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Secrets of the Texas Criminal Justice System and Your Rights
An attorney experienced in non-disclosure cases can help you better understand the timeline of a Texas expunction order. As soon as your expunction order is finalized, every entity listed on that order is prohibited from keeping, releasing, or otherwise disseminating your records. That is why it is so important that you and an experienced expunction lawyer provide contact information for every agency that might have records on file regarding your arrest.
Following Expunction Approval
Once a person’s expunction is approved, the District Clerk sends a notice via certified mail, secure electronic mail, hand delivery, or facsimile to all the agencies listed in their expunction order. These agencies then notify any archives or central records bureaus they sent the person’s records to and request they be returned.
It is it at this point in the timeline of a Texas expunction order, that the DPS notifies all their records bureaus and archives to track down any and all records pertaining to that particular arrest. All of these agencies, bureaus, and depositories then send all files and records they have regarding their arrest back to the District Clerk who sent out the notice.
Can Records Be Destroyed or Blacked Out?
Some files cannot be removed for practical reasons. In these circumstances, any reference to a person must be removed or blacked out. All index references to these files about to be destroyed must be destroyed as well. An expunction order instigates a massive purge of anything that mentions—or refers to something that mentions—their arrest and investigation.
Private agencies are not required to submit a person’s records to the District Clerk’s office, but they are required to destroy them. Once all records that have not been destroyed or blacked out elsewhere arrive at the District Clerk’s office, they must be kept secure until the destruction date. Each agency is also bound to certify they have complied with the expunction order. After the 60th day following the date the expunction order was issued, the District Clerk can destroy their records. These records must be destroyed by the one-year anniversary of a person’s expunction order, at the latest.
How Long Are Records Often Held?
The District Clerk is required to inform the prosecuting attorney at least 30 days before the records are destroyed. If the prosecutor does not respond within 20 days of notice, destruction can commence. If the prosecutor objects during the timeline of a Texas expunction order, the records will be kept until the one-year anniversary of the expunction order, and then be destroyed.
If a person’s expunction was because of a pardon or actual innocence, the District Clerk will keep their files in case they want to file a civil suit on the grounds of wrongful imprisonment. This way, a person’s record will be cleared, but they will still be able to access their records for the purpose of a civil suit on their behalf in the future if they so choose.
Identity Theft Expungement Cases
In the case of expunction stemming from identity theft, rather than destroying the documents pertaining to a person’s arrest, their name is removed. If the true identity of the person arrested who stole their identity is known, their name can replace the person interested in expunction’s name, if it is practical and relevant.
After six months, a person should be able to run a background check on themselves and have it come up clean. If this is not the case, the individual should notify their attorney, the DPS, and the District Clerk to check up on compliance.
Anyone who knowingly does not destroy or return files or identifying information subject to the expunction order is guilty of having committed a Class B misdemeanor. A skilled attorney can help a person learn more about their timeline of a Texas expunction order.
Once a person’s non-disclosure order has been approved, the clerk has 15 days to serve the order to the Department of Public Safety. Within ten days of receiving the order, the DPS must seal all files.
The DPS then sends a copy of the non-disclosure order to any other agencies that possess or have access to their records. These agencies then have 30 days to seal the records.
All of their records still exist—they are just sealed off. While law enforcement officials and agencies can still access and share their records among themselves, they can only do so for the purposes of law enforcement and not with outside parties.
Agencies and Non-Disclosure
Agencies outside of the criminal justice system, with a few exceptions, are prohibited from accessing or disseminating a person’s information. Note that professional licensing agencies that pertain to law and law enforcement, finance, education, medicine, or working with the elderly or disabled can access their sealed records. The Department of Family and Protective Services and state health and mental health agencies can also access a person’s sealed records.
This list is actually fairly short, and when agencies access a person’s records, they will find no record of a conviction. A person’s arrest or deferred probation may still raise some red flags, but nothing that can officially stop a person from achieving their career goals or getting the medical or mental health help they need.
There is no established timeframe as to how long the DPS has to notify other agencies, which complicates compliance. It is always a good idea for individuals to run a background check on themselves after six months to see what, if anything, comes up. If a person’s records have not been sealed, they should contact the DPS. If an individual wants to know more about non-disclosure and/or the timeline of Texas expunction order, they should consult an attorney.