How do I know if I am eligible for an expunction of a Texas criminal case?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

In Texas, the best way to put a criminal case in the past is to obtain an expunction of the charges. An expunction of a criminal case erases an arrest from your record. Legally speaking, after an expunction, it is as if the incident never happened. But how do you know if you are eligible for an expunction in Texas?

As discussed below, in Texas most people obtain an expunction because their case is dismissed or they are found “not guilty” at trial. However, you can obtain an expunction if one of the following applies to you:

  1. You were not convicted of the offense, the offense is no longer pending, and one of the following applies to your case:
    1. You were not formally charged with the offense
      • There are waiting periods.
    2. The charges were dismissed because you:
      • completed veterans’ treatment court, mental health court, or pretrial intervention; 
      • the charging instrument is void; or 
      • there is no probable cause to believe you committed the offense; 
    3. You completed deferred adjudication for a Class C misdemeanor; or
    4. The statute of limitations has expired.
  2. You were tried for the offense and found not guilty 
  3. You were convicted of the offense but then received a pardon by a higher court 
  4. You were convicted of unlawful carry of a weapon prior to September 1, 2021
  5. Someone used your identity without your permission when they were arrested
  6. The District Attorney’s Office agrees to the expunction

As you can see, the law on expunctions can be complicated, and there are many situations that could theoretically entitle a person to an expunction. In the Houston area, most people who obtain an expunction do so after their case is dismissed and the statute of limitations has expired (or the District Attorney’s office agrees to waive the statute of limitations), or they are found “not guilty” at trial. 

Here are some common examples of situations that would entitle a person to an expunction:

  • Defendant is charged with prostitution and is found “not guilty” at trial. He is eligible for an expunction of his prostitution arrest immediately (there is no waiting period for an expunction of a case that a person if found “not guilty” on). 
  • Defendant is charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated (DWI) and the case is dismissed. The two-year statute of limitations has expired so the defendant is entitled to an expunction of a DWI arrest
  • Defendant is charged with domestic violence and the case is dismissed. The statute of limitations has not yet expired, by the District Attorney’s Office has agreed to an expunction now. This defendant is eligible for an expunction of a domestic violence arrest. 
  • Defendant is charged with Class “C” theft and the defendant successfully completes a deferred adjudication probation. This defendant is eligible for an expunction of a theft arrest (a Class “C” deferred is the only deferred adjudication that may be expunged). 

When is a defendant not entitled to an expunction?

In Texas, several types of criminal records cannot be expunged, including the following:

  • Arrests resulting in a final guilty conviction, including situations where a defendant accepted a jail sentence or any type of “time served.”
  • Arrests resulting in any kind of community supervision or probation (including deferred adjudication), except for Class “C” misdemeanor deferred adjudications.

There is no question that obtaining an expunction of an arrest is important if your goal is to protect your record. Keeping an arrest off of your record can mean better job opportunities, better housing opportunities, and a means to protect your name and reputation. If you are interested in seeing if your arrest qualifies for an expunction, the first step is to consult with an experienced expunction attorney. Call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation. 

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.