Driving while intoxicated is a serious problem in Texas, and our criminal code can levy serious penalties for a DWI conviction. But we all make mistakes. It can be easy to get arrested for DWI if you have too much wine with dinner or a few too many beers at the game. But a DWI conviction can have serious consequences beyond possible jail time, fines, and a license suspension.
A DWI conviction will appear in a criminal background check and, in some cases, may prevent you from advancing in your career of choice. A DWI can also hurt your reputation, with acquaintances, future dates, and neighbors finding information about your arrest with an internet search. That's why it's a good idea to consult an expert in DWI and criminal defense cases like Doug Murphy to see if you can clean up your criminal record and tackle online information about your arrest and conviction.
Expungement or expunction is a process that allows you to have your criminal or arrest records removed from your criminal history with a court order. Under Texas law, you can't expunge a DWI conviction. However, in some cases, you may be able to expunge records related to a DWI arrest that didn't result in a conviction. You may expunge a record if:
- You were charged but never convicted,
- You were convicted but later pardoned or granted relief for actual innocence,
- You were released, and the charges dropped, or the statute of limitations expired,
- You were charged and found not guilty by a judge or jury,
- You were convicted but later acquitted by the court of criminal appeals and the time for review expired,
- You have qualifying juvenile misdemeanor convictions, or
- You were convicted of qualifying alcohol offenses as a minor.
See Tx. Code of Crim. Pro. § 55.01 (2009). In other words, you may qualify to expunge your Texas DWI if you were under 21 at the time of your conviction.
Second Chance Law
Even if you can't expunge an adult DWI, in some cases, you may be eligible to seal your records through Texas's Second Chance Law. The purpose of our state's Second Chance Law is to allow those convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses to petition for nondisclosure of their records. If the court grants a nondisclosure petition, your records won't be destroyed, but they will no longer be assessable to the public. As a result, you will generally be legally free from disclosing information about your criminal history on a job application, although there are some exceptions.
To qualify for a nondisclosure petition, you must:
- Have had the court place you on deferred adjudication community supervision for the offense,
- Have completed deferred adjudication,
- Have a conviction for an offense that qualifies for an order of nondisclosure,
- Not have any disqualifying criminal history, such as domestic violence, a serious violent offense, or a conviction that requires registration as a sex offender.
- Fulfill the waiting period for a nondisclosure petition, including five years for a felony and two years for more serious misdemeanors. Other misdemeanors don't have a waiting period.
- Not have another conviction during the period between when the court issues your order of deferred adjudication and the court's order of dismissal.
Sealing a Texas DWI Record
To obtain an order of nondisclosure for a Texas DWI, you'll need to meet certain other requirements, including:
- This must be your first DWI,
- Your blood alcohol concentration must be below .15%,
- You have served any jail time and completed any community supervision,
- You have paid all fines and made any restitution ordered by the court,
- You must have no additional criminal convictions or any other deferred adjudications except for minor traffic offenses, and
- Waiting for the required period for your offense.
The waiting period to seal your Texas DWI is two years from the completion of your sentence if you had to install an “ignition interlock device” (IED) for at least six months. The waiting period is five years from the completion of your sentence if the court doesn't order you to install an IED. The court will not seal your record if the DWI resulted in an accident involving another person, including a passenger in your vehicle.
DWI-related offenses that can't be sealed include:
- Second, third, or more DWI convictions,
- DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of more than .15%, and
- Flying or boating while intoxicated.
Online Search Engines
Even after you've successfully sealed a Texas DWI, you may still be able to find evidence of your arrest and conviction online. People can generally access criminal records online through public court records databases and third-party legal search websites.
- Online Court Databases
Once you have your order of nondisclosure from the court, they should remove your arrest and conviction information from their online databases accessible to the public. Your records will still exist, and law enforcement and those with good cause will still be able to access them. However, it's a good idea to follow up with the court and check public court databases to ensure that information is no longer accessible. An attorney can also help with this process.
- Third-party Legal Search Websites
Although the court will automatically remove your records from their publicly accessible databases, your record may remain in third-party legal search websites and google. After you have your order of nondisclosure from a Texas court, you can begin asking these search engines to remove your data. You'll find that these companies will have varying levels of cooperation. Some may take it down after you fill out a simple online form, but you may need an attorney to help you get others taken down.
If information about your arrest or conviction is on social media on public pages, you can ask those accounts to take down your information. However, news organizations may be uncooperative, and you may need to involve an attorney again. You can also ask that family and friends remove information about your DWI from social media, particularly if they have publicly available social media profiles.
You Need a Board Certified Expert in Texas DWI Defense
While removing a DWI from your digital footprint can be challenging, there is a process to make it happen. Texas sealing and expunction processes can be nuanced and difficult to untangle without experience. That's where an expert in DWI and criminal law like Doug Murphy can help.
Attorney Doug Murphy is a board-certified expert in Criminal Defense Law and DWI Defense in Texas. He is one of only two attorneys in Texas to receive the expert designation in these two specialty areas of the law. Best Lawyers in America recently named him a 2023 “Lawyer of the Year” for DWI defense in Houston. Doug and the skilled team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. can help you. Call them at 713-229-8333, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.