No one wants to have a criminal arrest or conviction on their record, and that is just as true for those who have a DWI, so you may wonder how long your DWI can stay on your record. The answer is simple: Forever.
Unless you take decisive action, your DWI record will always be publicly-accessible information. Even if you went to court and received a “not guilty” verdict, the arrest would remain on the initial record.
It can be challenging to remove a DWI from your record once it's there, so it's vital to work as hard as you can to win your initial DWI case. However, through a specific legal process, you may be able to remove that DWI (even, under some circumstances, a conviction) from your record for good.
As we'll discuss, the impact of a DWI on your record can have a lifetime impact. Therefore, for any DWI-related issues, hire a DWI specialist who has superlative credentials, is a proven expert in the fields, and is respected in the DWI and criminal law communities. Look for a lawyer who listens and addresses your concerns (of which, we know you have many), learns the facts, and formulates a strategy to get you the best possible outcome.
Why Should You Fight to Remove a DWI from Your Record?
Before we get into the details, you may be wondering if it is even worth the hassle to have a DWI removed from your record. After all, once your DWI case is over, it is tempting to put the matter behind you.
• Your costs for driver’s insurance
• Your ability to qualify for mortgages and student loans
• Your right to vote
• Your right to purchase and own a firearm
• Your ability to maintain a security clearance
• Your ability to have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
In other words, in things big and small, just because you have learned from the past and want to move on, doesn't mean that the system will let you do so.
Fortunately, whether you have a DWI charge or conviction, you have options beyond living a life with your DWI hanging over you.
The Difference Between Nondisclosure and Expungement
Both sealing and expungement could allow you to live your life, going forward, as if your DWI never occurred. However, there are slight differences between the two:
• Nondisclosure means the court will remove the records of your DWI from public view. Also known as “sealing the record,” the information will remain available to law enforcement agencies, but civilians will not be able to find any data regarding your DWI.
• Expungement means that the court will destroy all records of your initial DWI arrest and charge, so it is as if those records never existed in the first place.
Let's discuss each process in turn.
Eligibility for a Nondisclosure Order for Your Texas DWI Conviction
Realizing the potentially lifelong impact of a DWI, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 3016 into law on September 1st of 2017. It permits the nondisclosure of some selected DWI convictions. Fortunately, this law also applies retroactively. If your DWI conviction occurred before September 1st, 2017, you may still be eligible to ask for your records to be sealed.
According to Texas Government Code, Chapter 411, elements for eligibility for nondisclosure include:
• Your blood alcohol content (BAC) or breath must have been less than 0.15.
• Your DWI offense did not cause an accident or harm any other people.
• You have no other criminal history (other than traffic offenses).
• You completed all court orders related to your DWI conviction.
• You paid all related fees and fines.
Procedures for a Nondisclosure Order
To make sure that you're giving yourself your best possible chance of a successful outcome, choose to be represented by an attorney who is a board-certified specialist in DWI defense and criminal law. This is important because obtaining nondisclosure requires both mastery of the relevant DWI law and the relevant procedural requirements.
Depending on the type of your DWI, the first requirement way be satisfying a waiting period. For example, if your only penalty was a fine, and you have paid that, then you can immediately petition the court to consider a nondisclosure. However, if you had to serve a jail sentence, you may need to wait 3-5 years after completing your probation.
While there are a few who are eligible for an automatic nondisclosure, most will need to petition the court for an order of nondisclosure. You will need to provide the court with an extensive list of relevant documents, from the judgment in your case to signed orders relating to your payment of fines, anything that impacted the length of your sentence or probation, and more. You will also need to notify relevant parties, such as the agency that was involved in your conviction.
There will be a formal hearing, where the judge will listen to your arguments in favor of granting the petition, while agencies can also appear to argue against the petition's granting.
This is why an attorney is so important in this matter: Not only must you comply with all the filing requirements, but you also need an advocate who can anticipate arguments made against your request, so they can marshal the relevant facts and law to help you prevail.
Qualifying Scenarios for Expunction of Your DWI
An expunction has a more dramatic and ideal result than a nondisclosure: All records of your arrest and conviction are destroyed, and the legal intent is as if the arrest never occurred in the first place. It's to the point that, if someone ever asked you, “Have you been arrested?” that you could legally reply, “No.”
You may be eligible for expunction, according to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Section 55.01, if any of the following apply:
• If you were acquitted of the DWI
• If you were convicted, but you were later found to be innocent
• If you were convicted, but were later pardoned
• If you were charged with a DWI, but the case was dismissed and the relevant statute of limitations has expired
• If you were arrested for a DWI but never charged, and a relevant waiting period has passed
On the other hand, there are also reasons why you might be ineligible for an expunction (e.g., you received probation, or you were convicted of a subsequent felony within five years of the crime you are petitioning the court about).
Procedures for Expunction
Given the importance of an expunction, the courts have specific procedural requirements for an expunction. These include:
• Completing a required waiting period, f you were never charged (the length of which depends on the nature of the arrest)
• Filing a formal Petition for Expunction to request an Order for Expunction from your court, a Notice of the Hearing and other related documents
• Obtaining an Order for Expunction from the court during a hearing
• Notifying all relevant agencies of the signed order, so that they comply with the destruction of the relevant documents
Hire a DWI Specialist to Fight for You
DWI arrests are not convictions, and a DWI charge can be defeated in court. And a great attorney also knows other procedures that make a huge difference along the way. That it is why it is so crucial to have a specialist in DWI defense at your aside, as soon after your arrest as possible.
But the impact of a DWI arrest does not end at the end of a court hearing. Even if the result is “not guilty.”
And that is why the value of a DWI defense attorney does not end with the result.
If you're seeking removal of your DWI from your record, you need to remember that you're fighting for your future. You're pursuing a clean record so you can purchase homes, apply to new jobs, and move through your life without your DWI weighing you and your loved ones down.
Whether you're pursuing an expunction or a nondisclosure order for your DWI records, you need a Board Certified DWI specialist in Houston at your side. You need a lawyer who understands all the issues involved—and all of the ramifications—someone with a proven track record of experience.
Doug Murphy has spent the past two decades helping good Texans and Houston residents with their DWI cases. Named the 2021 Lawyer of the Year for DWI Defense in Houston, Doug Murphy is a Certified Specialist in criminal law and DWI defense, one of only two attorneys in the entire state of Texas with both credentials.
Contact Doug today to help you rebuild the past and take hold of your future.