Texas defendants charged with their first driving while intoxicated (DWI) or boating while intoxicated (BWI) offense will have the opportunity to avoid the most serious consequences of a conviction. Thanks to a bill recently passed by the state senate, first-time offenders can ask for deferred adjudication on their cases.
Deferred adjudication for offenses involving alcohol hasn’t been available in the state since 1984. Prosecutors and defendants alike have long felt that disallowing deferred adjudication made it impossible for “the punishment to fit the crime” for many first-time offenders — especially young people who simply made a mistake when judging their alcohol tolerance. They say that allowing deferred adjudication can help those people avoid a permanent criminal record that could prevent them from succeeding in life.
However, there’s a catch: Deferred adjudication for a DWI charge doesn’t quite work the same as other deferred adjudication charges. For other charges, once you complete whatever program or period of probation the court assigns, your record is clear. In the case of a DWI, you won’t have a criminal record that employers and others can see — but your old DWI can be resurrected and used to enhance the charges if you offend again.
For some people, deferred adjudication could be the answer to their prayers after a mistake. Given that DWI cases make up the majority of prosecutions in many counties, prosecutors may be willing to embrace deferred adjudication to free up their caseloads.
If you’ve been charged with a first-offense DWI, talk to your defense attorney about whether deferred adjudication could help you.