The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 55, Article 55.04 forbids a State Agency from using, questioning an individual about, or in any way releasing information about an arrest that has been expunged pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 55. Moreover, Tex. Code Crim. Proc. § 55.03 provides that the effect of an Expunction Order in a licensure disciplinary proceeding, including the application process, allows for the individual to deny the arrest and the existence of the Order of Expunction. However, the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners (BNE) requires that a licensed nurse or nursing license applicant disclose the existence of the arrest on renewals and initial license applications. It is undetermined if they seek to utilize these arrests against the nurse in a disciplinary proceeding or as a basis for the denial of a license. However, the mere thought that the registration renewals or applications ask about information which if utilized would subject members of Board Staff to criminal sanctions raises a few alarming concerns.
Clearly a great number of people are under the false impression that a dismissal and an order of expunction are one and the same. Perhaps Board Staff is attempting to make sure that the arrest has truly been expunged. Unfortunately, this violates the spirit of the expunction statute as the effect of the expunction allows an individual the right to deny the arrest and the existence of the expunction order.
Moreover, the Board of Nurse Examiners can clearly discipline a nurse’s license or deny an application for failing to completely and fully disclose discoverable criminal history. They can not however, use an expunged offense (or the conduct behind the offense) as a basis for discipline or denial. In the last several years my law firm has expunged several arrests for both Registered Nurses (RN’s) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN’s) and have always noticed the BNE in the Petition for Expunction. They have never contested the expunction or attempted to utilize the information.
If a nurse finds themselves in a situation of uncertainty with respect to whether or not an arrest has been expunged or needs to be disclosed they should contact an attorney who is familiar with both criminal law & the administrative process. If the offense is truly expunged a nurse does not have to prove that it is. However, if it is not then it must be disclosed. Finally, oftentimes DPS and other agencies make mistakes so sometimes truly expunged arrests are not properly destroyed by the reporting entities. It is therefore imperative that a certified copy of the Order of Expunction be retained indefinitely.