A charge for driving while intoxicated (DWI) has serious personal, financial, and legal ramifications. The threat to your freedom, reputation, and livelihood can be stressful and scary.
But one additional complication: your permanent record.
Read on to learn how long DWIs stay on your record in Texas, and what you can do to get them off.
How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record?
Without a strategic course of action, a DWI stays on your record forever. The laws in Texas are strict for this offense, and by default, the mark will remain for life. While the thought of a permanent record is disheartening, there are a few scenarios where wiping the slate clean is possible.
Ways to Get a DWI off Your Record in Texas
First-time Offenders Have a Shot at Clearing a DWI from their Record
Previously, DWI offenders had zero options for erasing the charge. However, there’s excellent news for those with no previous offenses. 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 can 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. Every case is different, and since many details come into play, it’s best to have an experienced DWI lawyer review the case.
In Some Cases, a DWI Could be Expunged from the Record
Expungement is when a charge is totally deleted. Usually, it is only possible if the person charged was never convicted or if their case was dismissed. In rare instances, a DWI can be expunged if they were convicted and then pardoned. Victims of identity theft who can prove they are not the person that committed the offense are also eligible for expunction.
Other complex situations make expungement possible. Some defendants who participate in a pre-trial intervention program, or cases with incorrect procedures involving probable cause, could qualify. If the defendant was a minor at the time of the infraction, paid their fees, and fulfilled all court orders, expunging the charge is possible. Winning an appeal for a DWI conviction will get it erased, although the specific case details will determine if that is a realistic outcome.
Ways A DWI Record Can Affect You
Many prospective employers run a criminal report before hiring. While a DWI on the record won’t always end in losing the opportunity, it can reflect poorly on job prospects, resulting in losing out to a candidate with a clean record.
Workers in industries like medical, education, real estate, transportation, machinery operation, child or vulnerable adult care, and even those that work with sensitive financial information could actually lose their job due to a conviction. While some occupations have no choice but to fire employees with a DWI, there are no Texas laws in place that protect staffers in any field from job loss due to a criminal offense.
Employers can only look back seven years to Texas’s seven-year rule. The rule only applies to positions that pay less than $75,000 a year and won’t apply if the employer uses a third party to conduct the background check.
The fallout is heavy, so without a committed attorney on the case, a defendant can wind up in a serious bind.
One major disruption a DWI offense typically causes is a license suspension, meaning that the offender loses driving privileges. Since continuing to work is essential to pay for all the associated fines and legal fees, applying for an occupational license is necessary. The occupational license grants permission to drive to and from work or school or while gathering home needs like groceries. Confirming eligibility is needed if a license is revoked and there’s a reinstatement fee.
In addition to applying for the occupational license, an offender must apply for an interlock restricted driver’s license and install an interlock ignition device on their car.
A DWI almost always impacts insurance. Even the most complete plans can’t shield a driver from the consequences of the infraction. Typically, the rates will rise significantly, and in some cases, the company will decide to stop covering the driver. Getting dropped by the company can be tough since the offender will then have to shop for new insurance with a DWI on the books.
Since Texas law requires insurance in order to drive, it’s key to maintain coverage at all times. The DWI charges lead to needing a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate, or SR-22 policy, which simply means that the driver is now considered high-risk. The driver must complete a special form through the Texas Department of Public Safety to get the certificate.
Commercial Drivers License (CDL)
It’s no small feat to obtain a commercial driver’s license, and those that have one are likely dependent on keeping it to maintain a stable income. A DWI conviction poses a big threat: first-time offenders can lose their CDL for at least a year, and a second offense is likely to get it taken away forever.
Those aspiring to earn their CDL will have difficulty getting one with a DWI on record. Even if one manages to secure a license, the chances that a trucking company will take on the liability of hiring someone with a DWI are very slim.
Even if the situation seems beyond repair, a CDL driver with a DWI should seek the guidance of an attorney to help minimize the impact on their career and driving record.
Applying to most jobs, renting an apartment, or seeking a professional license will likely trigger a criminal background check, and a DWI charge is sure to show up. The incident would still be seen and flagged even if you were arrested but not charged.
As noted before, the report can eliminate you as a job candidate, though the employer will need to disclose if the background check results are the cause for not hiring someone.
The only way to curb negative background check results is to work with a trusted firm with a proven success rate that understands the complexities of DWI charges.
Have a DWI Charge or a Conviction? Here’s what to do
There’s no question about it; a DWI charge or conviction requires a lawyer. Navigating the consequences is a lengthy process that impacts multiple layers of life. A rebound is possible with great legal representation that prepares to address each phase as it comes.
The stakes are high, so don’t make the mistake of facing it alone. Schedule a free case review with Michael & Associates to get started on finding the best possible outcome.
Can you get a DWI off your record in Texas?
There’s hope. If there you have no prior offenses, or if you went to court and were found not guilty, there’s a good chance you can petition for a non-disclosure and have the charge removed. If your first-offense case was not dismissed, but you completed all the requirements and paid your fees, you can get the DWI permanently erased from your record.
How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record for Insurance?
It depends on how far back the insurance company decides to look, but typically they’ll see charges within the past three to five years. A DWI will impact your rates and the company’s willingness to provide insurance coverage to you. In some cases, particularly with DWIs, a company can look back as far as ten years.
Can I get a CDL License with a DWI in Texas?
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to obtain a CDL with this type of offense. However, it is possible. While you might be able to get one, it’s not recommended since there is little to no chance of securing a job in transportation with a DWI on your record.
How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record in Texas?
The default is forever, but much like a DWI, it can be erased after two years via a petition for non-disclosure, but only if you were never found guilty in court. The good news is that sealing a record immediately following a misdemeanor is possible in most cases. There’s a seven-year rule in Texas in employment background checks that prevent a potential employer from going back more than seven years.
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.