A Closer Look at the Proposed Deferred Adjudication Bill For Texas DWI Cases


Rep. Todd Smith has introduced H.B. 189, which would authorize people charged with a first driving while intoxicated case in Texas to receive deferred adjudication. Texas law does not presently allow for deferred adjudication in Driving While Intoxicated cases. In a deferred adjudication situation, no judicial finding of guilt is made and and the end of the deferral period the case is dismissed.

On its face then, the idea that deferred adjudication might be authorized for those arrested for Driving While Intoxicated in Texas might seem appealing to a person charged with Driving While Intoxicated. The law appears to have law enforcement support, and even M.A.D.D. has publicly endorsed the bill, at least in concept. Sounds like a win, win doesn’t it? Often, the devil is in the details.

If H.B. 189 becomes law, it will require persons placed on deferred adjudication for DWI to have an Ignition Interlock device installed on any car that they own or operate. An Ignition Interlock device is a machine that is installed in your car that is designed to indicate the presence of alcohol and disallow the car from starting if alcohol is detected. This Ignition Interlock device is not presently a requirement for people convicted of DWI unless their alcohol concentration is over a specified amount, but it apparently will be for those placed on Deferred.

The new proposed bill would also prevent those that successfully complete deferred adjudication for DWI from sealing their record. For most misdemeanor cases, when a person succesfully completes deferred adjudication they are eligible to petition the Court to seal their record. This sealing is known as an Order of Non Disclosure and a person’s ability to seek an Order of Non Disclosure is controlled by the Texas Government Code. H.B. 189 specifically amends the relevant section of the Government Code to prohibit people who were on deferred adjudication for DWI from receiving an Order of Non Disclosure.

Finally, the first time dwi deferred will be used to enhance the punishment range of subsequent DWI convictions.

I understand the rationale behind the bill. The goal is to remove a large number of DWI cases from the crowded dockets in Collin and Dallas County and all around Texas. The thought is that if deferred adjudication is an option, many people with first time DWI cases would opt for the deferred. Under the bill as written however, I don’t see the incentive. You will need an Interlock that is not required by law if you were convicted. You can never non disclose the deferred, and your deferred case can form the predicate for subsequent punishment enhancements.

As an attorney representing DWI clients, I don’t see the value right now, and ultimately for this proposed law to have its desired effect of unclogging dockets and moving cases, it will have to be written in a way that makes it an attractive alternative to trial.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : August 1, 2019