As always, first we’ll give where to give the state’s up to date information and then we’ll talk about what is a DWI, how it’s defined in Texas and how you can get your charge expunged.
What is a DWI in Texas?
In Texas, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) refers to the offense of operating a motor vehicle in a public place while lacking the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body. It can also refer to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more, regardless of your physical or mental condition.
A DWI charge in Texas can lead to severe penalties. For a first-time offender, a DWI is typically classified as a Class B misdemeanor, which carries penalties that may include a fine of up to $2,000, a jail term ranging from 72 hours to 180 days, and a driver’s license suspension of up to a year.
Consequences of a DWI Conviction
A DWI conviction in Texas has both immediate and long-term consequences. Besides the immediate penalties such as fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension, a DWI conviction leaves a permanent mark on your criminal record. This can have far-reaching impacts on your life.
Employment: Many employers conduct background checks before hiring, and a DWI conviction may negatively affect your employment prospects, as it often raises concerns about reliability and judgement.
Insurance: Having a DWI on your record will likely increase your car insurance rates significantly, as insurance companies see you as a high-risk driver.
Personal Life: A DWI conviction can affect personal relationships and social standing. It may also cause emotional stress and anxiety due to the stigma attached to a criminal record.
Professional Licensing: Certain professions, such as law, medicine, and teaching, require professional licensing. A DWI conviction may complicate the licensing process or even result in denial of a license.
Hence, expungement becomes a crucial tool for those with a DWI conviction, to mitigate these impacts and move forward with their lives. In the following sections, we will delve into what expungement means in Texas, and how you can go about it.
Understanding Expungement in Texas
Expungement, also known as expunction in Texas legal terms, refers to the process of having an arrest, charge, or conviction removed completely from your criminal record. When a record is expunged, it’s as though the event never occurred in the eyes of the law. This can be immensely beneficial for someone with a DWI on their record, as it means the conviction will not show up on most background checks and it is lawful to deny the occurrence of the arrest and prosecution.
However, expungement has its limitations. Not every case is eligible for expungement, and even when a record is expunged, certain agencies, such as law enforcement or immigration, may still be able to access the sealed records.
Who Qualifies for Expungement in Texas?
Expunging a DWI in Texas is a complicated process, and eligibility depends on several factors:
- Completion of Probation or Sentence: Before expungement can be considered, you must have fully served your sentence or completed your probation.
- Time since Conviction: Texas law requires that a certain amount of time must have passed since your conviction or the completion of your sentence. The waiting period can vary based on the specifics of your case.
- No Pending Charges or Convictions: To be eligible for expungement, you should not have any pending charges or recent convictions.
- First Offense: Expungement generally applies to first-time offenders. If you have been convicted of DWI more than once, it may complicate your eligibility.
It’s important to consult with a lawyer to fully understand if you meet the eligibility requirements for expungement.
Process of Expungement for a DWI Conviction
Ok. Let’s understand the process! If you are eligible to expunge a DWI conviction, the process involves several steps:
- Prepare a Petition for Expungement: This is a legal document requesting the court to erase your DWI record. It must include your personal information, details about the arrest, charges, and the outcome of your case.
- File the Petition: The petition is filed in the county where you were arrested or where your case was heard. There is a filing fee, the amount of which can vary by county.
- Court Hearing: A hearing date will be scheduled. During the hearing, the judge will consider your request and the responses from any involved parties, such as the district attorney’s office.
- Judge’s Decision: If the judge grants the expungement, an order will be issued to all agencies that have a record of your DWI, directing them to erase the record.
- Follow Up: After a reasonable period, it can be beneficial to check with the Department of Public Safety and the relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure the records have been erased.
Let’s continue onto costs you might incur while trying to get your DWI expunged.
Costs Associated with Expungement
When considering expungement, it’s crucial to be aware of the costs involved in the process. The expenses you might encounter typically include court fees and legal fees. The court fees are related to the filing of the expungement petition, and these can vary by county but generally fall in the range of $200 to $300. The largest portion of the expense is usually legal fees. It’s important to have a legal professional guide you through the process to ensure it’s done correctly and you get the desired result. Legal fees can significantly vary depending on the complexity of your case, but they often range from $1,000 to $2,500. While these costs may seem high, one should weigh them against the long-term benefits of having a clean record.
How Long Does Expungement Take in Texas?
The timeframe to have a DWI removed from your record in Texas can vary widely based on the specifics of your case and the county where the conviction occurred. Once the petition for expungement is filed, it may take several weeks or even a few months for a hearing date to be scheduled. After the hearing, if the expungement is granted, it might take another few weeks for all agencies to comply with the judge’s order to erase the record. Overall, one should expect the process to take anywhere from a few months to over a year. It’s essential to be patient during this process and to ensure all steps are correctly followed to avoid any unnecessary delays.
Benefits of Getting a DWI Expunged
The benefits of having a DWI expunged from your record are significant. First, with a clean record, your prospects for employment are likely to improve. Many employers conduct criminal background checks, and a DWI conviction may negatively impact your chances of getting hired. With an expunged record, you no longer have to disclose the conviction on job applications, increasing your chances of securing employment.
Secondly, having a clean record can make it easier for you to secure housing. Landlords often run background checks on potential tenants, and a criminal conviction could impact your ability to rent an apartment or house.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, having a DWI expunged can provide significant peace of mind. The stigma of a criminal conviction can cause stress and anxiety. Having a clean record can help you move forward, secure in the knowledge that your past mistakes won’t follow you into your future.
FAQs about DWI Expungement in Texas
Many people have questions when it comes to DWI expungements in Texas, and it’s crucial to clarify some of the most common concerns. For example, many ask if they can apply for expungement if they have more than one DWI conviction. While it’s generally more challenging to get an expungement with multiple convictions, it’s not impossible, and the specifics will depend on the nature of the convictions and the time elapsed.
Another common question is whether or not an expunged record is completely inaccessible. In most cases, an expunged record won’t show up on general background checks, such as those conducted by employers or landlords. However, certain agencies, like law enforcement or immigration, might still be able to access these records.
Lastly, people often want to know if they can expunge a DWI conviction from another state in Texas. The answer is usually no, as expungement laws and eligibility requirements are state-specific.
Getting Legal Help for Expungement
The expungement process can be complex, and the assistance of a legal professional can be invaluable in navigating this procedure. An experienced attorney can help evaluate your eligibility, prepare the necessary paperwork, represent you during court hearings, and ensure the process is completed as quickly and smoothly as possible.
When choosing a lawyer, consider their experience with expungement cases, specifically DWI expungements in Texas. Look for someone who can explain the process clearly and who makes you feel comfortable and confident in their abilities.
Many local resources are available for individuals seeking expungement in Texas, such as legal aid organizations or pro bono services. Your county’s bar association can also be a good starting point for finding a qualified lawyer in your area.