Typically, criminal records are public records. Any person who conducts a background check might find your information if you are arrested, charged, and sentenced for driving while intoxicated. Consequently, it could be incredibly difficult to secure a loan, job, or housing. Luckily, there are several methods to keep the charge from being revealed to the members of the public. If you’re eligible, you could file a petition to have the arrest, charge, and first conviction erased. Speak to one of the competent criminal defense attorneys at Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer to know if you are eligible and how you can get a DWI expungement.
What is Expungement?
An expungement is a form of relief that releases you from the consequences and limitations that stem from an arrest or charges. It removes your arrest and the charge from the criminal record that it doesn't appear in searches of official public records.
In the modern economy, where securing a lucrative job is difficult, you should do everything within your power to become the most suitable candidate. Well, this includes cleaning your DWI record, something that the state of Texas allows.
Additionally, a criminal record could restrict your ability to vote, receive federal assistance, and buy and own a firearm. Expunction opens these doors. Any experienced criminal defense attorney will tell that their clients express a sense of relief after their criminal record is expunged. Although it will not magically erase your past, it will close the frustrating chapter in life and bring redemption for the mistake.
However, it is worth noting that your arrest could still appear in internet searches if your arrest was published or is archived on a private media firm's website.
Who Qualifies for DWI Expungement?
Were you put in police custody, charged with driving while intoxicated but never found guilty? Fortunately, you could qualify for expungement.
To be eligible for criminal record sealing, you should meet on the qualifications below:
The Defendant was Below 21 Years When They Were Detained for DWI
If the defendant was arrested for driving while intoxicated as a child and not found guilty of another violation per the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code (DWI, a child in consumption, a child in possession), they could qualify for conviction and arrest expungement.
Residents of Texas consent to rehabilitation over punishment for young defendants. Punishing a defendant as an adult for a mistake they committed as a child doesn't serve the rehabilitative purpose.
Your DWI Charge was Never Brought
The fact that you've been put into police custody for drunk driving is available for the public to access. A landlord or employer conducting background checks will see your arrest details. If an individual was put into police custody but never prosecuted for the charges, they could file an expungement petition. An expungement will erase their arrest. Also, the judge will give them the privilege to deny the fact that they were arrested for DWI.
Your Case was Dismissed
If the court dismissed your drunk driving conviction, the arrest and charge record would still stay on the criminal record. The arrest doesn't spontaneously fall off the record unless the defendant brings an expunction petition. If the misdemeanor charge was dismissed, you qualify for expunction provided you weren't sentenced for a felony or another offense due to the same arrest.
You Were Not Convicted of Driving While Intoxicated
If you fought the charges against you and successfully got a not guilty verdict, then the charges and arrest records could be sealed.
You Appealed the Drunk Driving Conviction and Prevailed
The defendant is entitled to appeal their conviction in Fort Worth, Texas. If they appeal the conviction and prevail, they can also file an expunction petition.
What is the Difference Between Criminal Record Sealing and Erasing?
As previously mentioned, your criminal history follows you everywhere. Whether you are asked to describe yourself in a job interview or education loan application or pulled over for a traffic stop, people will know about your previous conviction or arrest.
Luckily, Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure gives the defendant a chance to clean their criminal record. It can be either an order of nondisclosure or expungement. Most people use the two processes interchangeably, but they are different. Each has its eligibility requirements and procedure.
An order of nondisclosure means sealing your record, and most private and public entities can't access the conviction or charge. The court is banned from revealing the criminal record. Nevertheless, licensing agencies could view the criminal charge. These agencies include:
- The Texas Medical Board
- The Board of Law Examiners
- The Texas Youth Commission
- The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
- The Health and Human Services Commission
- The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy
Expunction, on the other hand, means erasing the criminal record, and nobody can access it. Licensing agencies cannot access the criminal record. You can also lawfully deny the existence of the charge or arrest in a job interview without fear.
Another main variation between an order of nondisclosure and expunction is qualification requirements. Only those granted deferred adjudication could bring an order of nondisclosure. DWI expungement is reserved for those who were wrongfully convicted, arrested, indicated, or never convicted. That means you are not eligible for expunction if you received a court-order to deferred adjudication or community supervision.
HB 3016 and Nondisclosure
From September 1, 2017, Texas HB 3016 went into effect, increasing the number of eligible offenses that residents can seal. This piece of legislation expands what order of nondisclosure may be filed for. Nondisclosure order seals the criminal record from being available in background searches by landlords and employers.
Criteria for Sealing Your Conviction Under HB 3016
A defendant should meet all the following to qualify for the petition for their drunk driving conviction to be sealed per House Bill 3016:
- The blood alcohol concentration should be 0.15 percent or lower
- You should have completed mandatory periods of service and confinement and paid costs, restitution costs, and fines
- The charge shouldn't have originated from a vehicular conviction or accident
- You should not have another previous conviction. The only exception here is a traffic violation that does not involve alcohol or drugs
The next question is, should you satisfy the above qualification requirements, can you file your petition for nondisclosure. The possible time depends mainly on the following factors:
- Whether you received community supervision, such as deferred adjudication or probation
- Whether you were supposed to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your motor vehicle for six (6) months.
If you received community supervision, completed the required periods of service, and installed the mini-breathalyzer device, you could petition for nondisclosure two (2) years following the date you completed community supervision.
If your case involved other things apart from community supervision, and you installed an ignition interlock device for six (6) months, you can file your petition three (3) years following when you completed your sentence
If you aren't required to install an IID for six months, you can bring a nondisclosure petition five (5) years following the date you completed community supervision or sentence.
How to File a DWI Expungement
Discussed below are steps on how to erase your drunk driving criminal record in Texas:
Meet the Requirements
A defendant can't file for an expungement petition if:
- There is a charge pending against them
- They did not attend all their court hearings following the arrest
- They were on probation (unless the crime was charged as a Texas class C misdemeanor
To use the instructions, the statute of limitations should have passed on crimes stemming from the arrest, unless the charge was dismissed because of the timing shortcuts below:
- The charge was dismissed because of false information, mistake or a comparable reason showing no probable cause which you violated drunk driving laws
- It was canceled
- You finished pretrial diversion programs
To use the instructions when your arrest didn't lead to any charge, you should satisfy the waiting period. If the government can still file the drunk driving charges, you might not qualify for criminal record erasing. Even when there are no charges, the minimum waiting period before bringing an expunction petition is:
- 180 days for Class C misdemeanor
- One year for Class B and A misdemeanors
- Three years for a felony
The term ''statute of limitations'' is the deadline in which the prosecutor can file charges against you. If charged with a misdemeanor, the period is two (2) years from when the offense was committed while that of a felony is three years. Sometimes, this deadline can be tolled (specific timeframes do not count). For instance, the duration you spend outside the state of Texas delays the timescale. It is advisable to consult a criminal defense attorney who will assist you to know the deadline for your DWI crime.
If you satisfy these legal requirements, you can file a Petition for Expunction of Criminal Record.
Get Copies of the Order of Dismissal and Criminal History Record
To get the details you require to fill in your petition and request for expungement, you should get the following:
- The criminal record
- Your charge dismissal order copy- obtain the copy from the clerk of the jurisdiction, which dismissed the case.
Fill In Court Forms
This stage involves filling out the starting forms below:
Select the Required Petition for the Case
Petition for Expunction of Criminal Record (Charges Quashed or Dismissed)
Fill out this form in case a charge was brought against you, the charge was quashed or dismissed, and the deadline has already expired.
Fill in this form in black or blue ink. The petition form asks for the expunction of other arrests like arrests where no charge was brought against the defendant, and the deadline has elapsed.
Petition for Expunction of Criminal Record (Charge not Brought)
A petitioner uses this form if no charge was brought against them, and the deadline has expired.
Make sure you fill in the form in black or blue ink.
Follow the instructions below to fill out your petition. The guidelines apply to all petition forms.
In this case, the petitioner is the defendant. Fill out the necessary information, and don't leave blank spaces. List all aliases of the details, including an incorrect variation of your details in the arrest records, which you know.
Information About Your Arrest
Only include details of a single arrest here.
Write the correct date, city, and county of the arrest. Also, include the sheriff's office or police department that detained you. It is worth noting this is not the arresting police officer's name.
Write your address during your DWI arrest. It might not be the current address.
Details about the Charge Arising from Your Arrest
For all offenses prosecuted or not, write the crime's name together with the information below:
- The case number assigned to the DWI charge
- The date the drunk driving offense happened
- The deadline which applies to your crime
- The date your case was dismissed
Remember to include one copy of the dismissal order to your petition.
Details About Your Other Arrests
Since to be eligible for DWI expungement in Texas, you must be a first-time offender, you will skip this stage.
You Have a Right to the Order of Expunction for Arrest
If you fail to meet the eligibility requirements, you can't use the form to expunge a criminal record.
Agencies with the Arrest Record
Highlight all law enforcement authorities involved in your arrest. Include prisons, magistrates, prosecutors, courts, correction facilities, and probation counseling offices. Additionally, include private companies that sell criminal record details that you think have information about your arrest. The defendants should also highlight the licensing authorities if they applied for state professional licenses.
Private Entities with Your Arrest Records
Some private companies buy arrest records. The companies should be asked to expunge the arrest. Names of the firms ought to be included in the expungement petition.
Request for Relief
It lists what the defendant requests a court of law to order. The defendant should sign their full names and complete the form.
Sign an Unsworn Declaration Under Penalty of Perjury
Write down the required information and then sign the name.
Signing the declaration means that all information in your petition alongside all exhibits is correct. You might be found guilty of lying on any form.
Make Two Copies
Make two copies of the completed expungement petitions and Exhibits. Keep one copy and then submit the other one to the prosecutor.
Fill in the Ending Form
Request the court to sign an ending form after your case is closed. Fill in the appropriate form, but remember to leave the judge's signature blank.
Review Your Forms
It is essential to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney about the DWI charge before filing the petition. The attorney will not review the expungement petition but also advise you accordingly.
File Your Petition
Submit the completed petition plus other starting forms. If you want to bring the forms online, visit efile.txcourts.gov/ofsweb.
You can also physically submit the forms to the office of the clerk in the county where the drunk driving crime allegedly took place. Pay your filing fee. Then the court’s clerk will:
- Note down the court number and Cause number on your petition's first page,
- File stamp the copies with time and date, and
- Retain the original copy and issue your copies back.
You should keep one copy and issue the other to the prosecutor.
Send the File-Stamped Copy of Your Expungement Petition to a Prosecutor
Send it via a certified mail. Be sure to keep your receipt and bring it to your hearing as evidence that you submitted your petition to a prosecutor.
Plan a Hearing
The clerk will send the petitioner a notice that has information on location, date, and time of the hearing or will tell them the hearing date. The hearing should be thirty days after filing the petition.
Moreover, the judge will issue all agencies named in the petition a notice of your hearing. It can be through certified mail or electronic transmission.
Attend the Court Hearing
Remember to carry the following to the courtroom:
- Evidence that you submitted Additional Arrest Exhibit and Your Petition for Expunction of Criminal Records to the prosecutor
- An Order Directing Expunction of Criminal Records which the judge sign
- Copies of your case dismissal
Once you are in the courtroom, remain calm until your case is called. You might be required to convince the court why you qualify for DWI expungement.
If the court agrees to erase your criminal arrest or conviction, the judge should sign your order.
The clerk will issue all officials and government agencies named in your petition a notice of the hearing. These parties can attend the hearing. If they don't want the record cleared, they will tell the court at the hearing.
Submit Your Signed Order to the Clerk
Your case isn't closed until you submit your signed Order Direction Expunction of Criminal Records with the clerk. Make sure you obtain copies of the order from a clerk. The clerk could charge you for the copies.
Also, request the court clerk to issue copies of the order to all agencies and government entities outlined in your order. This order tells the agencies to destroy your criminal record.
Remember, to retain one copy of your order.
Frequently Asked Questions
The frequently asked questions answered by the knowledgeable legal team at Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer are discussed below.
Are There Fees Charged for Filing a Petition for Expunction of Criminal Records?
Yes, a petitioner pays a fee when filing the form. There is also a fee for notifying the different agencies. The charges vary from one county to another. You can call the clerk in the county where the drunk driving offense allegedly took place.
Is There Anything Else You Ought to Do After the Judge Signs Your Order?
Six months following the judge signing the order, obtain your criminal record from the Department of Public Safety and check if the arrest was removed from the criminal records.
Moreover, you can send the Foundation for Continuing Justice your Expunction Order. The foundation will send copies of the order to firms with your record.
Are there Cases of Ineligibility for Driving while Intoxicated Charge Expunction?
You are not eligible for DWI expunction if:
- The time a prosecutor has to file the DWI charge against you has passed.
- The statute of limitations is paused.
- There was a plea agreement clause- If your conviction on a lesser charge was due to plea bargain negotiations, the plea agreement will have a clause that the drunk driving charge could remain on the criminal record, disqualifying you for expunction.
What is the Difference Between a Governor's Pardon and Expungement?
A pardon is an act where a defendant is forgiven of their offense. An executive of a county or state pardons the offense. If you are still facing penalties like serving time, the sentence is no longer effective, and you will be released immediately.
Unlike expungement, when your DWI offense is pardoned, the charge is still on your criminal record, and any person can access it.
What Questions Should You Expect When You Meet with a DWI Expungement Attorney?
It is essential to prepare for the initial consultation meeting with your DWI expungement attorney. DWI expunction in Texas involves comprehensive factual and legal analysis. To evaluate the case and offer legal advice, your attorney should have a lot of information. Although every counsel has their interview process, here are some of the most common questions:
- Where did the drunk driving offense take place?
- Were you found guilty?
- Do you have other convictions or arrests?
- How old were you when the DWI happened?
- When did the DWI happen?
Find Legal Representation Near Me
A DWI conviction can result in a criminal record that affects both your personal and professional life. While it is possible to erase the criminal record, the expungement process involves following strict procedures. Consequently, you require the services of an experienced attorney like Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer. We are dedicated to assisting you in achieving the best possible outcome. Call us today at 817-470-2128 to address your concern and answer all your questions.