New Expungement Law Gives New Hope to First Time Offenders

In 2011, the laws regarding expungment, or the sealing of criminal records, changed a bit to enable more people to have their criminal records expunged. Until 2011, the laws of Texas and the judicial opinions interpreting those laws did not allow for an offender to have multiple charges that happened during the same event to be expunged from their record. Typically, the rule was that if you were a first time offender, and you were only convicted of one offense, under certain circumstances you could have that conviction expunged or removed from your record.

For those not familiar with expungments, this means that you could legally answer “no” to the question of “have you ever been convicted of a crime” on employment applications and the like. The only time those convictions would be visible or relevant again, would be if you were convicted of another crime sometime in the future, and the prior conviction could be used to determine sentencing for the new conviction.

New Expungement Law Gives New Hope to First Time OffendersNow, the Texas Legislature has amended the statute (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, art. 55.01(a)) and several cases are on appeal in our state courts to determine once and for all, if multiple convictions arising out of the same single incident can be expunged or sealed. Judges and prosecutors at the trial court level are split on the interpretation of the statute, thus necessitating the appeals and the resulting appellate court interpretation. But it seems clear from the language of the statute and the legislative history at H.B. 351, Bill Analysis and Sponsor’s Statement of Intent, May 16, 2011, that the amendment to the statute was intended to allow expungment of more than one conviction arising from the same single incident of a first time offender. This is good news for those who have been arrested once, charged with two crimes, went through probation and all the other conditions imposed by their sentences, only to find out they could not have their record sealed.

Contact Collin County criminal lawyer Deandra M. Grant, a former prosecutor.

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