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When Can You Expunge a DWI Arrest from Your Record?An arrest and conviction for driving while intoxicated will stay on your criminal record long after any court ruling or punishment. You may not realize the effect that a DWI record can have until it shows up during a background check when you are applying for a job. This may be particularly frustrating if you were never convicted of DWI. A DWI arrest and charge remain on your record unless you take steps to expunge them. However, your case must meet specific conditions in order to be eligible for expunction in Texas.

What Is Expunction?

Criminal charges and convictions are normally visible to anyone who conducts a criminal background check on you. With DWI convictions in Texas, you can petition to have your conviction sealed from everyone except for law enforcement and employers in sensitive fields, such as education. Texas allows record sealing for some first-time DWI offenders whose conviction did not include aggravating charges. Expunction removes the charge and conviction from your record so that it does not appear in any searches of official public records (Your arrest may still appear in an internet search if a story about your arrest was published and is archived on a private media company’s website).

Qualifying for Expunction

You cannot expunge a DWI conviction from your criminal record in Texas. Even if you were convicted of a lesser charge, you cannot remove the DWI arrest from your record. If you were a juvenile convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, your juvenile record may be eligible for expunction if you completed your punishment and do not have any other alcohol-related charges on your record. Otherwise, you can expunge your DWI arrest and charge from your record only if you were not convicted, such as:

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Immigrants At Risk If Convicted for DWIA U.S. representative from central Texas recently claimed that half of the people arrested for driving while intoxicated on Interstate 35 are illegal immigrants. At a forum on the Mexican border crisis, the congressman said that local law enforcement had told him this, as well as that most illegal immigrants had no identification but police officers had to let them go with just a ticket because the jails are full. Fact-checkers debunked this claim on multiple levels:

  • None of the law enforcement agencies they talked to had official statistics on the number of DWI arrests that involved illegal immigrants; and
  • Jails have contingency plans in the event that they have reached capacity.

What is true is that immigrants, here legally or otherwise, can face serious consequences if they are convicted of DWI.

Will I Be Deported?

If you are an immigrant to the U.S. who has been charged with DWI, your biggest fear may be whether a conviction would result in deportation. The answer depends on your legal status in the U.S.:

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When Police, Hospitals Disagree on Search ConsentTexas has an implied consent law that states that a licensed driver has consented to chemical testing if a police officer has probable cause to believe that they have been driving while intoxicated. The law applies even when the suspect is unconscious and unable to give consent. When a DWI suspect is injured in an incident, the officer will often collect a blood sample from the suspect at the hospital, where there is a trained staff available to draw the sample. However, some hospitals have a policy against drawing blood from a patient who is unable to consent. This can lead to disputes between police officers trying to obtain evidence and hospital staff concerned about the patient’s privacy.

Recent Example

A nurse at a Dallas area hospital recently refused to allow police to draw blood from a DWI suspect until they presented a warrant. The male suspect had been involved in a car accident that killed two women. The man had been convicted for DWI five times previously, gotten off of probation five days earlier, and just had the ignition interlock device removed from his vehicle. A breath test showed no traces of alcohol, but the officer believed that he was intoxicated because they claim that he:

  • Had been driving the wrong way at the time of the accident;
  • Said he had been taking Xanax;
  • Had bloodshot eyes; and
  • Spoke rapidly.

Police arrested the man, who allegedly agreed to a blood test. After the suspect was taken to a hospital, a nurse told the officer that they could not do a legal blood draw on the suspect, claiming that the suspect could not consent to the test because he was intoxicated. The officer obtained a warrant to draw the blood sample from the suspect, who has been charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter.

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When to Consider a Plea Bargain for Your DWI CaseThe preferred strategy when you have been charged with driving while intoxicated is to try to receive a “not guilty” verdict or to get the charge dismissed. In some cases, your best strategy is to minimize the penalties you receive. When a conviction seems unavoidable, your DWI defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, in which you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or lesser penalty. Plea bargaining should be a last resort after evaluating your case and determining how you can contest the charge. A plea bargain can still result in severe consequences.

The Reality of Plea Bargains

Your best-case scenario in plea bargaining with prosecutors would be to get your DWI charge reduced to reckless driving, obstruction of a highway or public intoxication. These charges could allow you to avoid jail time and a driver’s license suspension. However, prosecutors are more likely to offer lesser penalties in exchange for pleading guilty to DWI. When deciding whether to offer a plea bargain, prosecutors will consider:

  • Your previous criminal record, or lack thereof;
  • How much greater they claim your blood alcohol concentration was than the 0.08 legal limit;
  • Whether there was a crash or injuries involved in the incident; and
  • The conduct of yourself and the police officer during your arrest.

A first-time DWI conviction in Texas is a class B misdemeanor, with a minimum of 72 hours in jail and a driver’s license suspension of at least 90 days.

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Texas Axing Driver Responsibility Program, Raising DWI FinesTexas is ending its controversial Driver Responsibility Program that requires an annual surcharge for people convicted for driving violations, including driving while intoxicated. Statistics suggest that more than 1 million Texas drivers will be eligible to regain their driver’s licenses – some immediately and some when the program officially ends on Sept. 1. Civil liberties advocates have criticized the program for disproportionately affecting low-income traffic offenders. However, the news is not completely positive for people facing DWI charges. In exchange for eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program, Texas is increasing its fines for people convicted of DWI.

Driver Responsibility Program

Texas enacted the Driver Responsibility Program in 2003 to charge an additional fee beyond the fine charged upon conviction for a traffic violation. Drivers whose licenses were suspended must pay an annual surcharge to the Texas Department of Public Safety for three years in order to regain their licenses. For DWI convictions, the annual surcharge was:

  • $1,000 for a first offense;
  • $1,500 for a second offense; and
  • $2,000 for DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater.

The Austin Community Law Center had filed a lawsuit against Texas, claiming that the program placed too great of a financial burden on people with low incomes. Many Texas residents either did not understand or could not afford the surcharges and were left without a driver’s license as a result. Texas will wipe out the remaining surcharges on Sept. 1, and drivers will be able to reinstate their licenses if they pay the reinstatement fee and resolve any issues that are not related to the Driver Responsibility Program.

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Office

Bexar County

In the historic King William District

1011 S. Alamo,
San Antonio, Texas 78210
210-226-0965
888-726-5625 Toll Free
210-226-7540

Office

Guadalupe County

109 Court Street,
Seguin, Texas 78155
830-372-1522
888-726-5625 Toll Free