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Archive for December, 2008

The Criminal Record

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

At about the rate of once every day, I have a conversation with someone about his criminal record  and the exact meaning of the phrase “criminal record.”  “I want to clean up my criminal record.”   “What is my criminal record?” “My no good ex-husband has a criminal record!”

There are so many variations of a criminal record and where this information is stored, that the subject is almost impossible to wrestle to the ground with out a specific set of facts from which to ask questions.  My short answer to these types of questions is usually a question.  Have you been arrested?  If so, you have a criminal record.

Records exist at the police station, at the jail, at the courthouse, at the prosecutor’s office, at the county and district clerk’s offices… You get the idea…The records contain arrest information, case disposition information and other embarrassing facts.  Generally speaking, if the criminal case is later dismissed without the defendant being supevised by a probation officer, a person is usually eliglbe for an expunction.

These days, people who have completed certain types of deferred adjudicaition are eligible for a Petition for Non-Disclosure. This process is a availble to individuals whose cases have been “dismissed” after the successful completion of a deferred adjudication.  The process keeps former court proceedings from the public eye, but over sixty state agencies and all law enforcement retains the ability to access the information.  The governing statute is contained in the Texas Government Code Section 411.081(d) here:


Expunctions.  Petitions for non-disclosure.  The process can be confusing.  The Harris County District Attorney’s office offers an FAQ page to sort out some of the questions. http://dao-web.dao.hctx.net/ie/DADJ/FAQs.htm

In this computer age, the flow of information is easily accessible, constant, and often just plain wrong.  Dallas County has had it share of problems making sure that it’s records are in compliance with the law.


Even smaller counties keep their court records online: