Houston has among the highest number of DWI arrests in the nation. Most people arrested for DWI in Houston are charged with misdemeanor DWI. Even if your DWI is dismissed, it can still leave a stain on your record that can make it more difficult to find housing or employment. Many people charged with DWI incorrectly believe that a DWI arrest will be wiped off of their record automatically after a dismissal or an acquittal. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
In order to remove a record of a DWI arrest from your record, it is necessary to obtain an expunction of the case. In many ways, once you obtain an expunction of your DWI, it is as if the offense never happened since the arrest records are destroyed and you are permitted to deny the existence of the arrest in most instances. The below content is for information purposes only. If you are interested in an expunction of your DWI, you should consult with a DWI expunction attorney regarding your eligibility for an expunction.
Am I eligible for an expunction of my DWI arrest?
If you are interested in obtaining an expunction of a DWI, an expunction attorney must first verify your eligibility. Under Texas Penal Code 55.01 (the Texas expunction statute) there are several ways that a person can become eligible for an expunction. In Houston, almost all people who obtain an expunction of a DWI arrest do so after their case is dismissed or they are acquitted (found “not guilty”) at trial.
When am I not eligible for an expunction of my DWI?
In most cases, you will only be eligible for an expunction of a DWI arrest if your case is dismissed or if you are acquitted at trial. If you entered a plea of guilty, you are not eligible for an expunction. You are NOT eligible for an expunction if any of the following is true:
- You were assessed regular probation or deferred adjudication probation for DWI.
- You were sentenced to jail for DWI or accepted a “time served” plea on a DWI.
- You pled guilty to DWI.
- You were found guilty of DWI at trial, regardless of the sentence
If any of the above is true you are not eligible for an expunction of your DWI and will never be, unfortunately. If you completed a deferred adjudication probation for DWI and meet certain other requirements, it is possible that you are eligible for a non-disclosure (aka “record sealing”) of your DWI. An experienced DWI attorney should be able to verify your eligibility.
What is the process like?
After an attorney verifies your eligibility to have your DWI expunged, the attorney prepares paperwork listing your identifying information and a list of any agencies that could have a record of your arrest. The attorney also asks that the court your expunction is assigned to set a hearing date. In some cases, the District Attorney’s office will waive the hearing and agree to an expunction. In those cases, an agreed order signed by a judge will be prepared to list all of the agencies that are ordered to destroy any record of your arrest. It is the responsibility of your attorney to circulate the order between any agency that has a record of your DWI arrest.
An expunction of a DWI can be a slow process. It can take up to six months from the time an expunction is filed until the judge signs the final order. After the judge signs the final order, the agencies listed have up to a year to destroy the records, although fortunately, it typically takes less time.
What is the waiting period for an expunction of a DWI?
Under Texas law, if your case is dismissed, you have to wait until the two-year statute of limitations has passed before applying for an expunction of a DWI. However, in some cases, the District Attorney may agree to an expunction before the statute of limitations has expired. An expunction attorney will be able to verify the waiting period and whether an early expunction is possible.
If your DWI was dismissed in Houston after you completed the Harris County pre-trial intervention program, your contract may state that you must wait until the second anniversary after your case was dismissed before applying for an expunction. Again, if you have a compelling reason to need an expunction sooner, the District Attorney’s Office may make an exception in your case.
If you were acquitted of DWI at trial, there is no waiting period to get your records expunged and you may do so immediately. Additionally, an acquittal at trial entitles you to have the filing fee for expunging your DWI waived.
What is the legal effect of a DWI expunction?
An expunction is the best possible result in a DWI. Expunging your DWI causes records of the arrest to be physically destroyed by any agency that has a record of the arrest. This means that eventually, a record of your DWI arrest will not appear on most criminal history searches as an expunction prohibits the release, or maintenance of expunged records for any purpose (on occasion, some private databases may not update their information after an arrest).
Additionally, under Texas Penal Code 55.03, an expunction allows you to deny the occurrence of the arrest and the existence of the expunction order (unless you are questioned under oath, in which case you may state that the matter has been expunged). In short, an expunction is the best way to put a DWI arrest behind you. Legally, in many respects, it is as if the arrest never happened after you obtained an expunction of a DWI.
The process of obtaining an expunction can be slow and complicated but the benefits of an expunction are worth it. If you are interested in obtaining an expunction of your DWI, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Ceja Law Firm has helped clients throughout the Greater Houston area expunge their records and move on after a criminal arrest. Call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.