If you have gone through the process of a DWI arrest and conviction, you may be looking to your future with unease. A DWI arrest is part of the public record in Texas--even if the charge was ultimately. This fact and its implications can result in some embarrassing, and frustrating situations. Especially if you're a public figure, professional or attempting to obtain a new job or secure a new home, having a DWI connected to your name is often less than desirable.
You may have options to mitigate this situation. If you can have your record expunged, you may be able to return to your everyday life without your past unduly affecting your future. However, the process of attaining a DWI expungement can be complicated. First, you need to find out if you qualify. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., to learn more about qualification and what we can do to help.
What is a DWI Expunction? Why would you want one?
Under Texas law, you may be able to clear your criminal record, under specific qualifying circumstances. The process of erasing and destroying records of a criminal arrest and charge and is called an Expunction in the State of Texas.
Perhaps you faced arrest and a trial – but it never resulted in a conviction for DWI. That's good news: You might be able to qualify for expungement of your DWI records.
Expungement of DWI arrest records can make your life going forward much easier. If you're able to secure expunction, you will be granted a legal privilege to deny the expunged arrest you experienced ever happened.
This can make any future employment, college, or mortgage applications you may submit in the future much less embarrassing to fill out because records of this arrest are nowhere to be found - and much more likely to earn approval.
How do I qualify for a DWI expungement?
Generally speaking, there are five different ways to qualify for an expungement of your DWI record. If you meet any of the following conditions, you might be able to proceed with your DWI expunction:
1. You were a minor at the time of your arrest: If you were under the age of 21 when you were arrested for DUI, you might be in luck. The people of Texas understand that teens make mistakes. Rehabilitation tends to result in more positive outcomes than punishment, so youth offenders may be more able to meet qualifying criteria for ameliorating processes (such as expungement). As long as your case did not result in conviction for any other violation of the law before turning 21 (for example, if you faced conviction as a minor in possession or consumption), your age alone might qualify you for expungement of your DUI.
2. Nobody ever filed charges for your DWI: When you ask to have your record expunged, you're asking for the court to remove your DWI arrest from your public record. If your arrest did happen, but the prosecution did not follow through with a formal criminal charge, then you may qualify for expungement after the 2 year statute of limitations expires. After the DWI expungement process, your record won't have that DWI on it anymore: Your arrest records will be destroyed. b both digitally and in paper form so that no future employers or curious landlords will can learn of this unfortunate event.
3. DWI charges were filed, but were dismissed: Even though you might celebrate the fact that your case was dismissed, it's important to remember that the initial arrest and charge stay on your record in the event of a dismissal of your case. Before you forget about your dismissed DWI entirely, you need to file to have the arrest and charge expunged. As long as you did not face a conviction for another crime arising out of the same arrest, if you're in this situation, you should be eligible for DWI expunction if you have also not been convicted of a felony.
4. The court found you not guilty of a DWI. If you did get arrested, did have to go to court, did receive a conviction—but ultimately stood before a judge and jury who found based upon the evidence that you were not guilty, then you can have your record expunged. You might be surprised to find that the arrest and charge don't fall off your record automatically due to your innocence. You should still need to file an expunction to clear your record because the arrest, charge and finding of not guilty will remain on your record unless you file an expunction.
5. The court convicted you of a DWI, but you appealed—and won. Finally, if you went through the arrest, charge, and conviction process, you need to remember that the State of Texas gives you the right to appeal your criminal conviction. If you appealed the DWI and made it through the process victorious, then you can qualify for a DWI expungement.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then you may be able to proceed with a request for DWI expunction. However, if you didn't meet any of these criteria, that doesn't mean that you are in a hopeless situation. Contact the the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., to learn more about what we can do to help you achieve a favorable outcome.
What if I was convicted of DWI?
Unfortunately, if you were convicted you of a DWI, the judge and jury found you guilty, and you did not appeal, you may not be able to qualify for an expungement of your DWI. However, the state of Texas recently realized that this put an undue burden on many one-time offenders. These people were willing to turn their lives around and try to get good jobs—but this DWI conviction on their record was making it impossible.
Good news if you were convicted. In 2017, the state of Texas presented a workaround for those convicted with DWIs. HB 3016 permits the sealing of selected DWI arrest and conviction records.
What's the difference between sealing and expungement?
If you can qualify for sealing of your DWI records—which involves proving that your DWI is your lone offense—then you can request an order of non-disclosure. Where expungement essentially means that your DWI arrest and charge are entirely erased and destroyed, non-disclosure and sealing removes the records from the public but not from law enforcement agencies. After you obtain non-disclosure for your record, only law enforcement agencies will be able to see your record—not employers, landlords, or financial institutions.
How can I start the expungement process?
If you seek a DWI expungement, it's a good idea to start by reaching out to an experienced attorney familiar with expungement laws in Texas. After you have secured legal aid, you can draft a petition to clear your record. You'll need to ensure that your petition meets all the requirements of Texas law, and then you will need to file that petition correctly, at the correct court of law.
Following that process, you will receive a court date and an invitation to a hearing. After the hearing, if your attempt succeeds, you will be able to file an order for expunction. The DWI expungement process is long and complex. Fortunately, you don't need to go through it alone: With a skilled, experienced legal team at your side, you will have all the support you need. Reach out to the the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for more information about our services today.
Should I hire a lawyer, or can I do this myself?
You may technically be able to follow the many steps of expungement by yourself, but that doesn't mean that you should. A Texas DWI specialist can assist with making your DWI expungement process much less painful, and, likely, much more successful.
The expungement laws in Texas are extremely convoluted. It will be easy to get very confused as you go through the intricate legal process. Working with an experienced law firm, instead, can net you benefits such as:
• Certainty that your expungement petition has all the required information, is in the proper format, and is filed correctly the first time
• A higher likelihood that the court does not reject your petition the first time, causing you more fees and longer delays
• Assistance with the delicate timing of the legal processes, all of which must happen in a specific order
• Defense against any opposition to your petition
• Support at court or at any hearings you may attend
• Assistance after expungement with any required explanations to employers or landlords
When you're going through the frustrating, overwhelming process of dealing with your DWI, you don't need to add the strain of handling these activities on your own, as well. On the contrary: You can work with the expertise and experience of a Texas Super Lawyer Rising Star, as recognized by Texas Monthly magazine every year since the recognition began in 2004.
DWI matters, including Texas DWI expungement, can be extremely complicated and confusing. Don't stress about your case; get help instead. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation. Doug Murphy is a board-certified criminal defense and DWI Defense lawyer. He has the training and experience you need to effectively review the circumstances of your case and protect your rights.