In: Criminal Defense

Multiple States Considering Automatic Expungement

The trend towards criminal justice reform is also taking hold at the state level. After Congress passed the First Step Act, state legislatures have also enacted bills to help give more people second chances. Several states have taken steps toward the automatic expungement of criminal records for certain people convicted of certain crimes. Texas does NOT have automatic Expunctions!

For many, expungement of criminal records is a difficult process. First, expungement only applies to dismissals, acquittals, pre-trial diversions, or cases where someone was arrested but the case was not filed. Second, people need to understand what could be a costly and complex set of paperwork and requirements. They generally need an attorney to help them through the process. Nonetheless, expungement could be vital, as people seek to live their lives without any impact from any previous arrests.

In most states, people need to take some action to clear their record of a arrests. This can be time-consuming and costly. Some people do not even know that they have the ability to expunge an arrest. The end result is that they do not take advantage of the legal relief that they could get.

Gun Crime Conviction Expungements in Texas

Earlier this year, Texas legislators approved license-less gun carry throughout the state. Perhaps more importantly for many people in Texas, the new law also allows for the expungement of convictions - whether misdemeanors or felonies - for those found guilty of unlawful carry of a firearm in the past. This is the first time the legislature has allowed for convictions to me expunged. Now that the conduct is no longer illegal, anyone with a conviction should learn how to get their past convictions expunged right away.

Criminal Justice Advocates Want Automatic Expungement to Make it Easier

Advocates for criminal justice reform are pushing states to make expungement automatic, requiring no action whatsoever to clear a criminal record. This would happen for certain offenses after a set period of time. They argue that people convicted of crimes should have the ability to get jobs and find places to live free of the impacts of a prior mistake. On the other hand, opponents of these bills claim that they endanger public safety. Some have argued against automatic expungement bills because they may be costly and burdensome to enforce.

Texas might pass legislation that would prohibit courts and police departments from disclosing records of certain arrests. While automatic orders of nondisclosure are not the same as automatic expungement, it can still help. Landlords and employers would not be able to learn of these arrests if they were performing background checks. The fact that these convictions would not show up in searches would give hope to perhaps millions of Texans looking for a fresh start.

Even if a bill like this becomes law in Texas, the state would need to figure out how to automate the process of automatically sealing records. Previous attempts at criminal justice reform in 2015 have run into some roadblocks for this exact reason. While help may be on the way for those arrested for certain crimes, it is not exactly here yet. However, those with unlawful carry convictions can now seek to have their records cleared.

Speak with a Denton Criminal Law Attorney

The Law Office of Brent D. Bowen PLLC can help you work within the existing expungement laws to possibly clear your record. We could also protect your legal rights if you have been charged with a crime. Call us today at (940) 222-2488 or contact us online to discuss your case.