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Texas Department of Public Safety v. F.A.V.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

December 20, 2019

TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Appellant
v.
F.A.V., Appellee

          On Appeal from the 416th Judicial District Court Collin County, Texas, Trial Court Cause No. 416-01557-2016

          Before Justices Bridges, Molberg, and Partida-Kipness.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID L. BRIDGES JUSTICE.

         The Texas Department of Public Safety appeals the trial court's order granting expunction of F.A.V.'s theft charge. In a single issue, the Department argues F.A.V. was not entitled to expunction of any records of his March 21, 2013 arrest because he failed to prove he met the statutory requirements. We reverse the trial court's order and render an order denying F.A.V.'s petition for expunction.

         On March 21, 2013, F.A.V. was arrested for the offense of theft of more than $50 but less than $500. At that time, F.A.V. had outstanding warrants for a November 30, 2012 offense of disregarding an official traffic control device and a December 15, 2012 offense of violating a promise to appear at a court date set for the traffic control device offense. F.A.V. was placed on six months' deferred adjudication probation on January 3, 2014, and he successfully completed the six-month probationary period and the charges against him were dismissed. F.A.V. filed a petition to expunge the records related to the theft charge and, on August 23, 2018, the trial court signed an order granting expunction of the theft charge. This appeal followed.

         In a single issue, the Department argues F.A.V. was not entitled to have the records related to his theft charge expunged. We review a trial court's ruling on a petition for expunction for abuse of discretion. State v. T.S.N., 547 S.W.3d 617, 620 (Tex. 2018). However, to the extent a ruling on expunction turns on a question of law, we review any legal conclusions de novo. See id.; see also Collin Cty. Dist. Attorney's Office v. Fourrier, 453 S.W.3d 536, 539 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2014, no pet.).

         Expunction is a statutorily created remedy that allows a person who has been arrested for the commission of an offense to have the records and files relating to the arrest expunged if the person meets the statutory requirements of article 55.01 of the code of criminal procedure. Fourrier, 453 S.W.3d at 539; see also Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 55.01. The purpose of the expunction statute is to "protect wrongfully-accused people by eradicating their arrest records." In re State Bar of Texas, 440 S.W.3d 621, 622 (Tex. 2014). Because the cause of action is created by statute, all of its provisions are mandatory and require strict compliance for the action to be sustained. Fourrier, 453 S.W.3d at 539; see also T.S.N., 547 S.W.3d at 620 ("A person is not entitled to expunction until all of the statutory conditions are met."). The trial court has no equitable power to extend the protections of the expunction statute beyond the statute's stated provisions. Fourrier, 453 S.W.3d at 539. Although the expunction statute appears in the code of criminal procedure, an expunction proceeding is civil in nature and the petitioner carries the burden of proving compliance with the statutory requirements. Id.

         F.A.V. sought expunction pursuant to "Article 55.01(a)(2)(A)" of the code of criminal procedure. Article 55.01(a)(2) provides, in pertinent 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 files relating to the arrest expunged if:
(2) the person has been released and the charge, if any, has not resulted in a final conviction and is no longer pending and there was no court-ordered community supervision under Chapter 42A for the offense, unless the offense is a Class C misdemeanor, provided that:
(A) regardless of whether any statute of limitations exists for the offense and whether any limitations period for the offense has expired, an indictment or information charging the person with the commission of a misdemeanor offense based on the person's arrest or charging with the commission of any felony offense arising out of the same transaction for which the person was arrested:
(i) has not been presented against the person at any time following the arrest, and:
(a)at least 180 days have elapsed from the date of arrest if the arrest for which the expunction was sought was for an offense punishable as a Class C misdemeanor and if there was no felony charge arising out of the same transaction for which the person was arrested;
(b) at least one year has elapsed from the date of arrest if the arrest for which expunction was sought was for an offense punishable as a Class B or A misdemeanor and if there was no felony charge arising out of the ...

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