dismissed or quashed because you were arrested based on a mistake or false information, or
  2. because it was void, or
  3. because you successfully completed a pretrial diversion program.

Note that #1 and #2 are very rare and must be proven. Consult an attorney if you think they apply to you.

The forms on TexasLawHelp do not apply to all types of expunctions. Some people should not use the forms even if they qualify for an expunction.

A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. See Legal Help Directory of Working with Private Attorneys for legal professionals in your area.

Checklist Steps

You may use TexasLawHelp forms if any of the following apply:

  • Charges were not filed and the statute of limitation has expired.
  • Charges were dismissed and quashed and the statute of limitation has expired.
  • Charges were dismissed or quashed after you completed an authorized pretrial intervention program.  

Even if you qualify for an expunction, do not use TexasLawHelp forms if any of the following apply:

  • You were pardoned, found not guilty, or released with a court's finding of actual innocence.
  • The statute of limitation has not expired.
  • Your case involves “discretionary expunctions” (certification or recommendation), which require the prosecutor’s assistance and participation in the expunction petition.
  • You were convicted of a similar crime in the past.
  • You have an error on your criminal history record because someone else used your name when he or she was arrested.

You will need to get your criminal history and case documents. These documents have the information you need to fill out your expunction documents.

Checklist Steps

Get your criminal history record from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Note that you will not get your record directly from DPS. DPS has hired a company called Identogo to handle criminal record requests.

If a charge was filed, get a certified copy of the order dismissing the charge. You can get a certified copy from the clerk's office at the court that dismissed your case.

If more than one charge was filed, you will need a copy of the order dismissing each charge.  

You do not need a dismissal order if there were no charges.

Use the Expunction Guide to get forms and further instructions.

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