How long do we keep expunction orders?

Picture this: you’ve gathered up all the records subject to an expunction order and you’re ready to return, destroy or redact them as directed by the court. Then you look at the expunction order. It identifies the person in the order and it’s a government record. What do you do with it? Based on how often we receive this question, we know many of you picture yourselves in this situation on a regular basis.

The answer: destroy the order after you comply with it or send it back to the ordering court as notice of compliance. Here’s the records management scoop.

TSLAC can’t advise you if the order is subject to itself. There’s some legal precedence for it in Texas, but our analysts can’t dispense legal advice. What we recommend is local governments and state agencies classify expunction orders as transitory information (local: GR1000-50; state agency: 1.1.057). For recipients, not the ordering court, the order is “not an integral part of a record series” and is “required only for a limited period of time for the completion of an action by an official or employee.”

Once you’ve complied with the expunction order, it no longer has administrative value (local) or has fulfilled its purpose (state agency) and is eligible for disposition. In lieu of destroying it, you may return it to the court as part of the expunction process, i.e. as notice to the court of your compliance with its order.

If the order is also subject to itself, that’s great; it’s another authorization to destroy the order after complying with it.

That’s it. Classify the order as transitory information. Destroy it or return it to the ordering court after expunging the records. Consider it part of the transitory records series for your disposition log, if you keep one (you should).

LOCAL GOVERNMENT BONUS: Here’s an update for local governments receiving expunction orders. Previously, Local Government Code §202.001(b)(2) only applied to expunction orders issued by district courts. H.B. 557 of the 85th Legislature fixed that. Now the statute says you may destroy records before their retention period expires when directed by an expunction order issued by a court pursuant to state law. No more landing between the  Local Government Records Act rock and the hard place of a court other than district courts sending you an expunction order.


3 thoughts on “How long do we keep expunction orders?

  1. Thanks for your question! TSLAC doesn’t cover expunction orders during our normal records management classes. We do address the topic when invited to speak at law enforcement and criminal justice conferences. If you have questions about local government records and expunctions, please contact your analyst for assistance.

  2. My experience may be outdated and limited, but most of the one’s I received required that the records be returned to the court. So, I returned the along with the expunction order. The exceptions were usually physical JP criminal dockets which we redacted. Fortunately, those are a thing of the past.

    Paul R. Scott, CA, CRM
    Archivist and Records Manager (retired)

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