Do I Need a Lawyer to Expunge My Records or Can I Do It Myself in the State of Texas?

If you've recently been convicted of a serious crime or felony, you may be facing some unanticipated personal and professional difficulties. For instance, you may be having trouble securing a job, finding a suitable apartment to rent, or obtaining the security clearance necessary to advance at your current position. You may have heard that expunging your conviction from your criminal record can ameliorate some of these issues.

You may also have heard that the process of expunging a conviction can be costly and time-consuming. You may be wondering whether you can safely negotiate this process on your own and save yourself the time and hassle of dealing with a lawyer.

In Texas, you may be able to "seal" your record through a process known as "non-disclosure." You'll need to prove that you served out the full term of your deferred probation sentence and indicate to a judge that you've been rehabilitated. While hiring a lawyer will increase your chances of securing a non-disclosure order, this process offers few guarantees.

In addition, it's important to remember that your sealed record will still be visible to certain key agencies and organizations. Local law enforcement agencies, federal investigators and the Texas Motor Vehicle Department may all be able to call up your criminal record at will. Your conviction may even appear on background checks conducted by prospective employers.

To expunge your criminal conviction properly and remove all evidence of it from the public record, you'll need to mount a more intensive campaign. The rules that govern the expunging of convictions are harsher in Texas than in many other jurisdictions.

In fact, you'll be unable to affect your record at all unless you served a term of deferred probation. Thanks to a loophole in the state's criminal law statutes, you'll be unable to expunge any conviction that involved a term of "straight" probation. If you did serve a term of deferred probation for your crime, you'll save some money by hiring a public defender rather than a private-practice attorney.

Your best bet for "clearing your name" may be to appeal directly to the governor's office for a pardon. Unfortunately, this will likely require the services of a lawyer with personal as well as professional connections to the state's political leaders. While it may be expensive and have only a small chance of succeeding, it's often the best option in cases that involve "straight" probation.

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