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Within the confines of the Harris County criminal records context, the procedures and processes that accompany expungement of records can be described as intensely complex, or relatively easy. It’s all depending on the perspective of how you go about resolving the situation.
For instance, going in blindly, without any previous knowledge or experience, with either the legal system in general, or the way the expungement process works, is going to be a trying task, to say the least. At best, once a novice is actually able to compile all of the necessary research, and documents, they will, then, have to learn how to manipulate the system, so that all of the documents, petitions, and other court procedures work in concert. This is a task that can even be trying for first year law students, who are receiving professional guidance on the subject.
With that said, there is a way to handle the expungement in a relatively relaxing, and stress free manner, which would require contracting the help from a legal adviser, who has been well versed on the subject. Selecting this route, with respect to removing negative marks on the record, would still require some amount of stress, however, it would most likely be the stress of finding out how to pay the general service fees that accompany the process.
In order to make the proper legal, as well as financial decisions, when considering how to approach the expungement process, there are a few key aspects to become familiar with. Essentially, petitioners should make it their business to understand what is actually happening, when they apply for a loan, housing, or a job that asks about criminal history. These institutions are all tied into specific networking agencies that make it their business, solely to provide access to a criminal data base, for the purpose of responding to inquiries. Once you sign an application that asks about your history, these application holders have the right to make inquiries, which will surely be detected upon request.
In order to circumvent your personal and historical records from being shared with unwanted parties, there is really only one road of legal recourse, that has the power to permanently stop this from happening.
For example, for Harris County expungement, or expungement in any other Texas county for that matter, the procedure is rather standard. Whether done by an individual, or an attorney, there will have to be a petition filled out properly, and then submitted to the proper court. After the petition is received, it will be brought to the judge, who will then have the discretion of discerning whether or not your case meets the requirements to qualify for expungement. Once your petition has met that standard, the judge will grant a certificate for expungement. This does not mean that the work is completely done, in fact, the receipt of the certificate is only a third of the process.
Having earned the approval for the certificate of expungement by the judge is crucial to eventually meeting the end goal of the process, but there is a next step. Following the certificate, the individual, the legal attorney, consultant, or team, will have the responsibility to take the certificate to the proper authorities who work within the network of criminal databases. Following through on this part of the procedure can be, arguably, the most important. This step in the procedure is imperative because, even if the judge knows that he has granted you a certification of expungement, that doesn’t mean that anyone else has that newly updated information. Part of working, successfully, within the court system, means working interdependently with many different channels, so that everyone has the same information.
Upon delivering the order for expungement to the proper agencies, which must include all of the major local agencies, in addition to any federal agencies, the individual will then have to wait for the information to be updated, and physically destroyed by each particular agency. According to Harris expungement rules, this process may officially take up to 30 days. The 30 day grace period ensures that the right agencies have the necessary time to make sure the job is done correctly.
Therefore, when it comes down to any issue involving time, working with a savvy attorney would probably be the best bet in terms of processing with the utmost efficiency. Consequently, an attorney, or office that does this for a living will most likely have people working for the office who only make petitions, and deliveries of this type of paperwork, since they’ve built a business around it. In addition to the 30 day period that the criminal background distributing agencies have, one must also account for the time it takes them, or their office to submit the initial paperwork in the first place. Overall, the typical wait time would, then, be up to 5 weeks, at best, assuming that there weren’t any mistakes made.
Ultimately, when all is said and done, and the completed channels of the judiciary system and interlinking branches used by the system have been satisfied, the record in question will be deleted as if it never existed. To answer any basic questions, consider this: anyone who has had their criminal records in Harris County expunged can rest assured that nobody will ever access this information again, whether it’s for a loan, rental, or job application. Furthermore, even in cases that might involve criminal investigation by the local or federal police, the record would still be non-existent. To take it even one step further, having a complete expungement process also means that you can answer questions on the application differently. For instance, whenever asked about prior criminal convictions, applicants are able to answer as if they have turned back the hands of time. In other words, you won’t have to lie the next time you answer no, when asked whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime.