Ask anyone who has previously been convicted of a relatively low-level offense about the impact it has had on their lives and you might be surprised. Indeed, the unfortunate reality for many of these people is that despite paying their debt to society, they continue to be punished for their one-time mistake in judgment, facing everything from diminished employment prospects to limited housing opportunities.
As disconcerting as this reality is, the good news is that it has not gone unnoticed by state lawmakers, who passed "the second chances bill" during the recent legislative session. This measure, known as HB 3016 was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott earlier this week.
What is the second chances bill?
Sponsored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), the second chances bill allows first-time, low-level offenders to ask a court to seal their criminal record from public view.
Specifically, it applies to class C misdemeanors (without a violent or sexual component) and driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of below .15.
Didn't the state just address this issue?
Similar legislation was passed back in 2015, which applied to class A and B misdemeanors not involving family violence or a sexual component. HB 3016 therefore builds on these efforts allowing people to rebuild their lives.
Does the law apply retroactively?
The law does apply retroactively, such that qualifying residents of the Lone Star State can indeed seek a court order for nondisclosure.
Does this mean no one can see a person's criminal record?
If an individual has their criminal record sealed pursuant to HB 3016, it may only be viewed by law enforcement, and those working in sensitive industries, such as education or finance.
How does it apply to a DWI conviction?
Under HB 3016, a court order of nondisclosure may be secured within five years of completing the underlying DWI sentence or after successfully using an ignition interlock device for six months.
Here's hoping that the second chances bill, which takes effect on September 1, makes a real difference for those wanting nothing more than to move forward.
If have made the mistake of getting behind the wheel after having one drink too many, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.