This past legislative session (2017), Texas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle proposed legislation to help expand the opportunity to seal criminal convictions with an order of non-disclosure.
The new law HB 3016 allows a person convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors, including DWI’s, to petition the court for orders of nondisclosure under certain circumstances and alters some waiting periods.
HB 3016 also allows a person to petition for an order of nondisclosure of criminal history if that person was ineligible to receive an automatic order based solely on a judge’s affirmative finding that issuing such an order was not “in the best interest of justice.” If the offense was a misdemeanor punishable by a fine only an individual may petition for an order of nondisclosure immediately upon the date of completion of their sentence. However, if the misdemeanor was not punishable by fine only, they must wait until the second anniversary of the date of completing the sentence to petition.
What is an Order of Non-Disclosure?
Orders of non-disclosure “seal” a criminal record from the eyes of the general public and allow a person to deny such record in most situations. However, the offense will remain visible to law enforcement, state and federal authorities, and employers in government fields.
Importantly, having your record sealed does not, however, mean that the conviction is no longer on your record; it simply means that it is cleared from public view. Certain agencies may still be able to access the conviction, such as law enforcement agencies, or certain professional licensing agencies like the Texas Bar.
Sealing your record is an important tool because it allows those who have made mistakes in the past to have a second chance. Being able to seal your criminal record makes it easier to get a job, apply for housing, or applying for certain loans that they may have otherwise been prevented from receiving.
Who qualifies for a Non-disclosure under the new law?
A person may petition to have a DWI sealed only if they:
- The Driving While Intoxicated conviction must be a first offense
- The alcohol concentration must be below .15 (breath or blood)
- There must have been no automobile accident
- The conviction must have resulted in community supervision (probation) as opposed to a jail sentence
- The person seeking Nondisclosure of the DWI conviction must have never previously been convicted or placed on deferred for any offense other than a traffic citation
How soon can you file a Non-Disclosure under the new law?
- You must wait two years after your successful discharge from community supervision before you may apply to seal the record if you had a Deep Lung Device (DLD) installed in your car as a condition of supervision before you may apply.
- You must wait five years after your successful discharge from community supervision before you may apply to seal the record if you did not have a DLD installed in your car as a condition of community supervision.
How can the new law help you or a loved one?
HB 3016 makes it easier for persons with certain low-level nonviolent offenses, particularly DWI’s, to obtain employment and become productive members of society. If you or someone you know is a first-time DWI offender and is interested in applying for nondisclosure, contact Rosenthal & Wadas and we can help you determine if you are eligible. We are happy to provide a free consultation to walk you through the steps for sealing your record. Call our office today at 972-369-0577.