Between 1984 and 2018, Texas did not offer deferred adjudication for impaired driving offenses. Thankfully, in 2019, legislators recognized that the absence of this opportunity was making it too difficult to achieve just outcomes under a variety of circumstances.
Now, first-time alleged offenders of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws may benefit from a deferred adjudication if their legal situation meets certain criteria. Once an eligible offender meets the terms of their deferred adjudication arrangement, the charges against them are dismissed. As a result, the offender won’t be burdened by a criminal record related to their infraction.
What are the terms of deferred adjudication?
Before a first-time offender can successfully have their DWI charges dismissed, they will need to complete deferred adjudication terms handed down by a judge. These terms will include a period of community supervision not to exceed a span of 12 months.
Most of the time, this community supervision period will involve a requirement to participate in alcohol and substance screening, community service hours, drug testing, driver safety classes, etc. Drivers will also be required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.
What’s the catch?
In most deferred adjudication situations, an offender’s charges are dismissed outright once the terms of their arrangement have been successfully honored. However, DWI deferred adjudications work a little differently. In these scenarios, the offender won’t be subject to a criminal record. But they can have their initial offense held against them if they are ever charged with drunk driving again.
In Texas, the consequences that DWI offenders face increase if they re-offend. So, if a first-time drunk driver benefits from a deferred adjudication, they will still be subjected to sentencing terms for a second-time (or subsequent) DWI offense if they are convicted of drunk driving at any future point in time.
Although community supervision can be a pain and deferred adjudication doesn’t free drivers from the risk of future penalty enhancement, it is a great opportunity for those who have made a one-time mistake and who are committed to never re-offending.