Convicted drunk drivers might soon be able to seal their records

FILE - Sobriety test (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Sobriety test (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Convicted drunk drivers might soon be able to seal their records, effectively hiding them from job applications and other public records.

It’s part of a bipartisan push at the Texas legislature that still has one major hurdle left to become law. The bill sailed through the House and is now waiting on a vote in the Senate. The bill would seal Class C misdemeanors if a judge approves it, including charges like trespassing, gambling and petty theft.

Opponents of the bill say it limits valuable information when doing background checks, but law enforcement will still have access to all of it.

When Doug Deason was 17, he threw a party at a friend’s house and wound up charged with burglary. He was able to fight to get it sealed from public view, but he thinks current Texas laws makes that far too hard for lesser crimes.

“A lot of people make mistakes — that one-time mistake — a lot of people make them and don’t get caught,” Deason said.

A bipartisan group is now working to expand Texas’ “second chance” law, by letting someone petition a judge to seal their records for a low-level driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction and Class C misdemeanors.

Groups from the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation to Mothers Against Drunk Driving are pushing for the retroactive law. For a DWI you could wait five years and it would drop off your record, or clear it in six months by getting an ignition interlock for your car.

Jaime Gutierrez with Mothers Against Drunk Driving said, “There is no other technology available that can serve as a physical barrier to a potential drunk driver and his or her car.”

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