One of my favorite lines is "I don't trust anyone who has not had a DWI." Truthfully, my clients are among my favorite people. They are social, resourceful and gregarious. Most drinking in a DWI scenario involves socializing with other people. The Barbara Streisand line, "People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world" is so true. It is important for prosecutors, judges, and jurors to understand the life changing consequences of a DWI conviction. Here are 3 consequences that some people may not be familiar with:
Our Family (Willy, our German exchange son, is in a Texas shirt)
1. You can't host a foreign exchange student for 5 years from the conviction. Yes, shocker. Several years ago, my third son asked that we host the German exchange student at our high school because his host family was not working out. Without even thinking, I said "Sure." Yet, when they found out my husband had a DWI conviction they rejected us. Our German son was already living with us and was very happy. It took a Judge writing to the State Department to overturn their decision. It was a very scary moment in our lives that made no sense. Here we had a loving family providing a warm, happy home to a young, German future leader (all foreign exchange students build bridges of cultural diplomacy with positive ramifications between countries for years to come), and yet for no good reason the federal government was trying to use my husband's DWI as an excuse to bar us from hosting. My husband's DWI involved no children in the car, no breath or blood level (but a confession), no accident (he turned against a no turn posted sign), no prior criminal history and yet the State Department thought he was not fit to host a child?
2. If you have a green card ("Permanent Resident") and receive a DWI conviction, finalizing the process and becoming a citizen is difficult. I am not an immigration lawyer (if you are in this situation, you should also consult with an immigration attorney), but recently INS has been delaying the process for some permanent residents to become citizens for five years. This of course, can always change. For those who do not have any legal status, expect to be deported immediately upon a jail or probation sentence. In the larger counties that I practice in, the police are calling INS for immediate deportation once booked in for DWI. Texas Senator John Cornyn has already introduced legislation for deportation upon a first DWI conviction. This did not pass, but federal policies on DWI and deportation are constantly changing and becoming more strenuous. What can be done in each situation is unique, according to the jurisdiction and people involved (prosecutors and judges vary on their approaches).
3. If you have a DWI conviction, you will lose your concealed handgun carry license in Texas. This occurs even if you did not have a handgun in your possession on the DWI. If you receive a DWI and there is a gun in the vehicle, you will receive a second misdemeanor charge of Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon. The current law bars your ability from obtaining a concealed carry permit for 5 years with a DWI conviction.
Of course, there are far too many negative consequences that accompany a DWI conviction to list. They include Texas DPS surcharges, increased insurance rates, banned travel to Canada, for some loss of job, contributing factor to divorce, alienation from family, friends and sometimes community. The depression, shock, and anxiety are intense and can become clinical. Risk of suicide is real. Please, please if you are suffering from these symptoms make sure to seek professional help. I am also here to help you. I want to know if you are suffering. This is very important to me so that I can help you. One day, this DWI will be a blip in your rearview mirror that eventually goes out of sight. Right after it happens, it is the giant object on every rearview and side view mirror as you navigate through life. You are not alone. Be strong, all of us make mistakes. Remember that mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.