Second, this is actually two topics in one — expunctions and orders for nondisclosure. They apply in different situations and the records are dealt with in different ways. Expunction is when all of the records associated with your case and arrest are completely destroyed. A nondisclosure order removes your records from public searches. Government agencies will still be able to access these records but when, for instance, a potential employer (a non-governmental employer, that is) searches your record, the charge and any associated information will be completely absent.
Generally you are eligible for expunction if : (1) you were arrested but never charged, and the statute of limitations has expired; (2) your charge was dismissed on the merits; (3) you were found not guilty at trial; or (4) you successfully completely a pre-trial diversion program that resulted in dismissal of the charge. Check Chapter 55 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for all the details.
Orders of nondisclosure are typically an option if you completed deferred adjudication community supervision (probation) and it has been either two years (misdemeanors) or five years (felonies) after your completion date. The key here is that it must be deferred adjudication, not simply probation. When you’re entering into a deal for deferred adjudication, you will plead guilty or no contest and the judge will accept your plea but will not find you guilty. Instead, the court will give you a chance to complete your probation, comply with all the conditions, and perform any ordered actions like community service or classes. If you make it to the end of that period and have done everything you were supposed to do, then the court will dismiss your charge. This means that you have no conviction on your record and that you will be eligible for nondisclosure after waiting an additional two or five years. The laws regarding nondisclosure start at Section 411.081 of the Government Code.
Never assume that a conviction is your only option, even if it’s just a speeding ticket. If you have a conviction, there is no way to ever remove it from your criminal record (unless the governor or president happen to pardon you). Even if you know for a fact that you’re guilty and the state can prove it, it’s still extremely important to know your options when arranging a plea bargain. One mistake doesn’t have to permanently affect your criminal record.