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The following is for informational purposes only

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

What is DWI: An Overview

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), also known as “Operating Under The Influence” (OUI) or “Driving Under The Influence” (DUI) is the most common conviction found on criminal records in the United States. Official reports show that 1% of all licensed drivers are arrested for DWI, with 1 in 2 people being at some point affected by an injury related to a traffic accident caused by drunk driving.

Knowing more about someone’s DWI history is critical since the recidivism rate forfirst-time offenders is 35%, meaning there is a thirty-five percent chance they’ll be sentenced for another DWI violation at some point. This rate drops significantly only if the offender takes part in court-directed counseling or educational programs.


What is the Legal BAC Limit to Drive?

In 49 of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit accepted for drinking and driving is 0.08, with Utah being the strictest state that lowered it to 0.05. However, if a police officer finds a driver who is “noticeably impaired” and has kids in the car, the perpetrator could face a DWI charge even if they’re under the legal BAC limit. As a general rule, for drivers under 21 years old, the limit goes up to 0.02, while for those over 21, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC higher than 0.08.


Consequences of Subsequent DWI Offenses

Consequences of Subsequent DWI Offenses

Statistics show that more than 30% of motorists arrested for DWI are repeat offenders, with 12.5% of intoxicated drivers who caused fatal car accidents having been previously charged with DWI within the past 3 years. If someone is facing subsequent DWI charges, they could expect serious penalties, that vary from one state to another such as:

  • For a second DWI - a fine of up to $4,000 (in states like Texas and North Dakota); 30 days to one year of jail time (for instance in New Jersey the minimum sentence is 2 days while the maximum is 3 months); revocation of driver’s license for maximum 2 years; and an annual surcharge for three years for reinstating the lost license.
  • For a third DWI - the fine can even reach $10,000 (in Montana and Texas); jail time increases to 2-10 years; the annual fee and license revocation time are the same as for a second DWI; the crime is no longer qualified as a misdemeanor – it’s considered a felony.

Repeat drunk drivers could also lose their license for life and spend their remaining days in prison.


DWI Expungement Can Erase Criminal Records

Although a DWI record is not a lifelong conviction, it reflects in someone’s criminal records for 10 years. It does not necessarily have to stay this way though. Due to “second chance” legislation, in some states (for instance Texas) DWI crimes can be expunged if the offender wishes to have an untainted record. The expungement process refers to having all the information contained by both arrest records and criminal records destroyed, cleaned, or sealed.


Non-disclosure of DWI Records

The most common way to have a DWI criminal record sealed is with an Order of Non-Disclosure which is issued after filing a Petition for Non-Disclosure if there’s successful completion of a DWI probation and deferred adjudication. Although the sentence will always be visible to state and federal authorities, law enforcement, and employers in government departments, an order of non-disclosure “hides” the criminal history related to that offense from the general public, while allowing the perpetrator to officially deny its existence.


Eligibility Criteria for DWI Non-Disclosure

Eligibility Criteria for Non-Disclosure

Before petitioning a court of law for a DWI non-disclosure, some states (Texas, for instance) require the following conditions to be met:

  • No car crashes involving a passenger or another party resulted
  • The petitioner has paid all obligatory costs, fines, and restitution
  • The petitioner has completed any related probation or incarceration
  • A record clean of any previously imposed community supervision or conviction for another crime (traffic offenses are not included since they’re mostly punishable by fines only)
  • A two-year waiting period has passed – if the sentence included 6 months of restricted driving with an ignition interlock device. If this wasn’t the case, the applicant must wait until the fifth anniversary of the date when their sentence was completed
Disqualifying Reasons for DWI Sealing

Disqualifying Reasons for DWI Sealing

A DWI convict may NOT have their DWI criminal record sealed if:

  • The DWI involved a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) above 0.15
  • The drunk driving offense occurred within the last two years
  • The DWI caused a traffic accident that involved another person
  • They have more than one DWI conviction

Very important: For second or third-time offenders, having a first-time DWI criminal record sealed by an Order of Non-Disclosure doesn’t prevent the consequences of a Misdemeanor Repetition when being charged withanother DWI.

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