How to Expunge my Public Records in Texas

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Deleting a public record refers to removing every clue to the existence of such a record and making it inaccessible to members of the public. There are various reasons for anyone in Texan to consider deleting information that has been made publicly available. Information, especially personal records, in the wrong hands can be used to commit different atrocities. Stalkers can use public records to find addresses of their targets. Also, fraudsters can commit identity theft using any publicly available information on their marks. Some information in the public domain may equally cause some form of discrimination to persons named on such records. Although individuals may have valid reasons for wanting to delete public records in Texas, it is practically impossible to do so. The best that can be done is to restrict such records from public disclosure. Information in those records will still be available to relevant government agencies and other eligible persons.

What is a Public Record in Texas?

The Texas Government Code defines a public record as any piece of information generated and maintained by government agencies while conducting their official business. Texas public records do not only exist in written form. Some are stored as films, tapes, or other electronic formats and are maintained by relevant government agencies. As stipulated by the Texas Public Information Act, members of the public have the right to inspect and make copies of public records at their appropriate repositories. The following are some of the records considered public in Texas:

  • Criminal records
  • Vital records (death, birth, marriage, and divorce records)
  • Financial records
  • Court records

While most Texas public records are publicly available, state law exempts some records from public disclosure. Protected Health Information and judicial records that may affect ongoing investigations are examples of such records. The ability of the public to access government records establishes trust and promotes a better relationship between the government and its subjects. Persons in Texas may have genuine reasons to make all or part of their records private, but deleting them is technically impossible. They may explore the options of public records sealing or expungement. A sealed or expunged record is not accessible to the members of the public but can be accessed by law enforcement and persons authorized by the court.

Does Texas Allow Expungement?

Texas allows the expungement of some public records. Expungement is sometimes referred to as expunction. In Texas, expungement is the legally backed erasure of all or parts of an individual’s records. Typically, expunged records are removed from public inspection or copying by the members of the public. In Texas, background checks on persons with expunged records do not display previously expunged records. Such persons can deny ever holding the records in some situations. Generally, expungement provides a new start to life for Individuals named on public records. However, it is not open to everyone in Texas.

How do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Texas?

Article 55.02 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provides insight into the process of expunging Texas criminal records. Persons seeking to expunge their criminal records may hire attorneys to file petitions on their behalf or go through the petition process themselves. Any petitioner who is not hiring an attorney must ensure that all the necessary forms are completed accurately. A person seeking to expunge their Texas criminal record should file a Petition for Expunction at the District Court. Note that any error in the information provided in the petition may render it invalid. The following are some of the details a petitioner must provide when filing for criminal record expungement in Texas:

  • Petitioner’s identifying information
  • Offense
  • Date of arrest
  • Name of the government agency that executed the arrest
  • List of all agencies that may have information of the arrest on their records
  • Case number (If charged to court)
  • Name of the court the case was heard
  • How the case was resolved (acquitted, dismissed, or no bill by the grand jury)
  • The date the charge was resolved

The petitioner must ensure the petition is properly notarized. Once the court fixes the date for the hearing, it will notify all the agencies that have the record (to be expunged) on file. Generally, the court permits a fair hearing from agencies that may have something against expunging criminal records. If a petitioner satisfies all conditions, the petition for expungement will be granted in their favor. The petitioner will then present an already completed Order for Expunction to the judge for approval. Afterward, the petitioner can serve the order on all the agencies in possession of the particular criminal records to be expunged. Typically, these agencies will immediately comply and expunge the petitioner's criminal record.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure permits only the following persons to file for criminal records expungement:

  • Persons acquitted by trial courts
  • Persons convicted for felonies or misdemeanors but were later found innocent
  • Persons charged and indicted but whose cases were later dismissed and whose statutes of limits have expired
  • Persons arrested but were not formally charged. Such individuals must observe the required waiting time, which is dependent on the types of crime that led to their arrests to file for expungement. The waiting times specified by Texas laws before making attempts to file for expungement include:
  • Felonies - Three years after the date of arrest
  • Classes A and B misdemeanors -  One year after the date of arrest
  • Class C misdemeanors - A minimum of 180 days after the date of arrest

Typically, Texas expedites the expungement processes of criminal records for persons found not guilty by a jury at no cost. The state also makes provisions for expunging deceased persons’ criminal records. Close relatives of such descendants can file for expungement on their behalf, provided the records satisfy the specified conditions.

Will My Expungement Record Show Up On a Background Check in Texas?

Typically, expungement records do not show up on background checks in Texas. Once expunged, the records are usually removed from the public domain. Third-party vendors providing background check services do not update their records regularly. This often leads to the appearance of an expunged record on a person’s background check if it is conducted by such vendors.

In Texas, employers can go far back seven years when conducting background checks on prospective employees to positions that pay less than $75,000 annually. This, however, applies to background checks outsourced to third-party service providers. Note that employers are not permitted to conduct non-FCRA compliant background checks on potential employees. When hiring candidates for job positions with a salary that exceeds $75,000, employers can probe such applicants’ backgrounds from age 18 years. This also applies to background checks executed in-house by employers regardless of the pay package.

How to Seal a Record in Texas

In Texas, the sealing of records restricts members of the public from gaining access to such records. It is sometimes called nondisclosure. Section 411.0715 to 411.0725 of the Texas Government Code stipulates the requirements that make a public record eligible for sealing. Persons who have completed deferred adjudication community supervision and pleaded guilty are eligible to have their records sealed. There is, however, a waiting period that must be observed before applying to seal a public record in Texas. Persons convicted for felonies must wait for five years, while those convicted for grave misdemeanors have a waiting period of two years. Misdemeanors punishable by the payment of fines have no waiting periods. Such offenders can file petitions to have their records sealed immediately after paying off their fines. In Texas, sealed arrest records are restricted from disclosure to members of the public. Texas arrest record sealing only applies to arrests that were never filed and those filed but later dismissed.

While most offenses are eligible for sealing, Texas does not approve the sealing of records for persons convicted for the following crimes:

  • Human trafficking
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Offenses requiring the convicted persons to register as sex offenders
  • Stalking
  • Offenses that cause injuries to children, disabled individuals, and elderly persons

Having met the requirements for record sealing, a person can file a Petition for Order of Nondisclosure at the court that served the initial judgment. The Texas Court Administration recommends a fee of $280 as filing fees for sealing records, but this varies by county. Once the court receives a petition, the Clerk of the Court will serve notices to the state. Typically, the judge does not require a hearing to rule that a record be sealed. Sometimes, however, the state may demand a hearing, or the judge may deem it necessary. When required, it must be fixed within 45 days after the receipt of the petition. The judge has to determine the eligibility of the petitioner to file for nondisclosure. Also, the judge must determine whether the order for nondisclosure is in the best interest of justice. If the judge rules in favor of the petitioner, the Clerk of the Court will provide the petitioner with the Order for Nondisclosure.

When seeking nondisclosure of a public record in Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) should be listed as one of the agencies having such a record on file. The petition must also include an order for the DPS to serve the Order for Nondisclosure on all the private third-party background check service providers registered under it. Additionally, the DPS will be mandated to pass the Order for Nondisclosure to any private entity purchasing criminal history information from the DPS. The essence of this is to ensure that sealed records do not appear in background checks conducted by independent vendors who may not have updated their databases.

Who Can See My Sealed Record in Texas?

In Texas, sealed records can still be seen by some government agencies. Section 411.0765 of the Texas Government Code authorizes the disclosure of sealed records to the following entities:

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Texas

Bankruptcy is the point at which an individual files for inability to offset loans and pay bills at the court. In Texas, creditors will stop bothering any individual for loan repayment once they file for bankruptcy. Every action regarding taking possession of their properties or foreclosure of their homes will also stop. It is an opportunity for a debtor to have a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy suits can only be filed at a federal court.

Bankruptcy records are automatically deleted some years after filing, depending on the type that was filed. In Texas, persons who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will have their bankruptcy record deleted ten years after the filing date. An individual who files for Chapter 13 bankruptcy will have their records deleted seven years after the filing date. Note that persons who file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy are required to make partial repayments of their debt over a stipulated period.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in Texas?

Although Texas promotes an open government policy, it strictly protects the privacy rights of its residents. The state enacted the Texas Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act (TITEPA) to regulate the collection and dissemination of consumers’ private records. The law became effective on January 1, 2020. One of the provisions of the TITEPA is the creation of the Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council (TPPAC). The TPPAC is a 15-man committee charged with reviewing current data privacy laws and recommending better ways of protecting Texans’ information. The TITEPA requires businesses to promptly notify individuals who fall victim to a data breach. They must also inform the state Attorney General if such a breach involves up to 250 Texans, stating the steps taken to remedy the situation. Besides the TITEPA, two other privacy laws were introduced in the 2019 legislative session. The Texas Consumer Privacy Act (TXCPA) and the Texas Privacy Protection Act are both at different legislative stages.

How to Delete Lien Records in Texas

In Texas, a lien is a form of security for taxes, fines, interests, and penalties owed by a person. The Texas Tax Comptroller issues a tax lien notice, and it typically contains the following information:

  • Identifying information of the taxpayer (name and address)
  • Type of tax owed
  • Period for which tax is delinquent
  • Amount of tax owed for that period (excluding interests and penalties)To confirm delinquent liens in Texas, interested persons can search the database of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). Some third-party websites also provide tax liens search services. The easiest way to delete a lien record from the public in Texas is to pay a delinquent tax in full. If left unpaid within a stipulated time, the state may file lawsuits against a debtor in an attempt to take possession of their property. Once paid, state records will be updated and the lien on the taxpayer’s property will be lifted and deleted from public records. If the state does not file a lawsuit against a person with delinquent tax for four years, the lien on such person’s property is automatically deleted.

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