Getting into legal trouble, even for something that didn’t hurt anyone, like driving while under the influence (DWI), can affect many areas of your life. Getting arrested has social consequences and financial repercussions. A criminal conviction or guilty plea could also affect your career.
Once you have a criminal record, any future employer that performs a background check will know about a mistake that led to an arrest. It can be hard for those convicted of a DWI to get the best jobs or move up at their existing company, as promotions often include the same background check as a new hire process.
Some people might think that if they stay at the company, they can avoid the DWI affecting their career. Unfortunately, there are no real protections that keep your employer from penalizing or firing you for criminal convictions in Texas.
What are your rights after an arrest or conviction?
You have the right to defend yourself against criminal charges and to receive fair treatment in the criminal justice system. You do not necessarily have any kind of protection from your employer taking punitive action against you when they learn about your arrests or convictions.
Texas is an at-will state, which generally means that a company can fire you for any reason that isn’t discriminatory or no reason at all. A criminal conviction could be grounds for immediate termination at some companies, depending on the employment contract a worker signed and the company’s policies.
Although companies generally cannot hold you accountable for personal decisions made while not at work, they can enforce their internal policy about arrests or criminal records. Texas does not limit how companies use arrest or conviction records unless someone successfully expunges their record.
Fighting a DWI could protect your career
The more responsibility or risk that comes with your job, the greater the negative impact of a DWI on your record. If you work with the public, drive a vehicle for your employer or operate heavy machinery, they may worry that a one-time DWI could be a warning sign of alcoholism, which is a common contributing factor to terrible workplace accidents.
Defending yourself and avoiding a DWI conviction can limit the impact of a brush with law enforcement on your long-term career success and financial stability.