'Second chances' law could make job hunt easier for low-level offenders

House Bill 3016 would not require job applicants to disclose first DWI

By Tiffany Huertas - Video Journalist, Van Darden - Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO - A person convicted of their first drunken driving charge may not have to disclose that offense to a prospective employee after Sept. 1.

That’s when House Bill 3016 by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, — known as the “second chances” law — goes into effect.

The bill will allow low-level offenders to seal their criminal backgrounds, making it easier for people to apply for jobs.

“You cannot have any prior DWIs (and) you cannot have any violent offense convictions,” attorney Kevin Collins said. “You cannot have an accident where somebody’s injured. You cannot have (a blood) alcohol (level) more than .15.”

Collins, who deals with all types of drunken driving cases, said he believes the law will be a benefit to the public.

Jason Derscheid, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, agreed.

“They would have to have a breathalyzer-type device installed in their vehicle that they would breathe into to prove they were sober before starting their vehicle,” he said.

Derscheid said the law is a step forward.

While these changes will be beneficial elsewhere in the state of Texas, District Attorney Nico LaHood said it won’t affect Bexar County because it already has programs in place to help first-time offenders.

“With DWIs, we have a responsibility program where if you are a first-time offender and there is no aggravated circumstance — a first-time DWI — you can do a plea bargain on (an) obstruction of the highway (charge),” he said.

LaHood said Bexar County’s programs are working.

“There needs to be accountability and (people need to be) given an opportunity to work for it (and) to turn their life around,” he said. “And I think the programs that we've implemented do that."

The second chances law is retroactive and will apply for an offense committed before, on, or after Sept. 1.

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