Picture lugging around a heavy backpack wherever you go – that is what having a criminal record feels like. It weighs you down and limits your opportunities. But here is the good news; with a little bit of knowledge and perhaps the help of an expungement lawyer in Austin, you may be able to leave that backpack behind for good.
In Texas, expungement (also referred to as expunction) is the process of wiping certain criminal records clean, as if they never existed. It is like hitting the reset button and giving yourself a fresh start!
When Am I Eligible for Record Expungement?
Your eligibility for expungement in Texas often depends on several factors:
- Type of Offense: Minor offenses are generally easier to expunge.
- Disposition: Were you acquitted or found not guilty?
- Time since the offense: Sometimes there is a waiting period before you become eligible for expungement.
It is always wise to consult with an expungement Lawyer in Austin who can guide you through the specific criteria for your case.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Expunge My Record in Texas?
While it is possible to navigate the expungement process on your own, think of it as hiking along a trail – having a guide (or in this case a lawyer) can make the journey smoother and more successful. By hiring a skilled expungement lawyer, Austin residents gain the assistance of a knowledgeable professional who can help with the paperwork, meeting deadlines, and navigating court procedures so that everything goes according to plan.
How Can an Expungement Lawyer in Austin, Texas Help?
Having an attorney is akin to having a guide who is familiar with the area, the people, and the legal process. Specifically, an experienced lawyer can help in the following ways:
- Determining Eligibility: An expungement lawyer will evaluate your case to ascertain your eligibility for record expungement.
- Paperwork and Filing: They manage all the paperwork, ensuring accuracy and timely filing with the court.
- Representation in Court: If necessary, your lawyer will represent you during court hearings, advocating for your expungement.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Your Record Expunged?
While expenses can vary, it is important to have an idea of the costs to avoid any surprises. The following provides a general overview:
- Court Filing Fees: These fees are mandatory and go directly to the court handling your request. In Texas, these court filing fees are around $300.
- Attorney’s Fees: Should you choose to engage an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney (which many individuals do for peace of mind and expertise), their fees can vary significantly. Some attorneys may charge a fixed fee for the expungement process, while others might charge on an hourly basis. Attorney’s fees average around $1,500 in Texas.
- Other Costs: Additional expenses may include fees for obtaining official records or other miscellaneous costs associated with your expungement procedure.
It is important to discuss these expenses with your lawyer to avoid any surprises and to ensure that you are financially prepared for the process.
What Records Cannot Be Expunged?
Certain records cannot be expunged, such as:
- Convictions resulting in jail time
- Specific sexual offenses; and
- Cases where you were found guilty but given probation.
To determine what applies in your situation, it is crucial to consult with an experienced attorney.
Is There a Waiting Period for Expungement?
Yes. In cases where there is a waiting period for expungement, the duration of this period can vary depending on factors like the nature of the offense. For example, some misdemeanors may require a one-year waiting period, while certain felonies necessitate a much longer waiting period.
How Do I File?
Filing for expungement in Austin, Texas, can be a rigorous process. But with the right legal guidance, it can be accomplished smoothly. Here is a step-by-step-guide to assist you:
1. Collect All Necessary Documents
Before you start the process, make sure to collect all the records related to the offense. This includes a copy of your criminal record from the Texas Department of Public Safety, arrest records, court documents, disposition records, and any probation or community service documents. These documents contain information about your case and will be referred to throughout the expungement process.
2. Petition for Expunction
The heart of the expungement process is your Petition for Expunction. This legal document formally requests that your record be cleared. Your lawyer will guide you on creating a petition that highlights your eligibility.
3. Pay the Required Fees
Filing for expungement involves fees such as court filing fees, costs for obtaining records, and lawyer’s fees if you have representation. It is important to understand these associated costs in advance so that you can plan your budget accordingly.
4. Submit Your Petition
Once your petition is prepared and the fees are taken care of, it is time to submit. You will need to file your petition in the county where the arrest occurred. Your attorney should also advise you to keep copies of everything you submit for future reference.
5. Serve Notice
After you file your petition, you need to notify all parties involved in the case, including:
- The arresting agency
- The district attorney’s office; and
- Any other entity that might have a record of the arrest or charges.
Serving notice ensures that all parties have an opportunity to contest the expungement if they believe it is not warranted.
6. Attend the Expungement Hearing
Once you have submitted your petition, the court will schedule a hearing. During this session:
- You (or your lawyer) will present reasons why your expungement should be granted.
- The prosecutor may raise objections or provide counterarguments against your expungement.
- Ultimately, the judge will make a decision on whether to approve your expungement request or not.
It is essential to be punctual and prepared for this hearing. Your attorney can guide you on what to anticipate and how to present your case effectively.
7. Receive the Judge’s Decision
If the judge approves your petition, they will issue an Order for Expunction. This order commands all agencies (such as police departments or the court system) to erase or seal your criminal record. From that point on, in most situations, it is as if the crime never happened!
Expunging a criminal record in Austin, Texas, can be a rigorous process. But with a little knowledge and the right legal guidance, the process can be concluded successfully. For more information, or for assistance with navigating the process, contact an experienced expungement lawyer in Austin for a free consultation to discuss your case.