If you have been arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, you may be tempted to plead guilty. Unfortunately, many DWI convictions in Texas cannot be expunged, which means that you will have a criminal record. Before pleading guilty to DWI charges in Texas, it is important to talk to a DWI lawyer who is familiar with Texas DWI laws and who can discuss the best course of action for your DWI case.
Texas DWI Expungement Laws
According to the Texas criminal code (Tex. Code Crim. Proc. § 55.01), if you have been arrested, charged and convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol, you cannot have the conviction expunged from your record unless you have received an acquittal or a pardon for the offense. You may, however, have your record expunged under the following conditions:
- You were arrested for a misdemeanor or felony and later received a pardon.
- You were arrested for a misdemeanor or felony and were later acquitted.
- You were arrested and released but you were not charged for the DWI offense.
- You were arrested, charged, tried and found guilty of the offense, but at a later time, the charge was appealed and the court acquitted you of the DWI offense.
- You were arrested and charged for DWI, but you were later released without a conviction, assuming also that the court did not require you to perform community service for the offense.
- You were charged with a Class C offense, but the charges were dismissed after successful completion of deferred adjudication community supervision.
All other DWI offenders who have been arrested, charged, tried and convicted of DWI will not be allowed to have their Texas DWI conviction expunged from their criminal record.
What is the difference between an expunction and a nondisclosure in Texas?
If you have been convicted of DWI, you may not be eligible to have your records erased through expunction, but you may have the right to file a motion for nondisclosure. To qualify for nondisclosure, you generally have to complete a deferred adjudication probation program, which requires you to complete your probation and defers a finding of guilt from the judge.
A nondisclosure order does not erase or destroy information related to a DWI conviction, but it can prevent the Texas Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement agencies in Texas from giving this information to the public, or to anyone who requests the information and who is not part of law enforcement or other identified agencies.
What is the benefit to requesting an expunction or nondisclosure of my DWI case?
If you were arrested for DWI and charged for the crime, but later pardoned or had the case dismissed, you may wonder why you would need to bother with requesting an expunction. In some cases, however, there may be a benefit of having your criminal DWI record expunged or of requesting a nondisclosure.
For instance, if you successfully expunged your Texas DWI arrest, you have the legal right to deny the existence of the arrest and the expunction order on an employment, school or military application. If you are called to testify at a civil trial, you may also deny under oath that you have been arrested. Only in a criminal proceeding must you acknowledge the arrest, stating that the arrest was expunged.
A nondisclosure allows you to deny that you have been arrested or charged with an offense, but there are certain agencies that will still have access to your records. For example, all law enforcement agencies, the State Bar of Texas, the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, the Texas Board of Law Examiners, and the Board of Nurse Examiners are just a few of the dozen or so agencies who will retain access to your arrest records.
What if I pleaded guilty or no contest, or my case was dismissed?
If you have pleaded guilty or no contest to your DWI charge, you will receive probation or jail time. Unfortunately, the only way to have your DWI conviction expunged after a successful DWI conviction is to receive a pardon through the Governor’s Office.
If you were arrested for DWI but you pleaded guilty to a lesser offense and need information about your options for expungement in Texas, talk to a DWI lawyer to find out if you can request a nondisclosure.
As mentioned above, if you are arrested and charged with DWI, but the state later decides that there is insufficient evidence to convict you of the charge and your case is dismissed, there will still be a record of the arrest. In this case, however, you may need to request an expungement to ensure that the arrest and later dismissal do not threaten your future ability to find employment, to get a loan, or to gain certification in a particular field of employment.