The answer: forever, if you don’t affirmatively do anything about it.
One of my new found pleasures in starting this blog is that I am starting to get emails from folks who find the site on the internet, and email me various questions. This one came from a guy in El Paso, who had completed Deferred Adjudication probation almost ten years ago, and was surprised that a prospective employer asked him why he had not admitted to being arrested for marijuana possession.
Why was he surprised? Well, the criminal defense lawyer he hired hadn’t fully explained the consequences of his accepting a plea bargain of deferred probation for his marijuana arrest. The lawyer had simply told him, “It will be dismissed and off your record”.
I hear this all the time from clients. Probably at least once a week.
Well, here’s the bad news. You had a crummy lawyer, one that in my opinion committed malpractice by not fully advising you of the consequences of your plea. The lawyer wasn’t necessarily bad for advising you to take the plea; it very well may have been the best option available. But he should have let you know all the repercussions so you would have made a truly informed decision.
Yes, if you successfully complete a deferred probation in Texas, it’s “technically” true that the case is “dismissed” at the end of the probationary period, and you were never convicted. But that does not mean that it’s “off your record”, at least in the sense that the general public understands that phrase.
What clients are (rightfully) concerned about it this: “Will anyone ever be able to find out that I was arrested for this offense?” Because, let’s face it, when future employers (or family, friends, nosy neighbors, whoever) find out that you’ve been arrested, they assume that you are guilty. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?
Fortunately, the law in Texas now allows probationers who complete deferred adjudication to apply for a Motion for Non-Disclosure. While it’s not as good as an Expunction, which complete erases the arrest from your record, it’s still a good option. Basically, Motions for Non-Disclosure seal your criminal history in a way that allows the State to keep the record (and therefore knows about it if you are ever rearrested), but is prohibited from disseminating the information to the public.