The Texas Legislature is not known
The political gridlock in Austin often prevents lawmakers from turning good, practical ideas into law. Though this past legislative session was dominated with bathroom talk
, a powerful, bi-partisan bill that will impact thousands of Texans sailed through with almost zero opposition.
And it’s a good one.
Beginning September 1, 2017, DWI convictions will be eligible for nondisclosure. And the best part is that it’s retroactive. So everyone (that’s eligible) can take advantage of this.
DWI is one of the only crimes
in Texas a person cannot receive deferred adjudication for. Because of that, if you are charged with DWI you are either acquitted or convicted. There is no middle option.
A criminal conviction can be devastating for many people. DWI is not a crime of moral turpitude, or a violent crime, but a conviction for it can still negatively impact work, school, travel, and many other things.
It is hard to believe that before this law an individual could be charged with
Manslaughter, plead no contest, and avoid a conviction, but that same path wasn’t available to a DWI offender.
The Legislature saw this inequity and did something about it. House Bill 3016
was signed into law by the Governor on June 15, 2017. When it goes into effect it will expand the Texas Government Code to allow individuals convicted of DWI to petition for an order of nondisclosure (so long as some qualifying factors are met).
An order of nondisclosure allows an individual to essentially “seal” the arrest and charge from the general public, which in turn allows a person to answer in the negative when asked about the specific incident.
It’s important to note that a nondisclosure is not as powerful as an expunction. An expunction is a court order to destroy all records of a criminal incident. A nondisclosure is simply an order for Government agencies to “seal” information about a criminal incident from the public eye.
So, if you are able to get a nondisclosure for something, and you apply to work at Whataburger, they won’t be able to see any information about your arrest or disposition, and you won’t have to disclose the situation on your application.
Alternatively, if you are applying for a job at NASA
, they’ll see it, and you will need to disclose it. The State will also be able to see it in subsequent prosecutions (if you’re ever arrested again).
The following is a list of things that will prevent someone from petitioning
for a nondisclosure of their DWI:
- If the DWI was a 2nd or 3rd (or more) offense
- If the Blood Alcohol Concentration was 0.15 or higher
- If previously convicted of another offense
- If the DWI involved an accident with another person (includes passengers)
- If you have completed deferred adjudication for another offense (traffic offenses don’t count)
- If you failed to successfully complete probation for your DWI
- If you failed to pay all fines, court costs, and restitution
If those factors don’t knock you out, then you will be able to seek a nondisclosure after a waiting period of either two or five years from the day your probation or sentence ends:
- Two years for an individual that was restricted to driving a vehicle with an ignition interlock device for at least six months
- Five years for an individual who was sentenced without ignition interlock as a condition of their DWI probation.
Alcohol affects everyone. Over the years, I have represented hundreds of people facing a DWI charge. They have spanned all demographics and walks of life. For most, it was their first and only offense.
HB3016 provides a second chance to those that have paid their debt to society. It’s a chance to get a better job, to obtain a higher degree, to advance in life without being held back by one bad decision. Here’s hoping everyone that’s eligible takes advantage, and makes the most of it.