How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Texas?

June 12, 2024 | By Shane Phelps
How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Texas?

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in Texas, and its implications can last a lifetime. If a court convicts you of a DWI in Texas, it remains on your record permanently unless you take specific legal actions, such as expungement or sealing.

A DWI conviction in Texas does not just go away with time. Once entered into your record, it remains visible unless you take legal steps to remove or seal it. This permanent mark has severe consequences. 

Prospective employers, housing providers, and educational institutions conduct background checks. A DWI conviction can affect your job prospects, housing options, and educational opportunities.

A Bryan, Texas DWI defense lawyer can explain the long-term impact of a DWI on your personal and professional life, as well as the legal avenues available to clear your record potentially.

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The Rare Chance of Expungement

In Texas, expunging a DWI record is exceptionally rare. Expungement (which Texas law calls expunction) completely deletes all documents about your DWI arrest and conviction. 

An expunged DWI never occurred, legally speaking. This means that not even government agencies cannot access the expunged records.

You must meet specific criteria to qualify. The most common scenario for expungement eligibility is if the prosecution dismissed your case or a trial acquitted you. 

Other situations include plea bargains for lesser offenses or cases involving minors with deferred proceedings. Generally, you face a mandatory waiting period, ranging from two to five years, depending on the details of your case, before you can pursue expungement.

Sealing Your DWI Record

A record or permit document being stamped in an office.

When expungement isn’t possible, you might seal the record. Sealing a DWI record in Texas lessens the visibility of the conviction but does not erase it. Under Texas Government Code § 411.0731, sealing a record makes it inaccessible to the general public, including most employers and landlords.

Certain government entities can still access sealed records, particularly when an individual applies for specific government jobs or faces subsequent arrests. 

You can only seal a first DWI and meet other specific conditions related to the case, such as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under 0.15 at the time of testing and no involvement in a motor vehicle accident with other individuals.

Eligibility for Record Sealing

The eligibility criteria for sealing a DWI record are less stringent than those for expungement, but several requirements remain.

The offender must not have any prior DWI convictions and must maintain a clean record following the DWI conviction. You cannot initiate the sealing process until the mandatory waiting period of two years passes.

Handcuffs, whiskey, and keys isolated on a white background.

A DWI arrest in Texas triggers a series of complex and intimidating legal procedures. Understanding these steps provides a roadmap of what to expect and how to navigate the process effectively.

Arrest and Booking

The process begins when police arrest an individual on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Authorities take them to a local law enforcement station for booking. They gather personal information, fingerprints, and a chemical test to measure blood alcohol content (BAC). 

The arrested individual may sit in jail time until they post bail, depending on the severity of the offense and previous criminal history.

Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing

Shortly after the arrest, the Texas Department of Public Safety may issue a notice of suspension of the driver’s license. The individual has 15 days from the date of the notice to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing. 

This hearing is separate from the criminal case and focuses on whether the state should suspend the driver’s license. 

Legal assistance can help you prepare for this hearing, as it offers the first opportunity to challenge procedural errors and evaluate the strength of the evidence.


At the arraignment is the initial court appearance, where the prosecutor formally presents charges against the defendant. The defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. 

Legal counsel at this stage protects the defendant’s rights and explains the implications of each plea option.

Pre-trial motions and Negotiations

Several pre-trial hearings precede the trial. Defense attorneys file motions to suppress evidence, challenge the legality of the traffic stop, or negotiate plea deals at this time. This period determines the course of the case—whether it will proceed to trial or resolve earlier through negotiations.


A judge talking with a criminal in handcuffs in the courtroom.

If the case goes to trial, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving while intoxicated. Both sides will present evidence, call witnesses, and argue the case before a judge or jury. 

The trial phase is the most complex and demands thorough preparation and strong advocacy skills from the defense lawyer.


If the trial results in a conviction or if the defendant pleads guilty, the next step is sentencing. Sentences for DWI in Texas vary depending on the defendant’s BAC at the time of arrest, any previous DWI convictions, and whether anyone was involved in an accident.

Sentencing might include fines, jail time, community service, probation, and mandatory alcohol education or rehabilitation programs.


If convicted, the defendant may appeal. The appeal is not a new trial but a request for a higher court to review the case for legal errors that could have affected the verdict or the sentence. 

Each of these steps significantly affects the outcome of a DWI case in Texas. A DWI lawyer can effectively prepare you for what to expect from the legal system.

Long-Term Consequences and Moving Forward

Clearing your record involves strict criteria and often a considerable amount of time, whether through expungement or sealing. For those unable to clear their records, the DWI conviction remains a part of their permanent record, affecting many aspects of life.

Anyone facing a DWI charge must consult a legal professional with experience in Texas criminal defense law firm DWI cases to provide guidance and mitigate the long-term consequences of a conviction on your record.

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Shane Phelps Author Image

Shane Phelps

Lead Attorney

As founder of Shane Phelps Law, Bryan/College Station criminal defense attorney Shane Phelps has a reputation as a leading trial lawyer in the Central Texas area. With decades of experience as both a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney, Shane has tried more than 300 jury trials, everything from DWI to Capital Murder.

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