EXPUNCTION OF CRIMINAL RECORDS IN ARRESTS BASED ON UNRELATED OFFENSES—YES, YOU CAN

State of Texas v. T.S.N.
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-15-01488-CV (February 22, 2017)
Justices Bridges, Lang-Miers, and Schenck (Opinion, linked here)
When T.S.N. tried to stop the repossession of her vehicle—by force—she was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. During the course of the arrest, the police discovered she had an outstanding warrant for misdemeanor theft-by-check, based on conduct occurring years earlier; so, they executed that warrant at the same time. The two charges were docketed in different cases and different courts. T.S.N. pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor theft charge, but went to trial on the assault and was acquitted. She later sought expunction of all records and files related to her arrest for the agg assault, pursuant to article 55.01(a)(1)(A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. That statute provides that “a person who has been placed under … arrest for commission of either a felony or misdemeanor is entitled to have all records and files related to the arrest expunged if: (1) the person is tried for the offense for which the person was arrested and is: (A) acquitted ….” There is an express exception to the right of expunction, however, when the acquitted offense is part of a single “criminal episode” and the defendant is convicted or remains at jeopardy for another part of that episode—an exception that did not apply here, because the theft and assault were not related, except that T.S.N. was arrested on both charges at the same time.

The State nevertheless opposed expunction, arguing that article 55.01 is “arrest based” and that T.S.N. therefore was not entitled to expunction because she was convicted on the theft charge for which she was arrested along with the agg assault. But the trial court rejected that argument, and the appeals court agreed. In a case of first impression, the Dallas Court held that “where the arrest includes offenses for which the defendant could not be charged and tried in the aggregate, the arrest—and any subsequent expunction—stands or falls on each unrelated charge.” So, the mere fact that a person is arrested on multiple unrelated charges and is convicted on some will not foreclose expunction of those charges of which he or she is later acquitted. Each unrelated charge will be judged on its own.

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