Changes in Texas Law Make It Easier to Seal DWI Records

A new Texas law taking effect Sept. 1 will afford some people with past DWI convictions an opportunity to seal their records. Known as the “Second Chance Bill,” H.B. 3016, introduced by Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), received overwhelming bipartisan support from both the House and the Senate.[1]

What exactly is “sealing your record”?

In layman’s terms, “sealing your record” simply means attaching an order of non-disclosure of criminal history record information. If you’ve ever received a DWI but otherwise your criminal history is clean (a traffic ticket won’t hurt you here), you may be eligible to have your record sealed. If you’ve ever applied for a job and been turned down because of a past DWI conviction, this change could make that process much smoother in the future.

There are some caveats. To be eligible, you must have:

  • been placed on - and successfully completed – probation and paid all applicable fines and restitution
  • had a BAC of less than 0.15
  • no other convictions or criminal history other than traffic violations
  • not been involved in an accident involving other people, including passengers; and
  • two years since completion of probation if you had an ignition interlock on your vehicle for at least six months, or;
  • five years if you did not have an interlock on your vehicle for at least six months

Other changes from H.B. 3016

H.B.016 also adds some additional language to the Government Code section § 411.0736. This section is basically identical to the above section in that the same elements apply, but with two small differences. The first difference is that this section applies for people who received a DWI conviction and did not receive and complete probation. The second difference is that, under this section, if you had an ignition lock on your vehicle for at least six months, you must now wait three years instead of two before petitioning the court to seal your record.

The bill also amends § 411.0735 of the Government Code. This amendment allows you to petition the court for a seal immediately after completing your sentence if you’ve only been convicted of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine under § 106.041 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code or §§ 49.04, 49.05, 49.06, 49.065, or Chapter 71 of the Penal Code.

The bottom line

This change in the law aims to help people move past isolated past incidents. An order of non-disclosure is not the same as having your record expunged (a clean slate). [2]  The DWI conviction remains on your criminal record, but a court can’t divulge that history to certain parties. Simply put, if you made a stupid mistake after a frat party in college, it shouldn’t make it hard for you to get a job for the rest of your life, and the Legislature recognized this fact.


[1] History: Bill: HB 3016, Tex. Legis. Online, http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=HB3016 (last visited Aug. 15, 2017).

[2] Orders of Nondisclosure Overview, Office of Ct. Admin. (Apr. 2017), http://www.txcourts.gov/media/821650/order-of-nondisclosure-overview.pdf.


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