Your driving while intoxicated (DWI) stays on your record permanently in Fort Worth unless you get it sealed or expunged. Your DWI conviction, arrest, or charge becomes a court record that goes to your criminal record. At that point and any time after, any individual, including potential landlords, employers, business partners, and homeowners’ associations, can conduct a background check and see it. A criminal record subjects you to discrimination, challenging specific life aspects. Please continue reading this article to learn whether your DWI can be expunged or sealed and different options to remove the record.
Benefits of Clearing Your DWI Records
You might be wondering why you should fight to have your driving while intoxicated removed from your criminal record after all the criminal case is over. Regrettably, your conviction can affect most aspects of your life, even after serving time and facing criminal penalties. Here are the benefits of clearing criminal records:
More and Better Employment Opportunities
If you have been hunting for a job, you know how challenging it might be to secure lucrative employment if you have a criminal history. And if you are hired, it might differ from the pay or work you want.
Instead of doing several low-paying jobs, consider investing in clearing your DWI record. Once the criminal records are sealed, you lawfully do not have to reveal your arrest, charges, and conviction on your job applications.
Better Educational Opportunities
Most people go to educational institutions to jumpstart new careers. Sadly, educational programs are competitive, and your criminal history could be a determining factor between you and other candidates on equal footing with you.
Expunction or nondisclosure allows you to return to graduate school and build your career.
More Affordable Housing Options
Most landlords perform background checks on tenants before entering any rental contract. Court and conviction records are easily accessible, and landlords are careful about renting to an individual with a criminal history, irrespective of when the conviction occurred.
An expunction or nondisclosure can open doors to more, better, pocket-friendly rental properties for your family.
Lower Insurance Premiums
After DWI charges, you risk seeing your car insurance premiums rise. Clearing your criminal records can assist you in reducing the premiums, saving you a lot of money over time.
Obtaining a Loan
Acquiring a loan can help you restart your life after serving time. However, some agencies believe persons with criminal records face challenges repaying their loans. This belief could result in the loan application being denied or subjected to high interest rates.
Offer Personal Satisfaction
While clearing your criminal records does magically erase your past, it brings redemption for your crime and closure to a devastating chapter in your life.
DWI Non Disclosure
Also known as sealing your records, nondisclosure means your criminal record is held private, and the public cannot access it. The court, prosecutor’s office, and law enforcers cannot reveal your sealed records to any entity. It allows you to conceal your sealed records and information about your criminal history on mortgage, job, and school applications. However, the records are not destroyed or deleted as they would have been with an expunction.
In 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 3016 into law. The law amended and expanded the Texas Government Code to allow drunk driving defendants to petition the court for nondisclosure orders.
Please note that not all DWI convictions are eligible for nondisclosure. Specific qualifications must be satisfied, and they include the following:
- Your DWI conviction must be your first-time offense
- Your blood alcohol concentration should be below 0.15%
- You should not have caused a collision with somebody else, including your passenger, during your drunk driving incident
- You must have paid all fines and costs related to your DWI
- You have never been placed on probation (deferred adjudication community supervision) for or convicted of another crime apart from traffic crimes punishable by fine
- You have completed probation
A person who otherwise qualifies for an order of disclosure should file their petition once the applicable waiting period has elapsed. You should wait until the second anniversary of your sentence completion date if you:
- Adhered to your sentence condition for six months and
- Should drive a car with an interlock ignition device for six months.
If the judge did not impose any conditions, you should wait for five years before filing your petition.
Filing a Nondisclosure Order petition
To obtain this post-conviction relief, you should bring your petition to the jurisdiction clerk handling the criminal case. You should pay filing fees of about $280 (nevertheless, the amount varies with counties). Please confirm with the clerk to know the required amount. If you cannot afford the fee, you can bring a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs instead of paying the filing fees.
There are numerous non disclosure orders, each with its form and requirements. The Fresh Start app and the Nondisclosure Order Prep Guide can aid you in determining which type suits your situation.
The petition form has instructions and guidelines on completing your application. You can fill in the blank spaces on your form by handwriting or typing the answers. It is optional for the petition to be notarized. Remember to sign the petition. You can apply with the clerk in person, electronically, or by mail.
Depending on the criminal case, you might require at least one of these documents to determine whether you qualify for this post-conviction relief. These documents include the following:
- Your case’s judgment
- A court document or order indicating that the court reduced your deferred adjudication, probation (deferred adjudication), or confinement period
- A signed court order indicating that the court dismissed the hearings and discharged the conviction
- A signed court order indicating that the court set aside your case verdict or allowed you to withdraw the plea and dismissed your accusation, information, indictment, or complaint against you
- A signed document or order indicating that your completed probation or deferred adjudication
- A signed judgment or order reflecting affirmative findings the judge made, including findings that it is in the best interest of justice for you to obtain an order of nondisclosure
The clerk will ensure the prosecutor and the judge receive a copy of the petition. The state can request a court hearing on the petition. First, the judge will determine whether you qualify for the DWI criminal record sealing. Second, the judge will decide whether granting the nondisclosure order is in the best interest of justice.
If the prosecution requests the court hearing within 45 days of receiving notice of the petition filing, the judge should schedule a hearing that you must attend. If the prosecution fails to request the hearing, the judge can still hold the hearing. You should be issued a notice of the time and venue of your hearing, so ensure your contact details are current with the court clerk.
If you have questions about the form, contact the Texas Office of Court Administration at (512) 463-1625. It is also best to have an attorney by your side.
What Occurs Once the Court Grants You the Order of Nondisclosure
Once the court grants you the nondisclosure order, the clerk will send copies of your order to the Department of Public Safety and other agencies you highlighted. It should happen within fifteen days after the judge signs your order.
While the DPS should send copies of the nondisclosure order to agencies with your information so they keep the criminal records sealed, the DPS might fail to act so. That means you should outline all agencies you interacted with during the case. Remember to include their email address. Some of these agencies include the following:
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice — Community Justice Assistance Division
- Law enforcement agency that arrested you
- Office of Court Administration
- The sheriff’s office of the county where you were detained
- Prosecuting agency
- Clerk of all courts involved in your DWI case, apart from where you brought the petition
- Personal Services Office, if your charges involved a personal bond
- County or City Counseling Services
- The magistrate who oversaw the arraignment
- Probation department
- Community service coordinators
- A private data-trading company you know has your information
Then the Department of Public Safety will seal your DWI crime within its files and records and send copies of your order to the relevant federal authorities. Additionally, you can call the Foundation for Continuing Justice and request it to send copies of your order to all private organizations with your criminal records. It is free of charge.
Please note that the order of nondisclosure does not erase your criminal records. It hides them from the public. Law enforcement authorities and state licensing agencies can still access your DWI records and use them against you.
Expunging Your DWI Records
Most people refer to expunction as an option to seal their criminal records. Well, expunction is different from record sealing. Sealing the records means your criminal record still exists, but only government agencies and law enforcers can access the records. On the other hand, expunction seeks to realize the following:
- Expunction requires government authorities and law enforcers to erase, purge, or destroy all electronic and paper records associated with your expunged arrest and conviction. It restores your record before your arrest and conviction.
- It lawfully allows the defendant to deny the fact that they have even been:
- Charged with,
- Arrested for, or
- Convicted of a crime.
To be eligible for DWI expunction, you should meet one of these qualifications:
- You were a juvenile during your driving while intoxicated arrest — You qualify for this post-conviction relief if you are charged with DWI as a minor (below 21 years) and were not sentenced for any other crime under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage code. Children make mistakes, and Texas law approves rehabilitation over punishment for young offenders. Punishing you as an adult for your juvenile wrongdoings does not serve the rehabilitative purpose.
- Your DWI charges were not filed — An arrest is a public record, and any person who runs a background check can see details of legal trouble, including your arrest. If you were arrested for DWI but never formally charged with the crime, you can request to have your arrest record expunged.
- The judge dismissed your drunk-driving case — Your DWI criminal records will not automatically fall off the record after case dismissal unless you file an expunction petition. You qualify for expunction, provided the court dismissed your misdemeanor DWI, and you were not found guilty of another offense out of the same arrest or a felony.
- You were found not guilty of drunk driving.
- You appealed the DWI conviction and prevailed— You are entitled to appeal your conviction. If you appeal the drunk driving conviction and win, you can request to have your criminal records expunged.
However, not every defendant or their records is eligible for expunction, even if they initially qualified under the abovementioned criteria. The judge can deny an expunction application if any of the circumstances below exist:
- The defendant is an adult who faced deferred adjudication
- The person is an adult, and the judge imposed probation
- The defendant jumped bail
- The person has been found guilty of a Texas felony within five (5) years of their DWI arrest, they want to expunge
- The DWI crime the defendant wants to expunge is part of a criminal episode, and the charges are pending for another offense, or they were convicted of an offense that happened during the same criminal episode
Texas Penal Code 3.01 defines a criminal episode as the commission of at least two crimes, irrespective of whether the damage is inflicted upon or directed towards at least one property or person, under these circumstances:
- The crimes are committed under a similar transaction or under more than two transactions that have a common plan or scheme
- The crimes are the repeated violation of the same laws
Regarding criminal episodes, when a defendant files an expunction petition, the prosecution often contests the application at a court hearing based on the defendant’s conviction.
Obtaining DWI Expunction
You should file an expunction petition to receive your post-conviction relief. The application process involves the following:
- Filing the expunction petition that requests the judge to grant you an Order for Expunction
- Offering a Notice of Hearing, allowing the court to schedule a court hearing
- Notarizing your petition when you sign it
- Bringing the petition to the court
In your petition, you should include the following information:
- Your identifying information
- The alleged DWI crime, the name of the court, your case number, when the judge resolved the DWI, how the judge resolved the case
- Your arrest date
- When you committed the crime
- Name of the arresting law enforcement authority
- A list of agencies with your arrest record
You and your defense attorney should draft your Order of Expunction. You should have the order with you for the judge’s signature at the court hearing or when the judge grants you an expunction.
If you have met the eligibility criteria, the judge does not have the right to deny your petition. Nonetheless, sometimes granting expunction is discretionary. The district attorney will often review your application and advise the court whether you qualify for post-conviction relief. Consequently, your defense attorney should speak with the D.A. beforehand to determine whether you should rectify anything before your court hearing date.
You should provide a copy of your signed order to relevant parties with files and records linked to the expunged DWI. The agencies have sixty days to adhere to your expunction order.
Sometimes, the DPS can take weeks or even months to destroy your DWI records after the judge grants the expunction. Therefore, it is wise to start your record removal process early to pass a background check.
Why Hire a Post-Conviction Attorney
Typically, post-conviction relief processes are complicated and require defendants to file petitions with the appropriate courts. The timeframe to pursue these reliefs is limited, and you must act quickly before the window of opportunity closes.
A skilled attorney can make a difference in many ways, including but not limited to the following:
- Applying laws to every case — Seeking nondisclosure or expunction requires a lawyer who knows the Texas DWI laws that led to the conviction and statutes that can relieve you of penalties and collateral consequences stemming from the conviction. Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer has legal experts knowledgeable about federal and Texas laws.
- Analyzing your criminal record — One vital step in the criminal record removal process is determining what went wrong in your original case. A lawyer will pay attention to detail and bring the appropriate motions correctly and timely.
- Help you achieve your legal goals — There are various post-conviction relief options. Your attorney can help you pursue an option that allows you to have a fresh start while simultaneously protecting your future and rights.
Find a Post-Conviction Relief Attorney Near Me
Sealing or expunging your DWI criminal record is always in your best interest, but there are stringent qualifications you should meet. The dedicated legal team at Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer can evaluate your case, determine whether you qualify for criminal record removal, and advise you on the best option to keep your record clean. Please contact us at 817-470-2128 to schedule your initial free consultation and learn how we can help you.