It's no secret that the consequences of a conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) are severe. Everyone is aware that a conviction can cost you thousands of dollars and time locked up behind bars. A conviction can even have collateral consequences like costing you your pilot's license or accountant certification. But the consequences don't stop there.
Did you know a DWI conviction could potentially make boarding domestic or international flights more difficult? If you are a member of “trusted traveler” programs like TSA Precheck or Global Entry, you may find a DWI conviction can put your enrollment in those programs in jeopardy. These programs, administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), are designed to allow low-risk travelers pre-flight security clearance. These programs offer benefits to travelers, especially those who travel a lot. These benefits include things like skipping much of the hassle that accompanies the screening process. A DWI conviction, therefore, can strip these and other benefits from you, making travel more difficult.
What is TSA Precheck?
TSA Precheck is one of the most popular “trusted traveler” programs offered by the TSA. The program is available at most major domestic airports and allows low-risk travelers to expedite their security screening. TSA Precheck clearance allows you to quickly move through airport security without removing
- Your shoes
- Liquids or gels from a carry-on
- Your laptop from your bag
- Coats or jackets, and
To be eligible for TSA Precheck, you :
- Must be a U.S. Citizen, or
- Must be a Lawful Permanent Resident, and
- Have never been convicted of certain crimes.
Another practical advantage of TSA Precheck is that because the screening process is faster and Precheck members are often given their own dedicated line, your wait time at security is reduced dramatically.
Can a Harris County DWI Conviction Affect Your TSA Precheck Eligibility?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is “maybe.” The TSA promulgates a list of Disqualifying Offenses that will lead to either an automatic, permanent ban from the program or short-term suspension while the TSA investigates further.
The offenses that will lead to an automatic, permanent ban include:
- Violations of the RICO Act
- Terrorism, and
- Improper transportation of hazardous waste.
A conviction for any of the crimes deemed “permanent disqualifying criminal offenses” by the TSA will cost you your eligibility for TSA Precheck for the rest of your life. Thankfully, DWI is not listed among these crimes.
Less serious crimes that can nevertheless hold up your TSA Precheck eligibility are known as Interim Disqualifying Incarceration Offenses. A conviction for any of the felonies listed within the previous seven years will lead to a temporary disqualification from the TSA Precheck program. Some of the crimes that can lead to suspension are:
- Unlawful possession, use, sale, manufacture, purchase, distribution, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, delivery, import, export of, or dealing in a firearm or other weapon
- Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud and money laundering
- Arson, and
DWI and other alcohol-related crimes are also not mentioned in this list. That doesn't mean you are in the clear, however, as TSA is also empowered to deny eligibility based on “Any other information relevant to determining applicant eligibility or an applicant's identity.” That gives the TSA the discretion to deny your TSA Precheck eligibility due to a DWI or alcohol-related conviction. Additionally, the TSA will disqualify applicants if they were previously incarcerated for more than 365 days, which could include some felony DWI convictions.
Another quick way to lose your TSA Precheck eligibility is by falsifying information on your application. While it may be scary to disclose a past DWI arrest, failing to do so will likely be far more costly than the DWI conviction itself.
What is Global Entry?
Much like TSA Precheck, Global Entry is a “trusted traveler” program administered by U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP). The program is designed to speed up the customs process for pre-approved, low-risk travelers re-entering the country through select major airports.
Global Entry allows program members a chance to go through a streamlined customs process. It only requires you to present a machine-readable passport and have your fingerprints scanned. This process is much faster and far less crowded than the standard customs procedure.
Part of the process for being accepted into Global Entry is passing a background check. Unfortunately, a conviction for DWI may be enough to derail your application.
Can a Harris County DWI Conviction Affect your Global Entry Eligibility?
The answer is yes... unless your DWI conviction was more than 10 years ago, at which point it is unlikely to have an effect. However, if the arrest occurred more recently -- i.e., within the last 10 year -- it is within CBP's purview to reject your application.
Things are worse if you are convicted of any crime, including DWI, while currently enrolled in Global Entry. It is common for all program members who have been convicted of anything more serious than traffic offenses to find themselves removed from Global Entry shortly thereafter.
While a DWI may lead to you receiving notice that you have been removed from Global Entry, the good news is that there is a formal appeals process. Once you receive the formal notice informing you of your expulsion and the basis for it, you have an opportunity to formally request an appeal. In the appeal, you can submit documentation in an effort to maintain your eligibility.
In reality, your best chance of keeping your Global Entry enrollment is to avoid being convicted of DWI in the first place. Here are a few tips to follow that will help strengthen your case.
What do you do if Arrested for DWI in Houston, Texas?
If you have been arrested or pulled over under suspicion of DWI, you are in a tough spot. However, there are plenty of ways in which you can make things worse for yourself. By following a few basic tips, you can limit the amount of evidence the state can collect against you. When you are questioned by the police, they are likely to be pleasant or even friendly. Don't be caught off guard, as they make their living getting people like you to make admissions that can harm your defense. These steps will give you the best shot at having a positive outcome.
Don't Talk to the Police
You have the right to remain silent; don't be afraid to use that right. The truth is that everything an officer says to you is designed to collect evidence against you. When an officer asks you “do you know why I pulled you over?” they do so hoping that you will admit that you were speeding or committed some other traffic violation.
One of the strongest defenses available is the argument that the police unlawfully pulled you over, so admitting up front that you are guilty of the traffic violation you were stopped for is detrimental to your defense. If you request a lawyer, the police cannot question you without your lawyer present, so never voluntarily speak to them about your case.
There are only a handful of exceptions where you must answer questions from the police, and they are worth noting. You must provide law enforcement with identifying information like your name and address as well as present proof of your driver's license.
While you shouldn't answer questions from the police, it is always helpful to stay polite while interacting with them. Respectfully inform them that you will not be making any statements to them and avoid confrontation. Irritated law enforcement officers are more likely to treat you harshly when it is at their discretion. Antagonizing police officers can also lead to police misconduct against you in some cases.
While you don't have to provide much information to law enforcement, it is a crime in Texas to falsify that information. That includes giving a fake name or address or presenting fake documentation like a forged driver's license.
Hire a Board Certified DWI Expert
The most important step you can take after your DWI arrest is to hire a Board Certified DWI defense expert as your attorney. In the State of Texas, attorneys must pass rigorous training to be able to call themselves an expert in DWI defense. This designation is one of the best indicators for whether or not an attorney has the skills necessary to defend you successfully. You may be able to win your DWI case, but you'll need the right attorney to have a chance.
Hiring a Houston DWI Defense Attorney you can Trust
If you frequently travel for your job, holding onto your eligibility for TSA Precheck or Global Entry can be critical to you. Attorney Doug Murphy understands that a conviction can have a material impact on your ability to maintain your employment, and he has a proven track record of winning acquittals for his clients.
Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board Certified expert in both DWI defense law and criminal defense law. In fact, he is one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas to hold both distinctions. These board certifications are evidence of Doug Murphy's skill and commitment to the defense of the accused. To discuss your case with Houston's top Board Certified DWI expert, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to set up your free consultation today.