Clearing Your Record
Most people that come to me are not only interested in staying out of jail, but also avoiding a criminal conviction for Assault. It may be possible to keep your record clear despite being charged with an Assault. Unfortunately, a conviction for Assault is on your record for the rest of your life. There is no five year, ten year, or hundred year rule which will allow you to get it off your record. This is why it is so important to fight your Assault charges with a knowledgeable attorney.
This page will attempt to explain some of the ways you can, and cannot keep your record clean. Keep in mind that this is just an overview, and without knowing the exact particulars of your case, this overview may or may not apply to your case.
First, let's discuss ways to be convicted of assault then we will discuss how to avoid a conviction. An assault conviction may occur in one of two ways.
Plea: A conviction may occur by pleading guilty to assault through a negotiated plea bargain with the District Attorney. Usually, this is done when we either think we have no chance of winning at trial, or in a case where we think the punishment after a trial would be significantly worse than pre-trial. As a general proposition, a plea of guilty that results in a conviction is an absolute last resort.
Trial: A conviction may also occur if we go to trial (before a judge or jury), and you are found guilty. In this case, it will be a conviction on your record, and the judge or jury would then assess punishment.
Non-Convictions (or quasi-convictions)
Dismissal: One way to keep your Assault case off your record is to obtain a dismissal. This is when the District Attorney, for whatever reason, decides to drop the case. The DA will present a motion to dismiss to the judge, and if approved, the case is dropped.
A dismissal does not automatically clear your record, though. There will still be a record of the proceedings, arrest, etc. Under a dismissal, you have the right to have your case expunged 2 years from the date of the alleged offense. This is because, in theory, the District Attorney may refile the case and recharge you. This almost never happens, but because the statute of limitations is 2 years, you must wait for that to run. Once the statute of limitations has run, you have the right to have your records expunged. The expunction does not happen automatically. An attorney must file and get your expunction signed by a District Judge.
Trial Not Guilty: If we take your case to trial before a judge or a jury, and you are found "Not Guilty," you are entitled to an immediate expunction. No waiting periods. However, the expunction does not happen automatically. An attorney must file and get your expunction signed by a District Judge.
Plea to Deferred Adjudication: In some cases, we can successfully negotiate a plea bargain for a Deferred Adjudication probation. This is the same type of probation as regular probation, where you meet with a probation officer, and follow conditions of probation. However on paper it is different. In a Deferred Adjudication Probation, the judge does not find you guilty -- instead he "defers" a finding of guilt.
When you successfully complete a deferred adjudication probation, you are entitled to a Petition of Non-Disclosure. This may be obtained (for assault cases), two years after the completion of probation, assuming certain conditions are met (no more convictions/deferreds, no priors of certain crimes). As with expunctions, a non-disclosure does not happen automatically. An attorney must file and get your non-disclosure signed off on by the trial court.
Plea to a Lesser Charge: Occasionally, we are able to work out a plea bargain to a lesser charge. Usually that lesser charge will be a "Class C Assault," which is an assault by contact opposed to a Class A assault causing bodily injury. If your case is lowered to a Class C assault, and we are able to get a deferred probation, you will be able to get this off your record. You will be entitled to an Expunction which will clear your record. However, you must wait 2 years from the date of the alleged offense to get the expunction. The expunction does not happen automatically. An attorney must file and get your expunction signed by a District Judge.