If you’re trying to research the statute of limitations for a DWI in Texas, you’re probably wondering, “Can’t this all just go away already?!” It’s a thought that almost anyone handling a DWI charge has probably had during the lengthy and frightening criminal justice process, and unfortunately, the answer is almost never yes.
In their desire to run away from their DWI, some people mistakenly think that the statute of limitations could become their fast-lane ticket to freedom. This is not the case. While DWI does have a statute of limitations, it does not necessarily apply to most cases. Learn how the statute of limitations for DWI works in Texas, and what you can (and can’t) do to take advantage of it.
The Statute of Limitations and How it Works in Texas
It’s understandable how confusion has risen around the statute of limitations and DWI’s in Texas. Despite how people act in movies and TV shows, the statute of limitations isn’t some race against time where you get off scot-free if you win. Statutes of limitations are laws that forbid prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that allegedly occurred a certain number of years ago. For instance, the statute of limitations on forgery is ten years, which means that a prosecutor can’t charge you with forgery if the forged document in question were created more than ten years ago.
Some crimes like murder, sexual assault, hit and run resulting in death and human trafficking have no statute of limitations, meaning charges can be brought against you at any time if the prosecutor is able to build a case. In most instances, the statute of limitations is relevant to cases where the prosecution was unable to gather sufficient evidence for their charges within a lengthy period of time. If a charge has actually been brought against you, the only way you can become immune to being charged again is by achieving acquittal in a court of law.
At this point, you likely want to know, is there a statute of limitations on DWI and drunk driving in Texas?
A Texas DWI and Statute of Limitations
In the state of Texas the statute of limitations for misdemeanor DWI is two years, and three years for felony DWI and intoxication manslaughter. (For more information on intoxication manslaughter penalties, please see our article on intoxication manslaugther sentences.)
Although they do exist, it is extremely rare for statute of limitations to be invoked in a DWI case. In most cases, the prosecutor considers the state’s evidence as strong enough to warrant pressing charges against DWI suspects. And once a charge is filed, the statute of limitations almost instantly becomes irrelevant.
Although rare, it is not impossible to use the statute of limitations for a DWI case in Texas. For instance, if the state were to lose its evidence, such as a DWI blood test, they would likely lose most of their basis for filing charges. In that scenario, they would need to recover the evidence within 2-3 years, otherwise their chance to file charges will have expired.
Practically speaking, it’s uncommon for this occur for a DWI. It’s very rare if there is a warrant for your arrest for DWI because DWI suspects are typically apprehended, accused and charged in quick order. Therefore, it is extremely rare that the statute of limitations for a DWI in Texas comes into play.
Statute of Limitations and Old DWI Charges
Another common misconception is that the statute of limitations renders old Texas DWI convictions meaningless. This is not the case.
While it is now possible to seal your first DWI conviction in Texas after at least two years have passed since you completed the conditions of your conviction, a DWI conviction stays on your record permanently unless specific action is taken to have it removed. (Read more about how to get a DWI expunged in Texas.)
Without a DWI being expunged, your charge remains on your record. Having a criminal record affects travel, job applications and background checks—regardless of how long it’s been since the original conviction.
Something to note is that a second DWI conviction cannot be sealed or expunged. Additionally, a third DWI charge would be a felony DWI regardless of how long it had been since DWI number two.
Don’t Play the Waiting Game on Your DWI Case!
If you’ve been charged with DWI, the statute of limitations is already useless. In fact, you may have 15 days or even less to save your license.
Don’t stand around and wait for your problems to go away—take action and hire Mark Thiessen to defend your case! One of the top Houston DWI lawyers, Mark has beaten difficult charges including second DWI, intoxication manslaughter and handled complex DWI probation violations. Take the right step to avoid a pesky DWI conviction altogether—schedule today!
If you found this article on DWI helpful, you might also find these DWI resources useful:
- A DWI in Texas First Offense: What You Need to Know
- DWI in Texas Second Offense: What to Do
- Suspended License in Texas: How to Avoid It
- Expungement in Texas
- Child Support Modification in Texas