If a Criminal Case Is Dismissed, Does It Stay on Your Record?

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If you've ever been charged with a crime, you know how scary a situation that is. Whether your case went to trial or not, just being charged with a crime can be an ordeal, even if the charges were later dropped or dismissed. But if your criminal case is dismissed, does it stay on your record?

What Does a "Clean Record" Mean?

People often think a case dismissal means they go back to having a clean record. Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily true. When people refer to a "clean" record, it depends whether you are talking about criminal convictions or being charged with a crime in the first place. One has to do with the case's outcome, and the other has to do with whether you were ever accused of criminal behavior, regardless of how it turned out.

criminal case dismissed

Being Charged vs. Being Convicted

Job applications often ask questions about past criminal history. Sometimes they will ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. In the event that you were previously charged for a crime and not convicted (i.e. the case was dismissed or you got deferred adjudication) you can answer no.

However, if you are asked whether you have ever been charged with a crime, you would have to say yes. When a police officer arrests a person they write a report of what happened, and the person's name, birthdate, driver license number, photo and fingerprints are documented and kept. When the case is filed with the court all of that information is passed along to the court personnel and becomes a public record.  If everything works out and the case is dismissed then that's wonderful- the state was unable to prove your alleged conduct and you are not proven guilty! The court then enters a dismissal of the charge, the case is closed and the records are stored. But despite the fact that you were not convicted, the records still show the world that you were accused of something bad. Granted, it will also show that the charges were dismissed, but it's often preferable not to have to bring it up at all.

No matter how your case ended, the remedy for clearing up any type of criminal record is an Expunction or a Nondisclosure. Each can be used in certain situations to keep the public from finding out about your past.

Expunctions and Nondisclosure Orders

Our criminal lawyers can help you file an order of expunction with the court. Expunging your record means the charge will be permanently removed from all records. Generally a case must have been fully dismissed in order to qualify for expunction, and there are strict guidelines for eligibility. There is also a required waiting period after your dismissal before the expunction may be filed.Your Texas criminal defense attorney can review your case to see whether you meet the eligibility criteria for expunction and whether the required time has passed.

If you don't meet the criteria for expunction, you may still qualify for an order for nondisclosure. This is commonly referred to as "sealing" the record. When your record is sealed, it is no longer viewable by the general public. They are not removed or destroyed, but only specific state entities and official personnel can access them. Nondisclosure does not hide your information from law enforcement, state agencies or licensing boards.  They are allowed to access but not disclose it. It does mean however that private employers, background checks and apartment leasing agents won't be able to view your record. It has essentially been "sealed" from the public.

To see whether your case qualifies for an expunction or nondisclosure order, speak with your criminal attorney.

Eligibility for Expunctions and Nondisclosure Orders in Texas

Here are some common scenarios where an expunction or nondisclosure may come into play: 

    • You were arrested but never formally charged or indicted.
    • You completed a pretrial diversion program
    • You completed deferred adjudication or deferred disposition.
    • Your case was dismissed outright or you were acquitted (found not guilty).
    • You or someone else was arrested after your identity was stolen.
    • You were convicted but later pardoned.


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