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Can I Seal my Criminal Record?

Posted by Brian Tillman on 9 June 2010

This is one of the most frequent questions we receive, and the subject of much confusion. If you have been convicted of an offense (i.e., a judge or jury has found you guilty) then that conviction sticks and never goes away. If that’s not good incentive to hire a lawyer, then I don’t know what is. Aside from winning at trial, an attorney may negotiate other potential ways to resolve a criminal case that avoid conviction, such as deferred adjudication probation, deferred prosecution, or obviously, dismissal. Each of the above has its own ins and outs, but the important factor is that in every case, no conviction is ever entered and the cases are ultimately dismissed. Even without being convicted, some background checks by potential employers, landlords, etc., will show the arrest, which is often enough to prevent you from getting that job or apartment you wanted.

Deferred adjudication probation results in dismissal at the end of a probation term, so long as the defendant completes all the required terms of the probationary period. A person who received and completed deferred adjudication probation does not have a conviction. However, because they were under a supervised probation, they may not fully expunge the incident. The best remedy for a person in this situation is a Motion for Non-Disclosure, which is commonly referred to as “sealing” the record. It prohibits any agency that has information about the incident from providing it to anyone else. It is important to know that the law does allow some people to see information after “sealing”- primarily state licensing boards (e.g., medical, legal, teaching, etc.).

Deferred prosecution results in a dismissal up front without probation, and the defendant is expected to complete required terms (typically a class or community service) and provide proof of completion to the prosecutor’s office themselves. It is a contract between the defendant and the prosecuting agency that avoids supervised probation, which is good. Even better, because there is no supervision, full Expunction of the proceeding is available. A full expunction means that any agency that has information regarding the incident must actually destroy the records, including the record of the arrest itself. Once an expunction is complete, the individual may legally deny the occurrence of the entire incident.