Have a record from underage drinking? UT law students help for free

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Laura Mahler, a third-year law student, led the Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s Expunction Project on Tuesday evening. The Expunction Project aims to alleviate students with a minor charge related to alcohol under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

Photo Credit: Hannah Simon | Daily Texan Staff

For three hours on Tuesday night, student volunteers from UT’s School of Law offered free legal service to students looking to expunge records of alcohol-related offenses.

The Expunction Project, administered by the Mithoff Pro Bono Program, invited students charged with one offense — like possession or consumption of alcohol as a minor or the use of a fake ID — under Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. Law students, supervised by practicing attorneys, advised the students and prepared court petitions to begin their expunction process.

Meg Clifford, staff attorney for the Mithoff Pro Bono Program, said the program has hosted expunction clinics since 2014, but the clinic on Tuesday was the first to focus solely on TABC violations.

Laura Mahler, lead organizer of the TABC Expunction Clinic, said she advocated for the specialized clinic because she saw a number of students requesting aid. 

“We know that a criminal record can be an obstacle for students when applying for housing, jobs and state licensure, and we hope that we will be able to continue to offer this opportunity to ensure students do not have to worry about a ticket when planning for life after graduation,” said Mahler, a third-year law student.

Mahler said the TABC Clinic was a smaller pilot event, but she intends to offer larger clinics in the future. According to previous Daily Texan reporting, the TABC began stepping up its inspections of fake IDs around West Campus in September 2018.

Some students fail to recognize that their TABC citations stay on their record unless they get them expunged. The point of the event was to inform and serve them, Clifford said.

 

“Lots of times, people are told that when their case has been dismissed it ‘goes away,’as in it no longer appears on your records,” Clifford said. “Well, that’s not entirely accurate.”

Clifford said students unable to make the event on Tuesday who want to expunge TABC offenses related to underage drinking should register for a future TABC expunction clinic online. Those with alcohol-related offenses, such as public intoxication and DWIs, that did not fall under the scope of Tuesday’s clinic can return to the broader expunction clinic in the fall.  

Patrick Marcus, a second-year law student who volunteered Tuesday night, began working at expunction clinics for the hands-on experience.

“It’s an absolute privilege to have the skills and access to the resources and knowledge to be able to provide this service, and there’s a definite need for it,” Marcus said. “It’s a pretty vital program.”