If you have pled guilty to a misdemeanor, you may feel anxious about the damage to your record. In many instances, having a criminal record can make it more difficult to find a job, housing, obtain a professional license, student aid, or certain types of loans. If you have pled guilty to a misdemeanor, it is important to understand exactly what the outcome of your case was and what options you might have to minimize the damage to your record.
How can you tell if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor?
In order to assess your options after a misdemeanor plea, you will first want to understand the outcome of your case and whether your case resulted in a final conviction. If you are inexperienced with the criminal justice system, you may be unsure of how your case was resolved and how it may appear on a criminal history search.
The first place to look at whether you have been convicted is the plea paperwork. Typically, there will be a document stating what the result or “judgement” was in your case. The judgment in a criminal case can often be obtained online. In Houston, it is possible to obtain the judgment from the Harris County District Clerk’s website, where you can register for a free account and view all of the documents relating to your case.
In a misdemeanor case, the judgment will state what the plea and sentence was. If you pled guilty and were assessed any type of jail sentence (including a “time served” where your sentence is the time that you already served in jail), then that will be considered a final conviction. Additionally, if you were assessed “regular” probation (not deferred adjudication probation), then your case will also be considered a conviction. If you successfully completed a deferred adjudication probation, then your case will not be considered a final conviction.
Unfortunately, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you are not eligible to have your records expunged or sealed. In Texas, in order to obtain an expunction of your records, your case must have been dismissed or you generally must have been found “not guilty” at trial. To be able to get your records sealed (also called a “non-disclosure”), you must have been placed on deferred adjudication and you must have finished your probation successfully (and even then, not all offenses are eligible for a non-disclosure).
Does a misdemeanor charge disappear from your record?
Many people mistakenly believe that after a certain period of time, a misdemeanor case automatically disappears from your record. This is incorrect: A misdemeanor charge never automatically disappears from your record no matter what the outcome was. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor the charge will remain on your record indefinitely and you cannot remove it or prevent it from appearing on a criminal history search.
Even if your case was dismissed, you would still have to obtain an expunction before the case is completely wiped off of your record and disappears. Similarly, to get your records “sealed” you would need to file a petition for non-disclosure. If you are eligible for an expunction or non-disclosure, until you obtain one, a criminal history search would still show your case and the result.
What are my options with a misdemeanor conviction?
The unfortunate reality is that you do not have a good option to remove a misdemeanor conviction from your record. At the moment, Texas law does not allow a person with a conviction to remove the charge from their record. If you have no more legal issues, the hope is that eventually, the conviction will be viewed as an isolated incident that will not prevent you from living a normal life or missing out on any opportunities.
At Ceja Law Firm, our goal is always to do everything possible to protect our client’s records. If you would like to understand your options to clean your record, call Ceja Law Firm for a free consultation.