Cop: “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Fletcher Reede: “Depends on how long you were following me.”
Cop: “Why don’t we just take it from the top?”
Fletcher Reede: “Here goes…I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at an intersection. I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and SPEEDING!”
Cop: “Is that all?”
Fletcher Reede: “No…I have unpaid parking tickets. Please be gentle.”
One of my all-time favorite movies is “Liar Liar” starring Jim Carrey, who plays an attorney that is magically rendered incapable of lying about anything for 24 hours because of his son’s birthday wish. Imagine that – a lawyer who can’t lie. Hilarity ensues. Fortunately, something like that could never happen to attorneys in real life!
However, I always think of that scene in “Liar Liar” when I speak with my clients about getting an expunction of their criminal record. Imagine being arrested for possession of marijuana, or arrested for driving while intoxicated, or arrested for shoplifting during the “coronavirus pandemic” because you just couldn’t afford $119.99 for a 12-pack roll of toilet paper. You hire an attorney, you go to court, and thanks to the efforts of your lawyer, the case is dismissed and all charges are dropped.
Everything’s fine now, right? Almost, but not quite. When a criminal case is dismissed, that means no criminal consequences will ever happen as a result of the arrest. You will never be convicted of the offense, you won’t have to serve any jail time, you’ll never have to do probation for the case. But the fact that you were arrested on a particular date for a criminal offense is still out there – hanging around, completely accessible as a public record by anyone who wants to find out about it.
Almost every employer and academic institution requires you to disclose any arrest, no matter the outcome, as a condition on the application. The United States leads the world in data collection, and any arrest can and likely will be found by someone with the desire to do so. In fact, the Texas Department of Public Safety and many local law enforcement agencies can sell the arrest information in their possession to private entities that report arrest information for anyone to look up.
That means your arrest that happened 5, 10, or even 20 years ago that never resulted in a conviction can STILL follow you to your job interviews, your college applications, and may even prevent you from qualifying for a home loan or getting approved for the apartment you’re trying to rent.
That’s where an expunction comes into place. An expunction is a court order directing any law enforcement agency and many private organizations that have a record of the arrest to physically destroy all records in their possession and remove any electronic records that show you were arrested. Further, an expunction allows you to legally deny that you were ever arrested for the charge in the first place, so you typically don’t have to disclose the arrest to anyone asking you to do so since the arrest records no longer exist. It doesn’t matter if the case was a felony or a misdemeanor. If the case was dismissed, you are legally entitled to apply for and obtain an expunction of the records.
Expunging your arrest records is a critical final step in successfully resolving your felony or misdemeanor criminal case. If you or a loved one are charged with a crime, you need an aggressive and experienced criminal defense team working for you to make sure that an arrest that happened in your past doesn’t follow you around for years or decades to come.
Call the attorneys at Hamilton Grant today to make sure your rights are protected.