Common Misconceptions About Record Clearing

Common Misconceptions About Record Clearing: Dispelling Myths About Expungement

Record clearing, particularly through expungement, is a legal process that offers individuals with criminal records the opportunity to start afresh by sealing or completely erasing past offenses from public view. Despite its benefits, there are several misconceptions surrounding the expungement process that can deter eligible individuals from pursuing this crucial legal relief. By addressing these misconceptions, we can provide clarity on what expungement entails and empower individuals to take the necessary steps to clear their records.

Myth 1: Expungement Means Erasing the Record Completely

One of the most common misunderstandings about expungement is that it completely erases a criminal record as if the offense never occurred. In reality, expungement varies by jurisdiction and the type of offense. In some cases, expungement seals the record from public view but retains it in a sealed or confidential record accessible to law enforcement or under specific circumstances. While it can significantly reduce the visibility of a record, it may not completely erase all traces of the offense.

Myth 2: Expungement is Available for All Offenses

Another prevalent misconception is that expungement is universally available for all types of criminal offenses. Each state, such as Texas, has its own laws regarding which offenses are eligible for expungement, and eligibility criteria can vary widely. Generally, minor offenses and first-time offenses have a higher chance of being expunged compared to serious or violent crimes. Offenses involving sexual offenses, crimes against minors, and certain felony convictions may have stricter eligibility requirements or be ineligible for expungement altogether.

Myth 3: Expungement Happens Automatically

Some individuals mistakenly believe that their criminal records will be automatically expunged after a certain period or if they were minors at the time of the offense. In reality, expungement is a legal process that must be pursued actively. It typically involves filing a petition with the court, attending a hearing, and demonstrating compliance with all requirements, such as completing probation or paying fines. Without proactive steps, criminal records remain on file and accessible to the public.

Myth 4: Expungement Guarantees Sealing of Records from All Background Checks

While expungement can significantly limit access to criminal records, it does not guarantee that records will be completely inaccessible in all circumstances. Certain entities, such as law enforcement agencies and government officials, may still have access to sealed records under specific conditions, such as ongoing investigations or security clearance processes. Additionally, private background check companies may retain records obtained before expungement and may not always update their databases promptly.

Myth 5: Expungement is Too Expensive and Complicated

Many individuals hesitate to pursue expungement due to concerns about cost and complexity. While expungement processes can vary in cost and complexity depending on the jurisdiction and specifics of the case, there are resources available to help navigate these challenges. Legal aid organizations, pro bono services, and some courts offer assistance to individuals with limited financial means. Additionally, hiring an experienced expungement attorney can streamline the process and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Myth 6: Expungement Means the Record is Completely Forgotten

Expungement does not erase the memory of a criminal record for those directly involved, such as employers or landlords who previously obtained information before the record was sealed. However, it legally allows the individual to deny the existence of the record in most circumstances.

The Importance of Seeking Legal Advice

Navigating the complexities of expungement requires understanding specific laws and procedures that vary by jurisdiction. Consulting with a knowledgeable expungement attorney is crucial to determine eligibility, gather necessary documentation, and navigate the legal process effectively.


Dispelling these common misconceptions about expungement is essential to empower individuals with accurate information about their legal rights and options for clearing their criminal records. By understanding the realities of expungement, eligible individuals can take proactive steps to pursue this legal relief, enhance their employment prospects, and regain a sense of personal and professional freedom. Seeking guidance from a qualified expungement attorney ensures that the process is handled efficiently and increases the chances of achieving a positive outcome in clearing criminal records through expungement.