Man in handcuffs

Domestic violence – which is known as assault-family violence under Texas law – is a regularly charged offense in the Greater Houston area. In addition to the potential for criminal penalties, an arrest for domestic violence can also leave a stain on a person’s record that can make it more difficult to find work or housing. If you have been arrested for domestic violence, the best way to put the arrest behind you is by obtaining an expunction of the arrest if you are eligible. Under Texas law, an expunction of a domestic violence case is the best way to put the case behind you as it results in the destruction of records relating to arrest and entitles you to even deny the existence of the arrest in almost all cases.

Many people believe that if your domestic violence case has been dismissed, or you have been acquitted at trial, then your records will automatically expunged. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. Even if you beat your case, the records of the arrest will still exist until you take action and obtain an expunction. For many reasons, it is an excellent idea to get an arrest for domestic violence expunged as soon as you are able to. 

Am I eligible for an expunction of an assault-family violence arrest?

The first step in getting an assault-family violence arrest expunged is determining whether you are eligible. Unfortunately, not every domestic violence arrest is eligible for an expunction. Under Texas law, there are only certain situations that entitle a person to expunge records of an assault-family violence arrest. These include situations where:

  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 
    2. The charges were dismissed because you:
      1. completed Veterans’ treatment court, mental health court, or pretrial intervention; 
      2. the charging instrument is void; or 
      3. there is no probable cause to believe you committed the offense; 
    3. 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 

In Houston, most people who obtain an expunction of a domestic violence case do so after their case is dismissed or they are acquitted at trial. Eligibility for an expunction is one reason why it is so important to do everything possible to beat a domestic violence case

When am I not eligible for an expunction of a domestic violence case?

If your domestic violence was not dismissed or you were not acquitted at trial, it is highly unlikely that you are eligible for an expunction. You are NOT eligible for an expunction of a domestic violence case if any of the following is true:

-You pled guilty to assault-family violence, regardless of the sentence

-You were assessed regular or deferred adjudication probation

-You accepted a jail sentence or time served

If any of these situations applies to your case you are not eligible for an expunction and will never be under current Texas law. Unfortunately, even if you completed a deferred adjudication probation, you would not be eligible for to have your records sealed (assault-family violence is one of the few offenses that does not permit a person to have their records sealed after successfully completing a deferred adjudication probation). Again, this is another reason why it is important to hire an experienced domestic violence attorney if you are charged with assault-family violence. 

What happens after my assault-family violence case is expunged?

There are several benefits to obtaining an expunction of a domestic violence case. The first is that once the expunction is complete, you are legally permitted to deny the existence of the arrest on a work, school or housing application. The benefits of being able to deny an arrest for domestic violence are obvious, but it is important to remember that this is a right that you do not gain until after the expunction is complete. 

Next, an expunction of a domestic violence case results in the physical destruction of records relating to the arrest. In most cases, this will result in the case no longer appearing on most criminal history searches. Again, as many employers run criminal background checks on prospective employees, having a domestic violence arrest erased from your record can be hugely beneficial. 

Last but not least, if you are ever in legal trouble again, having a domestic violence arrest deleted from your record will mean that the police and prosecutors will not be able to see it either. This can have a huge impact on how police treat you (and could make the difference between being arrested or not) and how prosecutors will treat you if face a new charge in the future. 

What is the procedure for expunging a domestic violence arrest? 

Once an expunction attorney determines your eligibility to have your records expunged, the attorney must do some research and prepare a petition listing every law enforcement agency or government agency that could be holding a record of your domestic violence arrest. Once the petition is prepared and the information is verified, the expunction attorney will ask the court to set the case for a hearing and ask the judge to sign a petition. After that, an order will be prepared that the expunction attorney must circulate to every agency that has a record of the arrest, informing them that they have been ordered to destroy the records. 

The process of obtaining an expunction is a domestic violence case can be slow. In the Houston area, completing an expunction for an assault-family violence case can take up to a year. For this reason, it is a good idea to start the process as soon as you are eligible. 

Ceja Law Firm regularly helps clients beat assault-family violence cases throughout the Greater Houston area. If you have been charged with domestic violence, or have a prior arrest that is eligible for an expunction, call Ceja Law Firm today to help you being the process of putting the arrest behind you.