August 22, 2017

“Second Chance” Bill Gives New Life to First-Time DWI Defendants

second-chance-billOn June 15, 2017, the “second chance” bill (HB 3016) became law in Texas. This is life-changing news for all Texans who have been convicted of one-time class C misdemeanors and first-time DWI defendants whose blood alcohol level was below 0.15 — even those whose crime predates the law’s passage.

This “second-chance” bill allows one-time, nonviolent offenders to request the courts to seal their criminal record, making their tangle with the law a private matter. The legislation is retroactive, applying to past convictions. This bill is especially helpful to DWI defendants in central Texas who are innocent of the crime, yet were convicted due to overzealous prosecution, legal oversights, or inability to secure the services of a good Austin DWI lawyer.

A Second Chance: Bill Makes a Significant Difference

As any Texas criminal attorney can tell you, a DWI conviction can wreak havoc on your life. Your criminal record can close many doors, affecting your job, your social life, and your efforts to find housing. For example, Texas is an “employment at will” state, which means that the employment can be terminated at the will of either party. A DWI conviction is more than enough grounds for an employer to fire you. And of course, employers and landlords often check your criminal record during the hiring process.

With a misdemeanor conviction, you lose out on the following opportunities:

  • you cannot get a license to sell motor vehicles unless you complete additional certification.
  • you cannot serve as the executor of a person’s estate, like a deceased parent’s or relative’s.
  • you cannot have your juvenile record expunged.
  • you can be refused a license to operate a daycare.
  • you can be refused a license to become a bondsman.
  • you can be refused a license to practice law.
  • you can be refused disaster assistance.
  • you can be refused for a student loan.
  • you can be refused a federal job.
  • you can be refused certain federal business licenses and/or certifications.

The “second chance” bill allows one-time offenders to request a “non-disclosure,” which would restrict the public from seeing their criminal record. Sealed criminal records would still be visible to police and authorized persons in education, banking, and other sensitive fields.

The new “second chance” bill reflects a new, more understanding attitude toward non-violent defendants as courts and legislators increasingly acknowledge that being “tough on crime” is often harmful to the community and ordinary citizens who have had their lives damaged or ruined after a careless mistake. As Texas Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) says, “Their lives shouldn’t be ruined by one bad decision.”

For DWI defendants, the “second chance” bill allows the defendant to seal their criminal record if they complete six months of sober driving with an ignition interlock device. HB 3016 also mandates they wait two years after their probation completes before they can ask for requesting the non-disclosure.

“This is truly a boon to DWI defendants,” says Austin criminal defense attorney James Gill. “Now a single bad decision is not going to ruin careers and lives. And with the interlock, a DWI defendant can make their conviction private after six months. We’re very happy to see this change taking place in Texas.”

If you are a DWI or misdemeanor defendant interested in the “second chance” bill and how it affects your case, please contact us now for a free legal consultation.