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Denton Municipal Court, Goodwill will help people expunge criminal records, clear Class C warrants

There’s a Job Resource Center at Goodwill North Central Texas’ store at 2030 W. University Drive in Denton. Goodwill and the Denton Municipal Court will host an expunction clinic and Court in the Community on Monday.


DRC file photo
There’s a Job Resource Center at Goodwill North Central Texas’ store at 2030 W. University Drive in Denton. Goodwill and the Denton Municipal Court will host an expunction clinic and Court in the Community on Monday.

When a Denton resident appeared before the Denton City Council in 2022 to talk about his difficulties finding stable employment, he was there as one of the 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. with criminal records.

As an older Black man, he was also part of a group that is disproportionately affected by criminal records and six times more likely than white men to face incarceration, according to the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy group seeking to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Even having a minor criminal record with misdemeanors or arrests without conviction can have broad implications for a family’s security and can create lifelong barriers, especially since studies show that 9 out of 10 employers and 4 out of 5 landlords ask about criminal records, as Noella Sudbury, founder and CEO of Rasa, a public benefit corporation focused on affordable expungement of criminal records, told Forbes in November.

Sudbury said a criminal record makes it “incredibly difficult for people with even minor records to obtain jobs, stable housing or move forward with their lives — 79% of people who live with a person who has a record have been denied housing at least once because of the record.”

As the senior director of workforce development for Goodwill North Central Texas, Bobbie Hodges has firsthand experience with people affected by this issue when they come in or write pre-release jail letters asking for help from Goodwill’s job resource center. Hodges said it’s why Goodwill started hosting expunction clinics last year to help job seekers with criminal records.

Goodwill recently partnered with the Denton Municipal Court to host an expunction clinic and what’s known as “Court in the Community” to help clear warrants for people with Class C misdemeanor citations.

The free event takes place between 9 a.m. and noon Monday, July 15, at Goodwill at 2030 W. University Drive in Denton.

Goodwill will help the first 100 people at no cost if they are seeking a job and sign up for services. The retail and job resource nonprofit works with five states — Texas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois — to expunge criminal records.

An expunction means the court will seal or destroy all records of an arrest and court proceedings.

Advance registration is required for the expunction clinic and Court in the Community.

“We saw that criminal background was a big barrier,” Hodges said. “Some of these backgrounds are things that were years ago and are still hindering the clients. They made these mistakes when they were young.”

Judge Tyler Atkinson presides over the city of Denton Municipal Court. He was familiar with Court in the Community events from his time working in Fort Worth and now has one set for Monday at Goodwill on University Drive. “There is no reason for people to hold onto warrants in Denton,” he said in an email. “We want to get those cases resolved."
Judge Tyler Atkinson presides over the city of Denton Municipal Court. He was familiar with Court in the Community events from his time working in Fort Worth and now has one set for Monday at Goodwill on University Drive. “There is no reason for people to hold onto warrants in Denton,” he said in an email. “We want to get those cases resolved."

In an email Monday, Denton Municipal Judge Tyler Atkinson said the Court in the Community event next week has two aims: to provide the community with an option for seeking expunction of their qualifying county-level charges and to help people resolve their Class C misdemeanor citations that they have pending with the Denton Municipal Court.

“If someone is being held back from getting a job because of a criminal record that is eligible for expungement, they should register and come to the event to see what options are available to them,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson also said, “We can’t help resolve county-level warrants — like a drug charge. If you know you have a warrant for a higher-level offense, you should contact the Denton police or sheriff about options for getting that cleared.”

For the Court in Community event, Atkinson said, the court will waive warrant fees that have been accumulated on a citation, helping to bring the balance owed back to what it originally was when the citation was issued.

Atkinson will be on hand Monday to help start people on a payment plan for balances owed or a community service agreement.

“The primary goal of the event is to get these cases resolved,” Atkinson said. “We want people to come in and talk about their circumstances so we can come up with a solution. If someone comes to the event with the goal of resolving their citations, any warrants will be lifted right away.”

This isn’t the first time for Goodwill to host an expunction clinic in Denton. The first one occurred in March with about 40 people in attendance.

Hodges recommends that people come with their state-issued identification, even if it’s not from Texas, and have access to email and a phone since that’s how they communicate with people to provide updates on the expunctions.

A passport, birth certificate and/or social security card is also helpful — as is arriving early for the event on Monday.

Goodwill is using Easy Expunctions — one of several online sites, like Rasa, that offer expunction services — to help clear criminal records, Hodges said.

“Some backgrounds can’t be expunged,” Hodges pointed out. “Whatever they have, we will take a look at it and begin the process. Some people may have three or four criminal records and might get two or three expunged.”

Clearing criminal records isn’t cheap. Hodges estimated that it costs anywhere between $1,500 and $3,500 to hire a lawyer to clear someone’s record.

Easy Expunctions has three options available online in Texas. The free option checks your record. For $9.99, you can find out if you qualify for expunction. If you do, $699 is the starting cost to clear your record, and the San Antonio-based company includes custom legal documents, a letter of proof and an online mugshot eliminator.

But as Hodges pointed out, receiving an expungement in Texas isn’t easy and depends on several factors such as the penalty level of the crime, the type of crime and the results of the crime. Those factors are covered in Chapter 55 of the Texas criminal code.

For example, Class C misdemeanors, according to Chapter 55, are eligible for expunction if at least 180 days have passed since the arrest and no felony charge came from the offense. Some expunctions can also take place if a person completed a veterans treatment court program or mental health court program.

Of course, coming up with $700 or the money for a payment plan to have a criminal record cleared isn’t easy either, especially if you’re not working or barely earning enough to feed your family and pay rent in North Texas.

The Texas State Law Library’s website has resources available for several legal aid services. Those services include the Texas Fair Defense Project Record Clearing and the Texas Law Expunction Project.

There are also resources available on the law library’s website to help people understand expunction laws in Texas, including Georgetown University Law Center’s Texas Fresh Start Guide, a free and anonymous online tool to help determine if expunction is available.

Clean Slate Texas — a coalition of community and advocacy organizations, business and faith leaders and families impacted by the criminal legal system — also offers a list of resources online, including upcoming expunction clinics to help people with criminal records.

In fact, it was a flyer for Goodwill’s expunction clinic that Hodges said led Atkinson to contact Goodwill about hosting a clinic and Court in the Community event.

Atkinson, who has been the presiding municipal judge in Denton for four years, became familiar with Court in the Community events when he was a municipal judge in Fort Worth. Fort Worth’s Chief Judge Danny Rodgers, who retired last year, and Court Administrator William Rumuly, who is now the municipal court director, collaborated with Goodwill to host them, Atkinson said.

“Generally, we have a high resolution rate in Denton,” Atkinson said in his email. “A vast majority of people who get citations respond quickly and choose an option for resolution.”

The Court in the Community event Monday is considered what Atkinson calls a “safe harbor court,” meaning authorities won’t arrest someone on traffic tickets if they come to the court to resolve their issues. He acknowledged that some people might be fearful about coming to court, which is why they are hosting it at the Goodwill location on University Drive “to meet people closer to where they live and shop.”

“There is no reason for people to hold onto warrants in Denton,” Atkinson wrote. “We want to get those cases resolved. Even if the person doesn’t have the full amount of the citation, we want to work with them to get on some reasonable plan to keep them out of warrant status.”