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Ex parte Seymore

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

March 31, 2017

EX PARTE: JESSICA SEYMORE

          Appeal from the 217th District Court of Angelina County, Texas (Tr.Ct.No. CV-00710-15-11)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GREG NEELEY JUSTICE.

         The Texas Department of Public Safety appeals the trial court's order granting an expunction of Jessica Seymore's arrest for possession of a controlled substance. DPS presents two issues on appeal. We reverse and render.

         Background

         Seymore was arrested on May 25, 2013, and charged with both driving while intoxicated (DWI) and possession of a controlled substance. The State dismissed the possession charge, and Seymore pleaded guilty to and was convicted of the DWI offense. The court sentenced Seymore to one year of community supervision and a $745.00 fine.

         In November 2015, Seymore filed a petition with the district court to expunge any and all of the records arising from the May 25, 2013 possession charge, along with another unrelated arrest. She alleged that the possession charge was dismissed and did not result in a final conviction. The court originally set the petition for hearing on December 3, 2015, but the hearing did not take place until December 28, 2015. At that hearing, the court granted Seymore's petition.

         DPS, who did not attend the hearing, filed its original answer and general denial on January 6, 2016. After learning that the expunction had been granted, DPS filed a motion for new trial alleging that it did not receive notice of the hearing being reset and that the May 25, 2013 arrest could not be expunged because Seymore was convicted of DWI. The trial court did not rule on the motion for new trial. This appeal followed.

         Expunction

         In its first issue, DPS contends that Seymore was not entitled to have her arrest record expunged because the arrest resulted in a final conviction. In its second issue, DPS urges the court erred by failing to provide DPS with notice of the expunction hearing.

         Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's order granting or denying a petition for expunction for abuse of discretion. See Heine v. Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 92 S.W.3d 642, 646 (Tex. App.-Austin 2002, pet. denied). A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts "without reference to any guiding rules or principles." E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Robinson, 923 S.W.2d 549, 558 (Tex. 1995). If an expunction ruling turns on a question of law, we review it de novo because a "trial court has no 'discretion' in determining what the law is or applying the law to the facts." See Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex. 1992). A trial court abuses its discretion if it misinterprets or misapplies the law. Id.

         Governing Law

         Although the law that governs expunctions is part of the code of criminal procedure, an expunction proceeding is civil in nature and is governed by the rules of civil procedure. See Carson v. State, 65 S.W.3d 774, 784 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2001, no pet.). Expunction is not a constitutional or common law right, but purely a statutory privilege. Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Nail,305 S.W.3d 673, 675 (Tex. App.-Austin 2010, no pet.). The trial court must strictly comply with statutory requirements, and has no equitable power to extend the ...


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