If accused of DWI, your charge will forever be on the criminal record, even if you were acquitted unless the charge is sealed. While the drunk driving conviction cannot be deleted, it could be sealed and cannot be seen for all purposes and intents. With the law that became effective in September 2017, you could petition a court of law for an order of nondisclosure of the conviction or arrest. There are criteria you should meet to qualify for record sealing. To get the best outcome, you should retain a seasoned lawyer. At Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer, our lawyers have experience assisting defendants in sealing their DWI records.
What is Record Sealing?
A driving while intoxicated offense on a record is embarrassing and could prevent a person from making progress in life. Landlords, educational institutes, employers, and the general public could access their previous arrests and convictions and use them against them.
Many don't know that the law allows them to seal their criminal records after serving time.
In 2017, lawmakers proposed HB 3016, a bill that expands orders of non-disclosure and record sealing laws. The order of nondisclosure permits a defendant to conceal their records and conviction from the public. In June 2017, Governor Abbott signed the bill into law, and now persons found guilty of a misdemeanor can have their criminal records sealed.
Benefits of DWI Record Sealing
After being found guilty and serving time, you might assume that your life will go back to normal. However, the truth is that after the DWI becomes a public record matter, it can follow you for the rest of your life. If you have been arrested for drunk driving, consider exploring the following benefits of criminal record sealing.
Securing employment after spending time incarcerated can be difficult. Typically, employers conduct background checks on an applicant as part of the hiring process, and learning about the criminal record might affect the opportunity. Given a choice between a new applicant with a criminal history and a person without negative information, any potential employer will pick the applicant with no criminal record.
Having the record sealed gives you peace of mind when searching for employment.
Prevents Promotion Issues
After obtaining employment with a record, it is possible to be negatively affected in the future. Getting a promotion is hard, especially when more professional licenses are required. The criminal record can negatively affect your ability to acquire real estate licenses, among other certifications. Even in cases where additional education or certification is not needed, your employer could overlook you in favor of a colleague without a criminal record when awarding a promotion.
It is not uncommon for a private landlord or public housing project to refuse persons with criminal records as part of their policy. A landlord could claim that the criminal record puts other residents' safety, health, and right to home enjoyment into risk. If the record is sealed, you can tick "No" to questions about previous convictions and arrests on the housing application.
Record sealing also offers benefits to any person looking for a state professional license.
Remember, you should still reveal the conviction or arrest when answering questions posed in an application for a public office or applying for a state license like a real estate license or contractor license.
Fortunately, most licensing agencies will grant a state professional license to a person whose conviction has been sealed. Most will work more favorably depending on the situation if you have completed probation and the record sealing process.
Any experienced attorney will tell you that most clients express a sense of relief after their DWI record is sealed. Although it doesn't erase the past, it aids redemption for the mistake and brings closure of the devastating chapter in their lives.
Credibility as a Witness in a Court of Law
Another advantage of record sealing is the arrest or conviction can't be used to impeach the credibility as a witness in a court of law unless you are the accused in a new case.
The advantage can be instrumental if you press charges against another person or are sued for damages in a civil lawsuit, and your testimony is essential to the case outcome.
Order of Nondisclosure Eligibility
Government Code Section 411.0736 outlines the qualifications you should meet to be eligible for an order of nondisclosure for driving while intoxicated. You should present proof attached to a petition establishing your eligibility.
You can qualify to bring a petition for nondisclosure to seal the charge from the criminal record if:
- The blood alcohol concentration is below 0.15 percent.
- You were sentenced for PC 49.05 for a crime that wasn't a Class A misdemeanor.
- You've completed your sentence terms, including incarceration.
- You didn't violate any law between the time of the sentence and completing your sentence terms.
- You've never been found guilty for another crime apart from a traffic crime that carries a fine.
- You paid costs, fees, restitution, and fines imposed as your penalty.
Please note, the judge will not grant a petition to seal your drunk driving record if you have a prior conviction.
Who Does Not Qualify for Having their DWI Record Sealed?
You do not qualify to have your drunk driving record sealed if:
- The offense involved a collision with somebody else, including passengers.
- You have a previous conviction.
- The drunk driving offense involved a blood alcohol concentration above 0.15 percent.
- The offense occurred in the previous two years if the installation of an ignition interlock device was ordered or five years if IID was not ordered.
Waiting Period for Bringing an Order of Non-Disclosure Petition
The petition eligibility and time limit requirements hinge on your sentence imposed for the drunk driving case.
You could bring a petition:
- Two (2) years after completing probation as long as the installation of an ignition interlock device in your motor vehicle is one of the probation terms
- Three (3) years following the completion of the sentence if it comprised of a jail term
- Five (5) years following completion of a sentence if you were not required to install the ignition interlock device in your motor vehicle.
Understanding the Process for Sealing Your DWI Criminal Record
Discussed below is a step-by-step guide on how DWI convictions and arrests are sealed in Texas:
1. Determining Eligibility
The initial step of sealing your record is determining whether the case qualifies for non-disclosure. Cases where deferred adjudication was completed qualify for sealing. If the charge was dismissed, rather than discharge from probation, it can be eligible for expungement.
Was your misdemeanor DWI case given probation? Was the probation completed successfully? If you could affirm these questions, you need to consult with a criminal defense attorney experienced in record sealing.
Your attorney can review the results of the DWI case for legal issues. Moreover, they will ensure that all pre-filing requirements are met. Some of the mistakes that could cause your petition to be denied include:
- Bringing the petition in an incorrect court
- Filing for record sealing in a DWI case that probation was received
- Filing your petition before the expiration of the Statute of Limitations
2. Acquiring the Necessary Information for Record Sealing
If your drunk driving case qualifies for sealing, the next step is gathering the necessary details that identify your original case. It can include:
- Case number
- Arresting agency
- Your arrest date
- Your date of birth
3. Drafting and Bringing Your Non-Disclosure Order
The next step is filing your petition for non-disclosure and your order of non-disclosure, which orders record sealing. The documents should have:
- Your identification details
- Original charge
- Arrest information
- Entities and agencies that you think have your case and arrest records
- The facility where you were booked following the arrest
- Arresting agency
- The Texas Department of Public Safety
- The court where your charge was assigned
Moreover, there are numerous government offices or entities where the order ought to be sent.
Remember that attempting to seal a criminal record before the Statute of Limitations expiring or bringing non-disclosure when the offense is not eligible for sealing could cause:
- The Texas Department of Public Safety or the State to object your petition or
- Even cause the court to deny your order.
4. Non-Disclosure Hearing
The clerk should notify your attorney about the hearing date and the jurisdiction where the court hearing will occur. Usually, the hearing takes approximately 30 to 45 days after the filing date to have a hearing.
Depending mainly on your case status, your lawyer can attend a hearing between the filing date and the hearing date on your behalf without you appearing. During the court hearing, the judge will listen to arguments, evidence, and why the petition should be granted.
The state of Texas uses stringent criteria that should be satisfied before non-disclosure is granted. Otherwise, the order could be denied and could prevent you from bringing another petition for the DWI case.
5. Distribution of Non-Disclosure Order and Record Sealing
If the court grants the non-disclosure, you can now deny your arrest, conviction, and the non-disclosure. Nevertheless, an exemption exists. If interrogated under oath in a court proceeding about your arrest, you can claim only that your case has been sealed.
Also, to be able to deny your sealed record, the court should send a copy of your non-disclosure order to agencies highlighted in your order. After receiving the order, all agencies listed should conceal your record from the public.
What Your Record Sealing Attorney Needs to Know
It is essential to prepare thoroughly with your record sealing attorney. Record sealing involves complex and detailed factual and legal analysis. To analyze your case and offer the correct legal advice, your attorney should have information. Although every attorney has their interview process, outlined below is a list of the frequently asked questions:
Where Did Your DWI Happen?
Record sealing procedures and laws vary with states. Therefore, your attorney cannot advise unless they know the law that applies to the case.
Also, you should bring the petition for nondisclosure in the court, which handled the criminal case. If you've court documents, remember to take them to the initial appointment.
The Crime Involved
Sometimes, record sealing rules change depending primarily on the seriousness of the crime and the case circumstances. Typically, it's easier to seal a misdemeanor.
During the appointment, be ready to discuss the criminal history in detail. Remember to carry your court documents and police reports to the meeting.
Were You Sentenced?
If you were found guilty of DWI, you might have more requirements in your petition. For instance, you should complete your sentence terms, including paying fines and completing probation before you qualify. If you've documents proving the completion of the sentence, carry them to the initial appointment.
Do You've Previous Convictions or Arrests?
You can only seal a first-time drunk driving offense in Texas. If you have other convictions or arrests, be ready to discuss the criminal history with the attorney. That way, they can know how to help you.
When Did the Offense Happen?
Texas imposes waiting periods in record sealing cases. To determine the eligibility, your attorney should know:
- When the drunk driving offense took place
- When you were sentenced
- When you completed the sentence
Do You've Proof of Rehabilitation?
To seal your criminal record, you should persuade the court that it's in the community's best interest. To establish this, you could prove that you have a stable job, contributing to society, or returning to school. Be ready to talk about your lifestyle since the conviction or arrest.
What is the Difference Between Record Sealing and Expungement?
It is essential to compare sealed and expunged criminal records when determining what the two processes entail.
An expungement is a process of clearing a conviction or an arrest from your criminal record. Although it is a favorable option, it is not available for all convictions and arrests.
When your criminal record is expunged, the court orders your records linked to your case and arrest to be deleted and destroyed. The records include case files, mugshots, fingerprints, arrest records, jail records, and other records originating from the case. The expunction permits you to lawfully deny your arrest, prosecution, and case unless you are being questioned under oath in a court proceeding.
On the other hand, a sealed record gives the illusion that the arrest or conviction has been cleared. Essentially, when your record is sealed, it means that it is not available to the general public. Nonetheless, a sealed record can still be reopened or accessed by a court order. When and how a criminal record could be unsealed depends on the jurisdiction.
Sealing Your Driving While Intoxicated Juvenile Record
Family Code 58.003 allows the sealing of your juvenile records. If you have a juvenile record available for sealing, you can bring a court petition where the proceeding took place.
Who Has Juvenile Files and Records?
If a defendant has been arrested, detained, or prosecuted with a Class B misdemeanor committed when they were aged ten years but not older than seventeen years of age, they have a juvenile record and file.
Moreover, a person might have juvenile records if they were prosecuted with Class C misdemeanor if the municipal or justice court transferred their case to a juvenile court.
What is a Juvenile Record and File?
If you were adjudicated for delinquent conduct, probably you have juvenile records with entities like:
- Local law enforcement
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
- The Texas DPS
The criminal record is permanent and cannot be erased or destroyed unless:
- It qualifies for sealing, or
- You engage an attorney to bring a petition to have your criminal record sealed.
Although juvenile records and files are usually confidential, there are exceptions. The police, prosecutors, correctional officers, sheriff officers, and probation officers can access your records. Also, the records are available to educational institutions, employers, and licensing agencies. Authorized persons can access your treatment records like drug treatment and counseling placement.
Automatic Restriction of Access to Records System
Automatic restriction of access to records is a system tailored to restrict access to your juvenile record after you attain twenty-one years if you haven't committed another crime after reaching seventeen.
Per the system, your criminal record isn't sealed or destroyed. It is under limited access. It is only available to criminal justice authorities. For other inquiries, education, and employment, you can claim that the record doesn't exist, and you are lawfully permitted to deny your arrest, adjudication for the DWI, or prosecution.
For the restricted access to occur, neither you nor your family should take action. That means you don't have to engage an attorney or bring a petition. After attaining twenty-one years, the process is automatic if you have not violated any law since the seventeenth birthday.
Please note, you do not qualify for restricted access if your case was:
- Transferred to an adult court to be handled as an adult case
- Handled as a determinate sentence case by the juvenile court
Frequently Asked Questions
Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer has helped thousands of clients seal their drunk driving records. Although the clients come from diverse backgrounds, they usually ask the same questions, including:
1. What is the Definition of Deferred Adjudication?
The judge might place you on deferred adjudication probation and submit guilt finding while you complete the probation conditions. If you complete the probation terms, the court won't enter a finding of guilt. Nevertheless, the DWI record remains public.
2. Why is Your DWI Case on Your Record Yet You Have Received Deferred Adjudication?
The law does not automatically seal a criminal record following completing your deferred adjudication probation. If the court hasn't ordered sealing the DWI case that you received deferred adjudication, then there are records of the arrest, charges, and probation.
3. How Long Does the Drunk Driving Record Sealing Process Take?
Usually, the process takes a couple of months. To initiate the non-disclosure process, you should file a motion or petition with the charge's jurisdiction. A court hearing should be scheduled for thirty days following the filing of the petition. After the non-disclosure order is issued, it could take months for the sealing to be completed.
4. Can the DWI Non-Disclosure Process be Completed Faster or Sped Up?
The non-disclosure will be scheduled for a hearing date after filing the petition. Consequently, the sooner you bring the petition, the sooner a hearing will be held, and the petition determined.
5. How Long Does It Take for Your DWI Record to be Sealed?
Generally, all court records are updated within forty-eight hours while the Texas Department of Public Safety and agencies take thirty to sixty days to update their criminal records.
6. What Takes Place After the Judge Signs Your Order of Nondisclosure?
After signing your order of non-disclosure, the court should send your order to the Texas Department of Public Safety and all agencies listed in your order. Then the Texas Department of Public Safety sends the non-disclosure order to jails, prosecutors, law enforcement departments, political subdivisions, central federal depositories of criminal records, and county offices that the criminal record is sealed.
Moreover, the Department of Public Safety informs all private companies and buyers of the Department of Public Safety Criminal Record Database that the criminal records have been sealed and should not be released.
7. What Happens if Charged with a New Offense After Your Case has been Sealed?
If you are found guilty of another new crime after the DWI case has been sealed, the law requires the previously sealed criminal records to be unsealed.
Find a Seasoned DWI Record Sealing Attorney Near Me
Having a drunk driving conviction on your criminal record could hurt your finances, career, family, and future. Luckily, Texas recognizes that you shouldn't spend your life with an arrest or conviction haunting you, and the law allows you to seal the criminal record. While the record sealing process is complicated, a qualified attorney at the Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer can analyze whether you are eligible and guide you throughout the process. For more information about your DWI record sealing, contact us today at 817-470-2128 for a free consultation.