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Texas Department of Public Safety v. W. W.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

December 19, 2013

Texas Department of Public Safety, Appellant
v.
W. W., Appellee

FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF BURNET COUNTY, 33RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT NO. 40468, HONORABLE GUILFORD L. JONES III, JUDGE PRESIDING

Before Chief Justice Jones, Justices Goodwin and Field

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Scott K. Field, Justice

W.W. was arrested and charged with the offense of criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor. On April 1, 1999, W.W. pleaded guilty to the charge, and the trial court deferred adjudicating his guilt and placed W.W. on community supervision for a period of six months. The criminal trespass charge against W.W. was later dismissed.

On July 18, 2012, W.W. filed a petition for expunction in the district court. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 55.02 (procedure for expunction). In his petition, W.W. asserted that he was seeking expunction pursuant to article 55.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. W.W. also alleged the following:

[A]n indictment or information was presented, but the same was subsequently dismissed or quashed on March 6, 2000, due to the completion of a pretrial intervention program authorized under the Texas Government Code. Petitioner further states that he has been released, that the charged has not resulted in a final conviction and is no longer pending, and that there was no court-ordered community supervision under Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

After a hearing on W.W.'s petition, and over the opposition of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the trial court granted the expunction. The Department then filed this appeal, challenging the trial court's order. In two issues, the Department asserts that (1) W.W. was charged with demonstrating to the trial court that "there was no court-ordered community supervision under Article 42.12 for the offense" and (2) W.W. failed to present legally sufficient evidence demonstrating that this statutory requirement was met. We will reverse the trial court's order and render judgment denying the petition for expunction.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review a trial court's ruling on a petition for expunction under an abuse of discretion standard. Heine v. Texas Dep't of Pub. Safety, 92 S.W.3d 642, 646 (Tex. App.—Austin 2002, pet. denied). A trial court abuses its discretion when its decision is (1) arbitrary, unreasonable, or without regard to guiding principles; or (2) without supporting evidence. Bocquet v. Herring, 972 S.W.2d 19, 21 (Tex. 1998). With regard to factual matters, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the trial court unless it is clear from the record that the trial court could reach only one decision. Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839 (Tex. 1992). However, a trial court has no discretion in determining what the law is; therefore, a failure by the trial court to correctly analyze or apply the law will also constitute an abuse of discretion. Id.

When reviewing a challenge to the legal sufficiency of the evidence, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, crediting favorable evidence if a reasonable fact finder could and disregarding contrary evidence unless a reasonable fact finder could not. City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d 802, 807 (Tex. 2005). We will sustain a legal sufficiency complaint if the record reveals: (1) a complete absence of a vital fact; (2) the court is barred by rules of law or evidence from giving weight to the only evidence offered to prove a vital fact; (3) the evidence offered to prove a vital fact is no more than a mere scintilla; or (4) the evidence conclusively establishes the opposite as a matter of law. See id. at 810.

The Department's issues on appeal implicate construction of article 55.01 of the code of criminal procedure. Statutory construction is a question of law that appellate courts review de novo. City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625 (Tex. 2008). When construing a statute, our primary objective is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. First Am. Title Ins. Co. v. Combs, 258 S.W.3d 627, 631 (Tex. 2008). We look first and foremost to the text of the statute, and when possible, apply its words according to their common meaning. Id.

ANALYSIS

The remedy of expunction allows a person who has been arrested for the commission of an offense to have all information about the arrest removed from the State's records. See Texas Dep't of Public Safety v. Nail, 305 S.W.3d 673, 674 (Tex. App.—Austin 2010, no pet.). Article 55.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure governs a petitioner's right to an expunction, which is purely a matter of statutory privilege. Id.; see Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 55.01. Article 55.01 provides in relevant part:

(a) A person who has been placed under a custodial or noncustodial arrest for commission of either a felony or misdemeanor is entitled to have all records and ...

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