After years of living at home or crashing in a spare room, you are finally ready for your own place. This change has been a long time coming. After finally securing a job you like, you have been saving up for months for your deposit. Your bags are packed, and you are ready to move. But now an unexpected issue has come up: your conviction for driving while intoxicated.
The direct consequences of a Houston DWI conviction are well known. Upon conviction, a DWI could result in jail time, fines, and the loss of your driver's license. However, there are also collateral consequences for every DWI conviction. One of those consequences is the difficulty a DWI on your criminal record can add to your search for housing.
Houston Rental Regulations
Renters in Texas enjoy certain protections under state, federal, and local law. These protections extend to the application process. Under certain circumstances, it can be against the law to reject a rental application. These protections include:
- The U.S. Fair Housing Act
- Texas Property Code
- Houston Fair Housing Ordinances.
These laws and ordinances only protect certain classes from discrimination, however. These rules bar discrimination on the basis of things like:
- disability, or
- reliance on government assistance.
However, there is nothing in the law that protects against discrimination due to a person's criminal record. In fact, it is a common factor for most landlords when determining to accept an application or not.
Houston DWI Convictions and Background Checks
By and large, the majority of landlords and property managers conduct background checks during the application process. These background checks are designed to confirm an applicant's identity and check for anything of concern in their history. When it comes to an applicant's criminal record, these background checks search a number of public and private databases. These databases include:
- State and County Criminal Records. There are a number of databases that compile both state and county criminal records. These include conviction records from state and county courts that might not be otherwise publically available.
- Police Records. In addition to records related to your DWI conviction, a prospective landlord could also learn about the arrest through a background check. That is because many of these checks also search available police records.
- Sex Offender Registry. While unrelated to DWI convictions directly, these checks will also review for a candidate's status on a sex offender registry.
If an arrest or conviction shows up on your background check, a property owner or manager does not need any additional excuse to reject your application. A DWI conviction is a legal justification for a landlord to refuse your application for housing. However, it is not the only collateral consequence that comes with a DWI.
Other Collateral Consequences in Houston, TX
In addition to challenges with housing, there are many other potential collateral consequences that come with a DWI conviction. These consequences can impact every aspect of your life, from your personal relationships to your career. Some of the most common collateral consequences following a DWI conviction include:
- Difficulty Maintaining Employment. For the same reasons you have trouble finding appropriate housing, you could also struggle with maintaining employment. Employers are under no obligation to employ you if you have a criminal conviction. A DWI could cost you your current job and make it difficult to obtain work in the future.
- Legal Rights. If you are convicted of a felony DWI, you could find some of your constitutional rights curtailed. Felons are not permitted to own firearms and doing so going forward is a crime. Additionally, you could also lose the right to vote.
- Professional Licenses. Some professions require professional licensing, like a medical license, nursing license, pilot license, CPA license, teaching license, or real estate license. The organizations responsible for these licenses typically take into account an applicant's character or moral fiber. For some professions, a DWI conviction could be a deal-breaker. Some professions that could revoke a license for a criminal conviction include attorneys, doctors, nurses, CPAs, commercial drivers, and commercial pilots.
- Child Custody. If you have children and are divorcing or are recently divorced, a conviction for DWI could negatively impact your parental rights and child custody. In a divorce proceeding, your spouse could use this conviction as evidence that you are unfit as a parent. An arrest could still have an impact even when a divorce is finalized.
- Security Clearance. Obtaining or renewing a federal security clearance could be tricky if you are convicted of a DWI. Criminal convictions can weigh heavily on the decision to revoke clearance, although a misdemeanor first-offense DWI rarely leads to the loss of a person's clearance.
These are only a few of the collateral consequences related to a DWI conviction in Houston. Any conviction could have an impact on your life, depending on the circumstances. With that in mind, your choice of a DWI defense attorney becomes even more critical. By avoiding a conviction entirely, you can also avoid the direct or collateral consequences that come with it.
How a Houston DWI Defense Attorney Could Help
If you are facing a charge of driving while intoxicated in a Houston court, the chances are good that the prosecutor will make a plea offer. The offer might even seem reasonable; if it is your first offense you will likely avoid jail time. As tempting as that offer might be, it is important to remember the other consequences that go with a conviction. While the prosecutor and judge might agree that you will avoid the direct consequences of a conviction pursuant to a plea bargain, they have no control over anything else. A prospective landlord is unlikely to care if you pleaded guilty to DWI or were convicted at trial: if the conviction is on your record, it is going to work against you.
Due to the reality of a DWI conviction, your best option is to fight back against a conviction in the first place. By taking your case to trial, you and your attorney could successfully convince the jury that you were not intoxicated at the time. If you win your case, a background check will not reflect a DWI conviction.
Ready to fight back against your DWI charges? Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away. He's one of only two attorneys in all of Texas who hold simultaneously Board Certification in DWI defense and criminal law.