Law School News

Free March 19 “Fresh Start” Event Designed to Help Qualified Individuals

The Benny Agosto, Jr. Diversity Center at South Texas College of Law Houston and Porter|Hedges will co-sponsor Clearing Criminal Records: Fresh Start Initiative March 19 to allow individuals to discuss options and next steps about their cases with volunteer lawyers.

The event is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ripley House Gym, 4410 Navigation in Houston. Attendees should, but aren’t required to, bring copies of their full record. The purpose of the free event is to allow individuals to discuss their cases and determine whether they qualify to have their cases expunged (cleared) or sealed (not allowed to be disclosed).

This is important because criminal charges may show up in public records and background checks for work, school and housing, even if an individual was found “not guilty” or the case was dismissed.

For example, applications for some jobs and work-related licenses may ask if an individual has ever been arrested, and school applications may ask about arrest history. Landlords regularly do background checks before approving housing applications.

If a case is cleared, that includes complete elimination of the criminal record (in most cases), records are permanently destroyed and expunged arrests are erased from the person’s record.

People may qualify who were arrested by never charged, if a grand jury returned a “no bill,” if the case was dismissed, if the individual was found not guilty/acquitted, if the conviction was for misdemeanor handgun possession before Sept. 1, 2021, or if the individual successfully completed deferred adjudication for a Class C misdemeanor.

If a case is sealed, that means the criminal record is shielded from public access, that law enforcement agencies are not ordered to disclose criminal records on background checks, and the individual is not required to disclose offenses on applications. However, the criminal record still exists, and it can be disclosed to certain agencies on background checks for certain sensitive jobs.

Some circumstances that may qualify include successfully completed deferred adjudication, first-offense misdemeanor with no serious later offenses, victim of human trafficking or compelled prostitution, or no disqualifying offenses.

Individuals may check to see if they qualify prior to the event at:

https://georgetown.neotalogic.com/a/TexasFreshStartV2 (free, online, anonymouse)

or at:

https://clearyourrecordharriscounty.org/check/form (Harris County, after 1990)