Thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), DWI is the only misdemeanor for which you cannot get deferred adjudication. In case you don’t know, deferred is a form of probation that allows you to avoid a final conviction. The proceedings are “deferred” while you are under supervision, and the charge dismissed if you successfully complete the supervision period. Several years ago the legislature also changed the law to allow you to obtain an Order of Non-Disclosure in certain situations, which basically allows you to get your record sealed. While I have concerns about the effectiveness of such orders, it can be a significant benefit. It certainly beats a final conviction.

MADD didn’t like the fact that you could avoid a final conviction in DWI cases – despite the fact that even where a deferred has been successfully completed, and the prosecutor still has access to it. Instead, they wanted to make sure that you could never walk away from a mistake –  it would go with you to your grave.

MADD is a powerful group, and they have the support of the traditional law and order groups. After all, no one wants to be labeled as soft on crime. Which is how we have ended up with the draconian laws that are now in place.

There has already been a bill introduced in the Texas Legislature to authorize deferred adjudication in DWI cases. That’s probably not surprising since a similar effort was made last year – and it appeared to be on the road to passage before it was derailed. I seriously doubt the current effort has any chance, but I could be wrong; in something is passed, I’m going to guess it will be so watered down and restricted that it's not really deferred.

Driving while intoxicated is not different from any other crime, and there’s no reason to treat it that way. One day the legislature will see that, and start looking for realistic ways to curb driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to be any time soon.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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