There are two separate processes in Texas for clearing up your criminal record or record of an arrest. And so the first question is what those are, and what's the difference between the two? The two separate processes are expunction and nondisclosure.

An order of expunction or a petition for expunction is generally limited to those cases where you're either arrested and no charges are filed or you're arrested and the charges are dismissed or in some cases, it involves cases where you've gone to trial and been found not guilty or obtained a pardon from the governor.

Nondisclosure covers those cases where you actually went to court and received some type of sentence and generally, there are a couple of different ways that that can come into play.

One is where you were placed on deferred adjudication probation, and if you successfully completed that, you may qualify for an order of nondisclosure. And more recently, there have been some misdemeanor offenses where the courts have, or the legislature expanded the protection that allows you to enter an order of nondisclosure or obtain an order of nondisclosure in those situations.

The big difference between the two is really in the process and the protection that you get under a petition for expunction if that's granted, a notice is sent to every agency that has any records, and they're required to search their files, gather up all the information they have and either send those to the court or destroy them, once that's done then there is no record whatsoever of your arrest or your case.

There are some limited exceptions to that, but for the most part, that effectively destroys any evidence or any record that exists concerning your case.

One of the notices that go out is to private entities that collect information, such as public data or LexisNexis. A nondisclosure is not nearly as comprehensive. That simply is an order from the court that's sent to DPS or to a criminal justice agency and it tells them that they can't disclose the fact of the arrest and the case, there are a lot of exceptions to that, but the burden is on the department of public safety to send those notices to the agencies. And then they're prevented from disclosing that information, except in certain circumstances.

For the most part, a nondisclosure is not nearly as comprehensive as an order of expunction. And so it's really something that you obtain if you don't qualify for an expunction.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.