Texas is among the strictest states when it comes to DWI consequences.
From background checks for jobs or housing applications to concerns over lingering marks on a criminal record, offenders have every reason to worry that a DWI can impact them for years to come.
Getting a DWI ranks high on the list of great times to secure legal representation. A lawyer can walk you through all the options, including whether or not an expunction is possible.
Can You Get a DWI Expunged in Texas?
The bad news for Texas residents with a DWI is that there is no way to get it expunged if the defendant was convicted of the charge. If there is any uncertainty regarding conviction, check with a lawyer to clarify. It’s important to have legal guidance, as expunction is a complicated process where any missed details threaten the integrity of your criminal record. The specifics of a DWI case will dictate if getting the charge expunged is possible, and only a qualified attorney can properly evaluate if it’s worth pursuing.
Cases When You Can Get a DWI Expunged
While it’s impossible to expunge a DWI that’s resulted in a conviction, there are circumstances where there’s hope for clearing it from the record.
The Charges Were Never Filed
Getting arrested for a DWI and being formally charged are two different things. If an arrest occurred, but charges for the crime were never filed against the defendant, the arrest can be expunged. Once the arrest record is wiped, the incident won’t appear on their record. In this case, not only will the record be deleted, but the defendant is legally in a position to deny that the arrest ever took place.
The Case Was Dismissed
A lawyer will file a motion for discovery and review the materials to determine if challenging the charge is wise. The strength of the evidence collected during a DWI arrest and the arresting officers’ conduct will factor into whether or not there’s an opportunity for case dismissal. Cases with incorrect procedures involving probable cause could qualify. If the case is ultimately dismissed, then expunction is an option.
The Verdict Was Not-Guilty
Fighting and winning a DWI case is no small feat. An attorney will need to determine that there’s a good chance a defendant will have a successful outcome before seeking a not-guilty verdict. If the case is won, then expungement is possible, and the next steps are to petition the court to expunge the record.
The Case Was Appealed and Won
Defendants have the right to appeal any conviction, but it’s only a good idea if there’s a legitimate reason to believe the case was mishandled in court. Winning an appeal for a DWI conviction will get it erased, although the specific case details will determine if that is a realistic outcome. If your lawyer can prove mistakes were made in the course of justice and win the appeal, an expunction is possible.
The Defendant Was a Minor at the Time of Arrest
Underage, first-time DWI offenders who have fulfilled all required court orders could qualify for getting their record expunged as an adult. If the defendant fits the qualifications, they’ll need to work with a lawyer specializing in DWIs for help during petitioning for expunction.
The Offender Did Not Commit The Crime
If a person is wrongfully charged and can prove it, they could be eligible for getting their record expunged. It’s rare to be mistakenly accused of a DWI, so they must provide documentation of their innocence. One example is victims of identity theft. Defendants who can demonstrate they are not the person that committed the offense are eligible for expunction.
An Alternative: Having Your Record Sealed
Suppose none of the above scenarios apply to the DWI case leaving no possibility of getting the record expunged. In that case, there still may be hope to seal a record, alleviating some of the consequences of the charge. A sealed record means that, while it technically stays on the record, a DWI charge will be invisible to anyone conducting a background check. Still, the offender’s case must meet certain criteria. Also known as obtaining an order of non-disclosure, record sealing is a complex process that needs the guidance of an attorney.
Deferring The Case
First-time offenders have a chance to receive probation in place of a conviction by requesting deferred adjudication. If granted, a judge will order a period of community supervision over the offender in place of conviction. After the defendant completes their probation, they’ll have the option to pursue a petition of non-disclosure, which doesn’t expunge a record, but can prevent some background checks from discovering the offense.
The Second-Chance Law
In 2017, a Texas law passed that gives defendants with no prior DWIs an opportunity to petition the court for a non-disclosure. Luckily, the law is retroactive, meaning even if the conviction happened before the law passed, all first-time offenders may take advantage of it. There’s a required waiting period before applying and the length of time varies based on the penalties surrounding the charge. For example, those who served probation need to wait two years. The waiting period is three years for offenders who went to jail or received “time served.” Whether or not an ignition interlock device was part of the deal can significantly lengthen or shorten that timeframe. Navigating all the details and determining eligibility is best done with a DWI lawyer by your side.
How to Get a DWI Expunged
Petitioning the Court for Expungement
A qualified attorney will draft a signed and notarized document that includes the defendant’s information, the details of the DWI charge, the petitioner’s right to expunction, and any relevant court records about the case. Once drafted, a lawyer will file the petition with the court where DWI the incident occurred.
Attending a Hearing
After the petition for expunction is filed, the attorney and defendant will receive notice that they’ve been granted a court date which may be more than a month from the filing date. If the case meets the requirements and the petition is successful, the court awards the expunction, and the attorney will then file an order.
When it Comes to DWI Expunction, Hiring a Professional is Your Best Bet
The impact of a DWI is far-reaching. The offense has severe personal and financial consequences, from job prospects to family and private life. Anyone with this charge needs to find the best possible outcome, which means understanding the legal system and making the right choices for each case. Only a DWI lawyer with a proven success rate can ensure the best-case scenario. Making the mistake of going it alone can cost the defendant their future, freedom, and finances. If you’ve been arrested for a DWI, get your case evaluated for free today.
Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.