A Deeper Look at the New Handgun Law in Texas

On September 1, 2021, Texas’s New Handgun Law, Texas House Bill 1987, took effect. This new law makes many Texans over 21 years old eligible to carry a handgun without a license to carry. In the same bill, the Texas legislature made changes to the criminal offense of Unlawful Carrying a Handgun under Texas Penal Code 46.02(a). Notably, now, anyone that had been convicted, or charged, under the prior version of the statute, may now be eligible to have that arrest or conviction erased from background checks and cleared from your criminal record.

Erasing an Arrest or Conviction from a Background Check

Arrests in Texas are public record. If you have not been granted an order of nondisclosure or expunction, those records can always be accessed by employers, landlords, or anyone who decides to search any number of public database or website. Although certain limitations exist, arrest reports, mugshots, and other personal data can often be found on Facebook, Google, and other public records sites.

There are two different legal mechanisms to limit access to your mugshot, arrest, and other criminal history information from a background check in Texas. These limitations can remove the unfortunate impact of criminal charges appearing during a housing or employment background check. The two legal mechanisms used in Texas to clean one’s criminal history are Nondisclosures and Expunctions.  

Nondisclosures and Expunctions are not the same and are often confused with one another. In short, a nondisclosure merely seals access to certain criminal charges from many entities. On the other hand, an expunction is the only way to entirely erase or clear records of an arrest from public access.

When a Court grants a petition to expunge, it will order the return or destruction of all records relating to your arrest and prosecution. After that, you can deny that the arrest had ever occurred, in most cases.

FUN FACT: Anyone who violates or disobeys an expunction order can face criminal prosecution for a class B misdemeanor!

Expunge a Conviction For unlawful Carrying of a Handgun

The right to an expunction was not previously available to anyone convicted of a criminal offense. However, with the New Texas Gun Law changes, it is now possible to obtain an expunction even after a conviction for unlawfully carrying a handgun.

On September 1, 2021, individuals with an unlawful carry of a handgun case pending before that day became eligible to have that case dismissed. Some of them would also be eligible to seek an expunction for that charge. Not only that, but individuals who have a conviction (served jail time or probation) or completed deferred probation for violating Texas Penal Code 46.02(a) are eligible to have this charge erased from their criminal history without a pardon.

You might be eligible for an expunction if you were arrested on or before August 30, 2021, for unlawful carrying of a handgun under Texas Penal Code 46.02, regardless of the final disposition of the case.  Eligibility Checklist: 

  • On or Before August 30, 2021 
  • Arrested for Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun – Texas Penal Code 46.02 
  • Case Resolution – Dismissal OR Conviction OR Deferred Probation 

What Are My next Steps If I Am Eligible?

A gun charge appearing on a background check can negatively affect education, employment, and housing opportunities. The means the opportunity to seek an expunction for an arrest or conviction under the previous law is now!

Most importantly, it is essential to note that determining eligibility for expunction is merely the first step of the process. The next step is to file a petition for expunction with a court of competent jurisdiction.

We highly recommend that you hire a lawyer to assist with the expunction process because you can only seek an expunction for an arrest one time. At Nii Amaa Ollennu Law Firm, PLLC, we stay updated with the latest law relating to expunctions. Please call us to learn more about your eligibility for an expunction or schedule a free case evaluation.