In some cases, you may be able to get a drunk driving arrest removed or “expunged” from your record. Expunction is an option if you are acquitted of the DWI charge. But an acquittal does not guarantee expunction. The court will refuse to clear your record if the DWI arrest was part of a “criminal episode” and you were convicted of another offense related to that episode.
The phrase “criminal episode” may lead you to believe the DWI charge had to be part of a single event that occurred on the same day.
Texas law defines a criminal episode to include “the repeated commission of the same or similar offenses.” That is to say, if you had a prior DWI conviction, even one that occurred years before the charge you were acquitted on, you cannot receive an expunction of the latter.
Appeals Court Ruling…
Prior BWI Conviction Barred Expunction of Later DWI Acquittal
The Texas First District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently confronted this scenario. The petitioner in this case was arrested in October of 2015 and charged with Driving While Intoxicated. The defendant opted for a jury trial, and in April of 2018, he was acquitted.
The petitioner then asked the court to expunge the record of his arrest. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) opposed the request, noting the defendant had a prior conviction for “boating while intoxicated” (BWI) in 2012. Indeed, when the defendant was charged for DWI, it was for a second offense.
Nevertheless, the trial court granted the expunction. DPS appealed. The First District sided with DPS, holding the petitioner was not legally eligible for an expunction under these circumstances.
The appeals court noted that the Texas definition of “criminal episode” only requires the commission of at least two of the “same or similar offenses.” The law says nothing about the “time frame within which the same or similar offenses must be repeated.” In other words, a “criminal episode” can “include multiple arrests or transactions” over a period of years. For that matter, the First District said nothing in the statute required the offenses “be committed within a certain geographic location or jurisdiction.”
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You may not have heard the phrase “boating while intoxicated” before, but it is a real criminal offense in Texas. Under Section 49.06 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits BWI when they are “intoxicated while operating a watercraft.” Just as with a first-time DWI, a first offense for BWI is a Class B misdemeanor. This means that if convicted of “drunk boating,” you will face a minimum jail term of 72 hours.
BWI incidents may not get as much attention as DWI cases. But they are both serious crimes under Texas law. So if you are charged with operating any type of vehicle while under the influence, you need to work with an experienced Houston DWI and drunk driving defense lawyer who will aggressively represent your interests in court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today if you need to speak with someone right away.