Despite a criminal record being a certain repercussion of any DWI, many are unaware of how long a DWI stays on your record in Texas let alone how damaging and far-reaching the impacts of a criminal record can be. Having a DWI on your record in Texas can affect everything from your housing to your career, education, immigration status, and child custody. While a DWI- like most crimes in Texas- will remain on your record forever, steps can be taken to alleviate the impact that charges may have. Here’s what you can do to avoid the harsh outcomes of a DWI on your record.
Petition for Nondisclosure:
The only real way to ensure that a DWI conviction does not stay on your record in Texas is to petition for a nondisclosure. An Order of Nondisclosure effectively seals your records from the public (including background check websites) and makes them exclusively available to law enforcement personnel. Various criteria must be met to apply for a nondisclosure, with eligibility restricted to first-time offenders who did not get in an accident, had a blood alcohol concentration below .15, have fully completed their sentence, and have paid all related fines. If you are eligible for an Order of Nondisclosure, you will still have to adhere to waiting periods before you can apply. The waiting period for a nondisclosure varies greatly depending on how harsh your criminal sentence was and can last anywhere from two and five years. Despite the difficulty obtaining a nondisclosure, once a court has approved your petition you can legally deny ever being convicted of a DWI.
Deferred Adjudication and DWI Court:
In Texas, deferred adjudication and DWI court offer rehabilitative justice for first-time offenders as a way to avoid jail time and a DWI conviction staying on your criminal record. Deferred adjudication and DWI court are similar to probation and require discretionary supervision and attendance at various outpatient programs for at least a year. Most first-time DWI offenders who did not get in an accident and are at risk of reoffending can apply for deferred adjudication or DWI court. Upon compliance and completion of deferred adjudication or DWI court, the criminal charges for a DWI will be dropped, and your case will be dropped without conviction. While a deferred adjudication will still appear on your criminal record and in background checks, it isn’t considered a conviction on job and housing applications, and, with explanation, employers and landlords may be sympathetic towards your situation.
A plea bargain is a good alternative for those concerned with how long a DWI stays on your record in Texas. For first-time offenders, a plea bargain will typically reduce a DWI conviction down to reckless driving, which, while still considered a misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $200 fine. With a good lawyer, many prosecutors will agree to a plea bargain especially if an offender was not involved in an accident and had good behavior during arrest. While a plea bargain requires a guilty plea and will still result in a criminal record, reckless driving carries less stigma and will hold less weight on a record compared to DWI charges. This makes plea bargaining a useful last resort which can be incredibly beneficial when your case is likely to go to trial or if you feel the evidence is stacked against you.
Hire a Specialized DWI Lawyer!
While Texas thankfully provides several ways to avoid a DWI on your record, many of these options may be unavailable or impossible to obtain without the help of a highly skilled and specialized DWI lawyer. Expert DWI lawyers are well aware of the harmful impacts of a DWI on your criminal record and will know the best way forward to avoid these impacts and the harmful penalties of a conviction. In certain cases, a specialized DWI lawyer can have your charges dropped altogether for a faulty breathalyzer test or an officer violating your constitutional rights. The National College for DUI Defense offers a great directory of lawyers who are board certified in DWI defense throughout Texas.