As simple as it is to get a DWI or DUI on your record, its consequences in your life are anything but. Driving while intoxicated, or driving under the influence if you are under the age of 21, can land you in heaps of trouble in the state of Texas (see DWI vs DUI). You might even be looking at jail time along with a hefty fine.
That’s not all, your life as you know it will be over. It’s not an exaggeration, if you have a criminal record, especially if your DWI misdemeanor turns into a felony, you will be openly discriminated against. You might get fired from your job, you might not be able to find a new job, and your rental applications might get declined, all because you had a little amount of alcohol in your system while driving home.
Your DWI or DUI record in a background check may cost you opportunities that will come easy to everyone else. But how long does a DWI stay on your record or how long does a DUI stay on your record in Texas? Short answer – forever.
But that’s only when you refuse to do anything about it. Because as it turns out, the Texas law provides plenty of options to get any and every trace of your deed removed from all the records.
What Happens When You Get a DWI in Texas
A DWI is considered a Class B misdemeanor in the state of Texas which can lead to a maximum imprisonment of 6 months and fines of up to $2000 (see types of misdemeanor). But your penalty can increase significantly in case any aggravating factors were discovered, like:
- if your blood alcohol level is found to be higher than 0.15, the charges turn into a Class A Misdemeanor,
- if you had an open container in the vehicle while driving intoxicated, you will have to serve at least 6 days in jail, or
- if you had a child passenger in your car when you were driving while intoxicated, the misdemeanor will get upgraded to a State Jail Felony.
As mentioned above, your troubles won’t end even after you have served the required sentence and paid all the fines. Here are some of the most common consequences you will face even after your sentence has ended.
- Your driver’s license will get suspended for up to a period of 1 year.
- You will need to pay a license surcharge anywhere between $1000-$2000 per year.
- You may lose your job if your employer runs a criminal background check on you.
- You may have trouble finding new jobs and apartments because your DWI conviction will leave a permanent mark on your criminal record.
- You might lose your professional licenses and security clearances.
- You may get refused a student loan.
How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Texas?
The answer to how long does a DWI stay on your record in Texas is pretty simple. DWI, like all misdemeanor charges, stays on your record forever, unless you proactively take steps to get it removed from there. The laws are there to ensure you are not being unnecessarily penalized for a small thing you did years ago, but you are required to take steps to take advantage of the law.
How can you do that? You can either get your DWI or DUI record expunged or sealed through an order of nondisclosure. You can get a non-disclosure order issued only if your DWI was your first criminal offense (barring any minor traffic offenses that are only punishable by fines). That means you shouldn’t have any other convictions on your record when you apply for a non-disclosure order.
Also, you can get a non-disclosure order only for a misdemeanor offense and not for a felony. So, if your BAC was higher than 0.15, you injured anyone while driving intoxicated, or you had a minor in your car when you were stopped for DWI, you won’t be eligible for a non-disclosure order.
To obtain an order of non-disclosure, you merely have to wait 2 years after the end date of your probation period if you fulfill the requirement of getting an ignition interlock system installed in your vehicles for 6 months. But if the court order does not mention this requirement, you will be required to wait 5 years to take advantage of this law.
What is the Difference Between Sealed vs. Expunged
Both expungement and a non-disclosure order can help get you back the life you had before the crime on your record was committed. It ensures equal opportunities and rights that everyone else enjoys in the state, like owning a gun.
But the prerequisites, processes, and consequences of both differ in the state of Texas. An expungement removes all the traces of your crime from your record permanently like it never happened. Whereas, if you obtain a nondisclosure order, you will be able to hide your record from the public but it will still be visible to criminal justice agencies, certain licensing agencies, and government agencies.
In both cases, your crime will no longer appear in background searches conducted for common purposes like employment and college admissions.
How Can I Get My DWI Case Expunged From My Criminal Record?
If your case qualifies, the best option for you is to get your criminal record expunged. Your DWI record can be expunged if:
- you receive a not guilty verdict at a jury trial, or
- your DWI charges were dismissed before one.
These are the only two outcomes that can qualify the DWI to be expunged from your record. Basically, if you were never convicted, you are not required to carry the burden of these charges all your life.
So, if you or your loved one is arrested for a DWI or DUI in Texas, the best way forward is to contact an Austin DWI lawyer. An experienced lawyer like James Gill can help you receive a not guilty verdict or get your case dismissed, so you can walk out of this as if your DWI or DUI never even happened.
If your DWI was categorized as a misdemeanor and it was dismissed by the prosecutor representing the State of Texas, you will become eligible to file for an expungement petition after 2 years from the date of the said dismissal.
But if your DWI was categorized as a felony and it was either dismissed or no-billed by a grand jury, you can apply for an expunction order only after 3 years from the date of dismissal or the no bill conviction.
And if your trial ended with a not guilty verdict, there is no waiting period to apply for an expungement petition. That’s right, if you were acquitted by a jury, you can immediately get your record cleared.
Once you file a petition for an expunction of your DWI in Texas, you will be given an opportunity to put forward your case. This is where an experienced Austin DWI lawyer can help you get the best outcome.
After an expunction order is granted, the court clerk will send the order to all the city, state, and federal agencies instructing them to delete all the records of your DWI.
James Gill is One of Austin, Texas’s Top DWI Lawyers
Austin criminal lawyer James Gill can help you at any and every stage of your DWI case. If you were just charged with a DWI or DUI, he can help you get a not guilty verdict or get the case dismissed altogether. He can then help you clear your record with either a non-disclosure order or expunction.
It is of the utmost importance to understand that a DWI or DUI charge will never be removed from your record automatically. Your DWI or DUI would stay on your record and will keep appearing in your background searches and will keep costing you great opportunities.
Therefore, you should not hurry in paying the fines just to make things go away faster, it will end up costing you your life as it will be considered an admission of guilt. You should not attempt to navigate the justice system all on your own and immediately contact a lawyer to understand your options.
Austin DWI attorney, James Gill has countless years of experience defending those facing DWI, drug charges, and other criminal charges in Texas. Call today to schedule a consultation at 512-448-4560. The Law Offices of James Gill, PLLC serves all of Austin, Westlake, Kyle, Buda, San Marcos, and the surrounding TX communities.