Pro Bono Expunction – Why it Matters and How to Help

For veterans, transitioning back to civilian life is a hard-enough task. With a criminal record, it can be even harder, leading to issues finding housing, employment, college education, and becoming a barrier to providing for themselves and their family. 

By volunteering to assist a veteran with obtaining an expunction of their criminal record, you can be the solution for a veteran that is trying to heal. Learn more about how to volunteer and why this work matters.

Below, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions that attorneys want to know about this pro bono opportunity and and included a testimonial from a SALSA volunteer who is actively assisting veterans with this legal service.

Frequently Asked Volunteer Questions

  • What is an Expunction
    • An expunction is a legal mechanism to clear a criminal record. Once a Petition for Expunction is presented to the Court and the Order of Expunction is signed, the Judge will order the record be sealed and this will prevent the public from accessing that person’s file. 
  • Is this Military Law/Criminal Law
    • Expunction cases are neither criminal nor military law practice. Although they are governed under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 55.01, they are considered Civil cases.
  • Will I have to appear in Court
    • In most case, court appearances are not required. If a court appearance is required, it will be limited in scope and does not require prior litigation experience.
  • Who pays for filing fees
    • There are no filing fees for Veterans graduating from the Veteran’s Treatment Court (VTC) who file for expunction within the prescribed timeframe, and the District Clerk’s Office will accept an Affidavit of Inability to Pay Court Costs to waive filing fees for all low-income clients, regardless of their veteran status. As with all of SALSA’s cases, any filing fee expenses are the ultimately the responsibility of the client.  
  • What training and assistance is available?
    • SALSA provides all the forms and pleadings needed to assist a client with obtaining an expunction online on the SALSA Resource Page. SALSA’s Moody Law Fellows from St. Mary’s Law School are available to assist volunteer attorneys in the preparation of the documents. 

Volunteer Testimonial

Attorney Jacob Litzenberger, an associate at Chasnoff Stribling, served his country for over a decade in the United States Navy as an Instructor Flight Engineer and Crew Chief before attending law school. When asked about his experience volunteering with graduates of the Veterans Treatment Court, Litzenberger said: 

“Through SALSA’s Veterans Treatment Court Program, I have represented two veterans in obtaining DWI expunctions. The VTC expunction process is straightforward, and Joe Piña and the SALSA staff were always available to answer any questions I had and help guide me through the process. SALSA prescreened the veterans, provided form documents, and the expunctions were obtained without a hearing, so the entire process was streamlined and efficient. As a veteran myself, I understand firsthand the need for local attorneys to step up and assist those who sacrificed so much for us. By volunteering just a few hours, attorneys can help a veteran get back on their feet and improve their quality of life. I strongly encourage any attorneys seeking pro bono opportunities to contact SALSA and volunteer with the VTC Program.” 

Upcoming Veterans Expunction Clinic

In addition to our ongoing need for volunteers to assist Veterans Treatment Court graduates, SALSA will be holding an Expunction Clinic for veterans on November 15th, 2022, from 4-8pm. No prior experience with expunctions is necessary to volunteer. The volunteer commitment is only a few hours of your time on November 15th, as well as no more than 2 hours of post-clinic assistance to finalize the Order. SALSA will provide all the training and pleadings. We encourage attorneys to sign up to volunteer here   

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