Prior to the enactment of the new DWI non-disclosure law, a DWI conviction in Texas guaranteed the lifelong stigma of a permanent criminal record, regardless of whether the citizen had never been in trouble with the law before. Such drastic consequences are proof of the power of the MADD lobby, but such harsh laws led to the absurd result of 1st time offenders being labeled criminals for the rest of their lives. A criminal record affects a person’s employment, educational, and housing opportunities, and, therefore, their future socio-economic potential. Fortunately, in the most recent legislative session, lawmakers brought common sense and fairness to the table in passing a bill allowing for the petition for non-disclosure of DWI convictions.
While it will be applicable in specific, narrowly drawn circumstances, it’s a great step in the right direction and should provide relief to a lot of folks. In a nutshell, the law provides for different waiting periods and eligibility requirements, depending on whether the person successfully completed probation or whether they received a jail sentence or did not successfully complete probation.
If someone successfully completed their DWI probation, then after a 2-year waiting period they are eligible, so long as (1) they have no previous conviction and were not placed on deferred adjudication for any offense other than a fine only traffic offense; (2) they were not convicted of having a BAC of .15 or greater; (3) the order for non-disclosure is found to be in the best interest of justice after a hearing; (4) there was no accident involving personal injury to another person; (5) the person successfully completed 6 months of having an ignition interlock device as part of their bond or community supervision; and (6) the client is not convicted or placed on deferred adjudication during the waiting period for any offense other than a traffic offense. If the client did not have an ignition interlock device, then the waiting period is 5 years instead of 2.
If someone either received a jail sentence or had their probation revoked, they are still eligible if they meet the above requirements, but after a 3-year waiting period if they had an interlock or a 5-year waiting period if they did not.
Because of this new law, going forward, anyone charged with a DWI with an allegation that their BAC was .15 or higher should try to negotiate for a reduction to a regular class B DWI in the event of a plea bargain. And, strangely enough, the client will want to have an interlock as a condition of probation in order to dramatically shorten the waiting period.
The new law took effect September 1, 2017 and is retroactive. Therefore, many persons out there with old DWI convictions may be eligible and should absolutely take action to restore their good name and reputation in the community. Contact the Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC today for a free eligibility evaluation by calling 281-300-8695. Together we can clean the slate and protect your future.