Question (from an email): I have a situation that I need your help with if you don’t mind.

Here it is: I have three public intoxication charges in the past nine years. Got my first one at 21 and my last one at 29. I am 30 now.

The first one was in 1998, was arrested and put on deferred adjudication. Second one was in 2002, was arrested and put on deferred adjudication. Third one was November 2006, pretty recent. Was not arrested but put on deferred adjudication.

Of course I had fines to pay and my first one I had to attend AA meeting. I fulfilled all requirements without incident for all three. First on was in Austin, Texas….second in McKinney, Texas…third in Lake Dallas, Texas. I believe they are all class B misdemeanors correct?

I heard that when you get three then it changes to class A, is that so?

Anyway….In the last five years I have attended school and became a firefighter / Paramedic and am trying to get hired on to a Fire Department. Well, I was an idiot and got a freakin P.I. in November of 2006 and decided to stop drinking all together because it’s no good and I am ruining my chances of getting hired on anywhere.

The Fire Department is pretty strict about criminal history, even with misdemeanors and time is the only thing on my side to get hired on. Well, since I not only have three PI charges racked up but one being too recent I can’t get hired right now and it’s hurting me.

I heard of something called motion of disclosure…will this help me and is this what I need to sort of fix the problem. 

The least I could do is the most recent one…if not all of them…or even the last two. I don’t know.

What would you suggest be the best choice? I don’t lie on applications and I really don’t want to wait longer for time to pass separating me from the last charge. How much would it cost to do this? Please help me. Thanks.

Answer: One quick note, before I give a more substantive answer…

While I definitely don’t think that getting one Public Intoxication arrest makes someone an alcoholic (after all, it’s often more about your attitude than how much you’ve had to drink), I’m glad to hear that after 3 arrests and 1 ticket for PI, you’ve decided to stop drinking. 

Sounds like you either have incredibly bad luck, or quite possibly there’s an alcohol problem that needs addressing.

OK. So for the good news…Public Intoxication in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor, not a Class B, which makes quite a difference.

So, it’s ‘only’ the equivalent of a traffic ticket level offense, but, as you have found out, it can affect your employment possibilities…especially if you have a ‘history’ of PI arrests.

More good news? What you (and probably the Municipal Court prosecutors you dealt with) call ‘deferred adjudication’ for a Class C PI charge, was actually deferred disposition. That means the ‘probation’ you were on was non-reporting, the same way that you don’t check in monthly with a probation officer when you agree to take defensive driving to get your traffic ticket dismissed.

More good news? In Texas, a successfully completed deferred disposition entitles you to an expunction. Expunctions completely erase a record, whereas the Motion for Non-Disclosure that you talked about ‘mostly’ clears your record. So an expunction is better.

A quick digression based on your email before I get to the ‘bad news’…

A Public Intoxication arrest (or ticket) can be enhanced from a Class C, to a Class B misdemeanor, when you have 2 prior convictions. Again, if you successfully completed the deferred disposition, you have no prior convictions, so you aren’t in that category. But that’s what you ‘heard’ about enhancements for Texas Public Intoxication charges, and that part is true.

OK. You knew it was coming. The bad news…for you, anyway… (isn’t the cost of hiring the lawyer always the bad news?)

You can only expunge multiple arrests in Texas in one proceeding if they all happened in the same county. The petition to expunge must be filed in the county that you were arrested. 

Frankly, the majority of the costs involved in any expungement proceeding is preparing the paperwork. Personally, when I apply to erase my client’s criminal history in Austin, I charge an additional fraction of the initial cost to add multiple arrests to the petition. In other words, it doesn’t cost much more to expunge 2 arrests if they happen in the same county.

You were arrested in at least 3 different counties, so you will probably need to hire lawyers in all 3 jurisdictions to get the expunctions. Even if you hired the same lawyer for all three, it’s not just a matter of adding another few paragraphs to the expunction form to include the other cause numbers, etc. There will be separate filing fees for each County Clerk, and separate appearances for the attorney, etc.

I’ve got to end with some good news though. Sounds like your life is taking a turn in the right direction, and while it will cost some money to clear up your criminal history, you are eligible to do so, and in the long run…trust me, that’s what counts.