January 17, 2024
DWI charges in Texas, as well as in other states, can have a significant impact on your personal and professional life. A simple criminal background check will reveal this felony, preventing you from working in law enforcement, among other jobs.
For that reason, can a DWI be expunged in Texas? As you know, the former helps erase your criminal charges.
In this article, we’ll explore when a DWI can be expunged and guide you through the legal steps of the expunction process. So, keep reading for all the details!
Can a DWI Conviction Be Expunged in Texas?
Unfortunately, no. You can’t expunge a DWI conviction record in Texas. That’s because the former criminal conviction and could be a third-degree felony if it’s a habitual offense. Even if you’ve received deferred adjudication on your first DWI case, a third-time conviction qualifies as a third-degree felony.
According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, chapter 55, a convicted felon doesn’t qualify for an expunction. Additionally, a first-time DWI criminal offense is classified as a class B misdemeanor in Texas. The former charge isn’t eligible either, if it resulted in a conviction.
Now, if you’re talking about record sealing, that’s a different story. As you might know, expunction and nondisclosure are two different laws. The latter legal process won’t help you clear your criminal record.
However, it will restrict government entities from disclosing your criminal charges to the public. So, the drunk driving arrest won’t appear during background checks, which can benefit your professional life.
When Can a DWI Be Expunged in Texas?
As mentioned above, a conviction for DWI will forever appear on your criminal record. The good news is that, in some cases, you can remove your DWI arrest from your criminal history.
Here are some of the conditions that can make you expunction eligible after a DWI arrest:
Your Case Was Acquitted or Dismissed
Whether it’s a DWI or another felony, you can qualify for an expunction if your case was dismissed or acquitted. That’s because the former doesn’t lead to a final conviction for the crime.
Likewise, reducing or shifting your charges can help you get an expungement as long as the crime meets the eligibility criteria.
For instance, if your defense attorney shifted your charges to traffic violations, you can file a petition for expunction since the offense is a class C misdemeanor and you received Deferred Adjudication.
After reducing your charges, you can file for dismissal. Of course, you won’t get a DWI expungement if your reduced offense is a conviction for a class A or B misdemeanor, like reckless driving.
You Were Not Guilty of the Criminal Charge
You qualify for an expungement if you’re not guilty of a crime. The rule applies to DWI cases along with other crimes.
So, you can fight your DWI case if you’re falsely arrested due to inaccurate field sobriety tests, an illegal search and seizure, or other unlawful arrest acts. Once you’re found not guilty of the crime, you can file for a petition for an expunction to clear your criminal record.
You Are a Minor
In Texas, minors under 18 can clear their juvenile record for alcohol-related crimes, among other offenses. That’s as long as they’ve fulfilled the court orders.
Consequently, you can file an expunction petition to remove past offenses from your record if your first and only DWI arrest was during your rebellious period. That’s necessary since your criminal history doesn’t simply disappear from your juvenile record once you become an adult.
However, the above rule doesn’t apply if you’re convicted of habitual DWI; likewise, if you’ve committed a serious felony, like aggravated assault while DWI, chances are you can’t clear your record.
Your Case Received a Deferred Adjudication
For those who don’t know, deferred adjudication is a type of probation a judge can order instead of jail time. The former can help you keep a conviction from going on with your criminal record.
However, not every crime qualifies for deferred adjudication. Your charge must be a nonviolent misdemeanor or felony. Additionally, you must be a first-time offender in the case of DWI.
According to House Bill 3582, first-time DWI offenders can receive deferred adjudication instead of being convicted.
However, that’s if you meet the qualifying factors, such as not having had an accident. Your blood alcohol concentration should also be lower than 0.15. After completing your sentence, you can file for an expunction to clear your record.
It’s worth mentioning that commercially licensed drivers can’t qualify for the former process in DWI cases or any moving offense.
How to Get a DWI Criminal Record Expunged
Generally, you need to file a petition for expunction at the court involved in your DWI case. After presenting the required documents to a court clerk, you will attend a hearing to receive the judge’s decision to grant or decline your expungement request.
The entire process can be complex, especially the paperwork. So, it’s best to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you with your case. Here’s a detailed explanation to help you apply for an expungement:
Step 1: Check If You Qualify
As mentioned earlier, you can’t get an expunction for DWI offenses aside from the mentioned exceptions. However, even if you’re eligible, that doesn’t mean you can apply for an expungement petition right away.
In the case of a dismissed charge, deferred adjudication, or probation, you need to wait around five years before filing an expungement petition. Even if you’ve received a pardon, you have to complete the same waiting period to qualify for criminal record clearing.
However, the time can vary depending on the statute of limitations regarding your case. Dismissed DWI offenses can have a statute of limitations of between two and three years, depending on the crime grade.
Now, you might think that you don’t need to wait to apply for an expunction for unfiled cases. However, that’s not true. In some circumstances the waiting periods can be waived.
Class C misdemeanors require you to wait 180 days from the arrest date before applying for an expunction. The former only applies when you reduce your DWI charge. On the other hand, you have to wait at least one year from the arrest date for classes A and B.
Step 2: File a Petition for Expunction
You need to fill out a form to file a petition for expunction with the appropriate court. You can do the former yourself or hire an attorney to help you prepare the files. The latter is recommended since errors can prevent you from getting an expunction.
Typically, the form asks for the following:
- Personal information
- Offense type
- Date and place of the arrest
- Cause number
- List of all facilities involved in your case
Aside from the petition, you need a hearing notice and an order of expunction, which the judge signs on trial day. After completing the petition, the court clerk will ask you to pay a filing fee and notify you of the hearing date.
Step 3: Attend the Hearing
Typically, most expunction hearing trials take at least 30 days to be scheduled. Once the court sets the date, the clerk will notify you and all the listed entities in the petition form. The latter are called respondents.
The hearing court invites those parties to argue against your expungement. That’s why it’s best to hire a criminal defense attorney to fight for your case.
If you meet all the requirements, the judge will probably grant you an expunction for your DWI charge. It’s then your responsibility to send the signed order of expunction to all the facilities that might have your old criminal record.
So, can a DWI be expunged in Texas?
As you can see, you can’t remove a DWI conviction from your criminal record in Texas. However, you can file for the former legal process under some conditions, like dismissed DWI charges and deferred adjudication for first-time offenders.
Still, you’ll have to wait around 3 to 5 years before proceeding with the expunction petition. Although the process is time-consuming, removing a felony from your criminal record is worth it since it alleviates the worries that come with background checks.
If you need a prior criminal charge erased off your record in Houston, contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help. We also serve Harris County, Montgomery County, Houston County, Galveston County, Conroe County, and Fort Bend County.