Is it possible to clear an erroneous criminal record?

Some background. About 7 years ago a woman was convicted of several charges stemming from the fact that, as a city employee, she used my name, address, driver’s license and social security numbers to obtain a fake ID using my name. She then wrote fraudulent checks on the city account and cashed them. While I was going through the evidence with police, I noticed that some of the checks were signed over to other people, and that she had used different variations of my name - sometimes spelled differently, sometimes with a different first or last name. They were also sometimes cashed at other banks than the one she normally used, including some in the county I now reside in. That leads me to believe there was at least two folks involved in this scheme, but that may not be relevant becuase I don’t know if the person convicted ever actually served time behind bars.

Fast forward 4 years, and I’m sitting at a traffic light on a Sunday evening heading to the drugstore. A “bored” (as he later told me) cop behind me decided to start running tag numbers of everyone in front of him. Mine was a hit, and I was arrested on a no-bond warrant for hot checks.

I learned from the attorney assigned to me (court-appointed because I was between jobs) that apparently “I” had been arrested and appeared in court already for the offense and was put into some sort of arrangement where “I” was to come back to court on a periodic basis, as far as I could tell that was to make installments on the restitution and fines. Apparently at some point “I” quit coming to court and the no-bond warrant was issued. I’m convinced this person was involved in the original identity theft - in fact, if it was the same person, she may have even quit showing up to court becuase she was sentenced to jail on the other charges. After all, the dates on the checks correspond to the few months the police were speaking to me about the original ID theft and fraudulent checks. But, it doesn’t really matter, the fact remains I did not write those checks and I have never appeared in court for anything (except family court).

When I told the attorney that I had not written any hot checks, and about the previous ID theft, he recommended I stay in jail until my court date came up, which of course could be months into the future, because he felt he could easily get me off. The thing is, I had a then-minor child at home alone and a job starting the following Monday. I wanted to plead quilty and get out of there. I told the attorney staying in jail for months would do way more harm to my life than having a little misdemeanor on my record. He also told me that if I plead guilty I have absolutely no recourse ever again for appeal, etc. Much to his dismay I plead guilty, was given 10 days, and with good time got out within hours of starting my new job.

Well, now I’ve been laid off from that job, and almost five months later I still have not found a new one. And I know why - evidently I either wasn’t paying attention before (since it didn’t matter) or things have changed drastically in the last three years - because it seems now, no one will hire anyone with a criminal record, even if you have only one conviction for a non-violent misdemeanor. I can’t even get a job at 7-11 or the local grocery store.

When I was arrested I was fingerprinted and photographed. I can’t believe that the person who was arrested originally wasn’t also fingerprinted and photographed. Those fingerprints and photographs have to be somewhere, and it should be possible to compare them and prove that the person who was originally arrested was not me. In fact, after I was back home and enough time had passed that I could think clearly, I was a little miffed that my attorney didn’t request those fingerprints and photographs. But then, maybe he had planned to do that before I plead quilty.

How would I go about getting this done? And can it even be done since I plead quilty? Does this come under the “no appeal” provision? And even if I can prove the person who was originally arrested was not me, does that then mean that the conviction will be removed from my record?

Please be aware I am NOT seeking legal advice - I’m just trying to find out if I SHOULD seek legal advice.

What you want is called an expungement. You will require the services of an attorney. It is not something the average citizen can do themselves.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought expungements were for items way in the past? The arrest was only three years ago (although the checks themselves were written around 1998).

Yep, I just Googled it, and in Texas you must wait five years for misdemeanors. That means going two more years without a job! :eek:

How about a pardon from the Governor? Would that help? If you can prove all of that, it seems pretty clear that you’ve been wronged by the system, and I would think they’d be sympathetic to your case.

With an attorney’s help, you could wothdraw your guilty plea. The court could amend its records [o]nuc pro tunc*. All sorts of solutions are possible, but the first step to all of them is: get an attorney.

Errr… nunc pro tunc.

Thanks, Bricker…that’s what I was needing to know.

Of course, I can’t afford an attorney until I get a job…but at least I know if some miracle happens and I land a job despite this mark on my record, there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel!

You might contact the legal aid society, bar association or a legal clinic at a law school to see if you can get free assistance to clear this up.

Actually, I’ve already tried that route - because of the public defender system none of the free legal aide (at least around here) does criminal work. In fact, it seems like all of them restrict themselves to divorces and landlord-tenant.

What about the state bar association? I’ve known lawyers that donate some of their time to representing indigent criminal defendants.

While the laws pertaining to the OP’s situation seen to make expungement an impossibility at this time, I just need to chime in and say an expungement is a fairly straightforward process, and doesn’t require great legal expertise, just the ability to follow instructions to the letter. (I expunged my cousin’s criminal record without any problems by myself.)