A DWI arrest can bring serious consequences: Your license can be suspended for up to a year, you may be fined thousands of dollars, and you’ll have a class B misdemeanor on your criminal record. Harsh punishment for one mistake. As of September 1, prosecutors are now allowed to offer a bargain that will keep your first DWI off your record and keep your license in your wallet if you agree to deferred adjudication.
Starting Fresh After a DWI
When DWIs do not result in deadly accidents or property damage, many lawmakers see reason to give the driver in question a second chance. Having just a bit too much to drink before you get behind the wheel may be the sign of a simple miscalculation rather than willful flouting of laws. Especially for those who are new to drinking or don’t drink often, knowing when you’re too impaired to drive can feel like guesswork.
The new law doesn’t give you carte blanche after an arrest, but prosecutors may offer those accused of their first DWI the chance to keep their record clean. Under HB 3582, the defendant must plead guilty to request a deferred adjudication. They would then be placed on probation, and in this period may have to:
- Perform community service
- Install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car
- Ensure the IID is not triggered by an attempt to drive when the driver’s BAC is over 0.03
- Complete a course on substance use
Subjects who make it through the probationary period without displaying any prohibited behaviors can file a petition of non-disclosure with the court two years after completing the program to start the process of removing the DWI from public records.
How Is Nondisclosure Different from Having My Record Sealed or Expunged?
If you choose to request deferred adjudication, your DWI will remain on your record for all to see until you file for nondisclosure. This action does not permanently remove the plea but once approved, it prevents courts and police departments from sharing it with others. You’d be able to apply for jobs without disclosing your past DWI.
It’s important to know that nondisclosure does not apply to the courts themselves, so if you were arrested for another DWI, you would face harsher penalties than other second-time offenders. Because the deferred adjudication program is meant to educate drunk drivers and prevent future DWIs, the law sees increasing punitive measures for future convictions as an important deterrent.
Can I Request Deferred Adjudication for a Previous DWI Charge?
The new law only applies to DWI arrests made after September 1, 2019. However, if you were convicted of a DWI before that date, you may be able to file for nondisclosure under a 2017 law that allows Texans to request that the state restrict access to certain parts of their criminal records. The process requires multiple administrative steps and is not immediate. A lawyer may be able to help you understand procedures and ensure your filing meets all requirements.
Don’t Choose to Defer Adjudication Right Away
We think that the new law is a great way to give drivers a second chance if they make a mistake or bad decision. If you’ve just been arrested for your first DWI, you’re likely scared and searching for options to help you avoid the worst of the possible consequences. But remember: An arrest does not equal a conviction.
Before you decide whether to plead guilty, you should speak with a lawyer. Our team at the LaHood Norton Law Group can help evaluate your case to determine whether the charge is valid and provable. There’s no reason to put a guilty plea on your record due to an erroneous arrest. If you’re fighting a DWI charge, don’t do anything until you know all your options and have an experienced advisor on your side.