By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
The 2011 Texas Legislature has a bill before it that would give 1st time DWI offenders the opportunity to get Deferred Adjudication according to this Dallas Morning News article. What can a first-time DWI arrestee expect in this bill crafted by Texas Prosecutors and MADD in exchange for pleading guilty? Not much.
Remember, Deferred is where someone pleads guilty but the Court defers the finding of guilt while the person completes probation. If the person completes probation successfully, then the charges are “dismissed” without a final conviction ever being attained. I put the term dismissed in quotes because even though that’s the term used by the statute, the legislature gave it a special definition that most people speaking English would derive from it’s use — it’s really only a document confirming probation is over.
When someone completes deferred and their case is “dismissed,” then the person’s arrest record, court records, and probation records stay completely in tact and are routinely sold to private companies for public uses on job search applications, housing applications, or loan applications (etc.). Only when someone applies for a petition for non-disclosure two years after the “dismissal” AND a Judge determines it is in the best interests of justice can the person’s file not be sold by the State. But law enforcement, of course, gets to keep it and share it with practically any other entity that is affiliated with the State such as school boards and professional licensing agencies.
And according to the Dallas Morning News Article, the DWI Deferred proposal has even less benefit than a normal deferred. For this program, if you plead guilty and get deferred it counts as a conviction for the purposes of enhancement. Also there seems to be no other lessening of punishment in any way as far as interlock devices or sur-charges.
Prosecutors and MADD miss the point with this deferred proposal. The reason deferred would help clear the dockets is that it would give an accused something to actually lose by contesting the charges. About the only benefit with this proposed law is that someone can say they’ve never been convicted of DWI. I guess that’s something, but it doesn’t do much more than make someone feel a little less guilty if they accept responsibility for a DWI that they’re guilty of.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.