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Order of Nondisclosure — You May Be Able to Seal Your Record for a DWI

The legislature has recently amended the Texas Government Code to permit the sealing, under certain conditions, of your criminal record for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrest and conviction with an order of nondisclosure — Texas put this law into effect September 1, 2017.

An order of nondisclosure (by Texas law) is sent by the court clerk to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), who then send a copy of the order to all private entities that contract with the DPS to purchase criminal history information collected from every court, jail, and prison in the state.

Those private contractors must then delete or destroy all entries in their databases relating to the person and offense contained in the nondisclosure order.

An Order of Nondisclosure and Probation

If you received probation as the disposition of your case, you can qualify for nondisclosure if you meet the following conditions:

  • You wait 2 years (called “the waiting period”) after completing the term of probation before filing your petition for nondisclosure
  • You successfully complete your probation (with no revocations), including the payment of all fines, court costs, and restitution
  • You have no previous convictions for, and have not been placed on deferred adjudication for, any offense other than a traffic violation punishable by a fine only
  • Your case did not involve an accident where any person (including the applicant) was injured
  • You have not been convicted or placed on probation/deferred adjudication for any offense (other than a traffic violation punishable by a fine only) during the “waiting period”
  • You had installed on your vehicle an Ignition Interlock Device for a six-month period (including as a condition of bond or probation) while your DWI case was pending
    • If you did not have the Interlock device installed for 6 months, the “waiting period” is bumped up to 5 years
  • This was your first DWI offense
  • You were NOT convicted of a DWI offense alleging that your blood alcohol content was  0.15 or higher
  • The petition MUST be filed in the same court that convicted you of the DWI offense

After notice and an opportunity to be heard, if the judge makes a finding that the applicant is entitled to the relief sought and that the order of nondisclosure is in the best interest of justice, the judge shall grant the petition and sign the order of nondisclosure.

An Order of Nondisclosure With Jail Time or Failed Probation

You may still qualify for relief under the new statute if you meet all of the above requirements, but the “waiting period” is increased to 3 years with the Ignition Interlock Device installed for 6 months.

If no Interlock device was installed for 6 months, the “waiting period” is 5 years from the completion of your jail sentence or term of probation before you can file your petition for nondisclosure.

The new statute is retroactive — it doesn’t matter when your DWI conviction occurred, you may apply for nondisclosure under Texas law if you meet all of the applicable requirements of the amended statute.

The Benefits of an Order of Nondisclosure

If the Judge grants your petition for nondisclosure, you may deny that you have ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of the offense described in the court order, with the following exceptions:

  • The information related to the conviction for DWI that is the subject of the nondisclosure order may be introduced into evidence during any subsequent trial, provided the information is admissible under the Texas Rules of Evidence
  • The information may be disclosed to a prosecuting attorney for any criminal justice purpose

An Order of Nondisclosure, in Texas, Still Allows Some Agencies to View Your Conviction

Although the order of nondisclosure seals the record of your DWI arrest, charge, and conviction from public view (except as noted above), there are some important exceptions, such as the following:

  • Every state agency in Texas that issues a license to practice a profession (teacher, doctor, lawyer, plumber, electrician, architect, engineer, nurse, pharmacist, etc.)
  • Agencies that review applications to work at a financial institution, a federal agency, a federal contractor, or a school district
  • Agencies that process the application to change your name or
  • Agencies that process applications to be named a guardian

In these cases, the appropriate agency or court gets to see the information about the conviction that is the subject of the nondisclosure order.

Also, you need to be aware that this order of nondisclosure does not apply to the federal government, any mugshot websites, any internet search engines, or any newspaper or private entity which already has information about your arrest, charge, or conviction, unless that private entity has a contract with DPS to purchase criminal history data.

Contact Us to Learn More

Sealing your DWI criminal record can be beneficial; however, it can also be complicated, especially with all its exceptions, conditions, and caveats.

Let us help you understand how this new law applies to your case.

If you would like to find out if you qualify for an order of nondisclosure under Texas law for a past DWI conviction, please contact the law firm of Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant at (940)387-3518, or contact us here.

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