If you have a criminal record, you know how it can affect your ability to get a job, find a decent place to live and get accepted into college. This can be true even if the prosecutor dropped the charges against you or you won a dismissal in court.
It seems like dismissed charges should not follow you around for years. After all, you were never convicted of anything. Why should an old arrest for something you were not convicted of doing hold back your life now? This is where expunction comes in.
In Texas, dismissed charges do not get automatically wiped off your record. Anyone who performs a background check on you, such as a potential employer or landlord, can see that you were arrested and charged with a crime. The fact that you were charged might prejudice them against you even though the record shows you were never convicted. Fortunately, Texas law allows you to get certain low-level misdemeanor charges expunged from your record. Expunction erases the charge from your record as if it never happened.
There is a difference between a charge the court dismissed outright and one you resolved through deferred adjudication. Through deferred adjudication, you avoid a conviction on your record, typically in exchange for undergoing probation for a certain period of time. However, you cannot expunge a deferred adjudication from your record in Texas. This is something to think about when deciding if you should accept a plea deal involving deferred adjudication or go to trial.
The main difference between a dismissal and an expunction is timing. A dismissal ends the criminal justice proceedings against you. Later, an expunction deletes the incident from your record (if the charges qualify).