Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot kicked off the fifth annual Dallas County Expunction Expo Tuesday morning.
The Expunction Expo is a community program designed to help people who are eligible, by law, to have their criminal records erased.
"Our goal is to make expunctions accessible to those who might not be able to afford an attorney or know how to navigate this legal system," Creuzot said.
Since 2017, the event has helped clear more than 900 criminal records.
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"Please take advantage of this opportunity to eliminate those things that could be holding you back because you have the opportunity to not only change the course for yourself but also generationally," Dallas County First Assistant Public Defender Paul Blocker said.
He said he understands some may be skeptical but reassured them that this is a total expunction and no criminal justice agency would hold someone's information after.
"One young lady came and said she was about to finish nursing school and she had been arrested on drug charges and were never filed or charged and she was with someone else, but the arrest was still there," Creuzot said. "She was worried about her ability to get a license as a nurse and so she tearfully thanked us for helping get that off her record."
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The application process for the program is set to run July 6-26.
Volunteer attorneys will help those who register to determine if they meet the requirements for expungement.
People Possibly Eligible
- Arrested but a charge was never filed with the DA's office or was no-billed by the grand jury.
- The criminal charge was dismissed without any type of community supervision or probation prior to dismissal, except for Class C offenses.
- Successfully completed Class C deferred adjudication.
- Acquitted or found "not guilty" on a charge by a judge, jury or appellate court.
- Convicted of a crime but later pardoned by the Governor of Texas or the President of the United States.
People Possibly Not Eligible
- The case is still pending.
- Convicted, even if just a fine was paid.
- Placed on probation, community supervision or deferred adjudication for any felony or Class A or B misdemeanor, even if the case was later dismissed.
- Convicted or received any kind of probation on another felony offense arising from the same arrest.
Applicants should hear by Sept. 4 if they are eligible to attend the virtual pre-qualification clinic later that month.
According to Dallas County, there is no legal fee associated with the expo for participants and the county clerk filing fee is waived for almost all participants.
Lawyers who volunteer their time, along with lawyers in training from UNT Dallas College of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law Criminal Clinic and the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative, help with the program.
"The majority of cases that we see are individuals who are Black and Hispanic, we see cases that go back to the 70s and then we see folks who are eligible just now for the expunctions," UNT Dallas law professor Angelia Downes said.
She said past cases can haunt people.
"One of the things we see is if you have a case on your record that you have not taken care of, it can stop you from jobs, it can stop you from getting a license, it can stop you from renting an apartment," Downes said. "We've worked with so many individuals who, after working with our law students through the expunction expo, have gone to go on and live fuller lives."
According to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, they hope to cross over the 1,000 mark for how many people they've helped in the past five years.
- 2017 there were 700 applications, 129 expunctions
- 2018 there were 732 applications, 250 expunctions
- 2019 there were 1,284 applications, 329 expunctions
- 2020 there were 575 applications, 234 expunctions
In 2020 they had to do the program remotely due to the pandemic. Downes said even then, she recalled the story of a woman from last year.
"We were meeting remotely through video conferencing, and one of the things we found was an individual came to us and we had not filed any paperwork yet and we were just talking getting information, and she began to cry and she said, 'I have been carrying around this arrest for 20-something years and I know that it's held me back," Downes said. "'By having this one meeting with you, I know my life is going to change.' We know this is very impactful, we know this is the change folks need in their lives."
For more information, click here, or call 214-653-2905.