What You Need to Know About DUI Expungement
It is not a secret that a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) conviction has a negative impact on an individual’s life. A conviction often means have trouble securing employment, applying for a student loan, applying for personal credit cards, and even renting an apartment. Even if the conviction happened many years ago, the negative impact of the charge can be felt for a long period. The good news is that first offense DUI, DWI convictions can sometimes be expunged.
It is important to know that expungement laws vary from one state to the next. For example, some states may only allow arrests that did not result in convictions to be cleared, while other states will allow it for a guilty offender under certain circumstances. In order to best understand if your first-time offense DUI conviction can be removed, it is important to understand what expungement is and some of the terminology and facts that may surround having the charge erased from your record.
Definition of Expunging a Record
Expungement, also known as “sealing a conviction,” “expunction,” and “setting aside a criminal conviction” essentially erases a Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated conviction in the eyes of the law. While an expunged DUI can still be used as a method of proof to a prior conviction, the charge is often hidden from potential employers, credit issuers, educational institutions, and other entities that may be performing a background check on the individual who has been convicted.
Although the conviction is hidden from these entities, it still does exist and can sometimes be used as evidence of proof of a prior conviction. An expunged DUI conviction can sometimes be used during sentencing of another crime or in the case of a deportation or immigration hearing. The court system will still consider a DUI, DWI conviction that is “under seal” as appropriate proof for a prior conviction. An expungement, however, will allow the individual to proceed with life relatively normally.
Types of DUI Convictions that Can be Cleared
As mentioned earlier, the ability to expunge a Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated conviction depends on the procedures in place by in individual state. Although the limitations vary, most states limit clearing a DUI record to only first offenses. In other states, expungements are only available for arrests that did not result in a conviction or guilty plea or for DUI convictions that are not part of a criminal pattern. In all states, it is up to the court to decide if the removal of the offense should be granted.
Under 2021 DUI expungement laws, here are some examples of how different states handle the clearing of DUI convictions:
- Alabama – This offense cannot be removed (exceptions for youthful offenders) in most cases.
- California – Expungement of a DUI may be available After Successful completion of probation.
- Connecticut – Clearing of the record is an option if there is no additional misdemeanor convictions after 3 years.
- Georgia – DUI-related offense convictions cannot be cleared; however arrests without conviction can be.
- Florida – Clearing of a DUI arrest record is available for dropped charges or not guilty findings.
DUI Expungement and DMV Driver’s License Suspensions
Being granted an expungement for a Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated charge will in no way affect the suspension placed on the individual’s driver’s license by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Since the two penalties are handled by different organizations, pardon from one does not mean pardon from both – just because the arrest or conviction was removed does not mean they no longer have an obligation to finish out their license suspension or license revocation period.
How to Apply for an Expungement
Before beginning the process to have a Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated charge expunged, make sure to check your state’s specific procedures and discuss the expungement procedure with a DUI attorney. While each state will have a different process, there are some basic steps that each state will follow to some degree. The first step is to see if the charge you were convicted of or if your criminal background allows for clearing of the DUI. Start by asking these questions:
- Is my offense eligible for expungement? Some states may only allow it for DUIs that did not result in a conviction while others will expunge the charge after a certain amount of time.
- When is my offense eligible for expungement? In some cases, this may only be available after the individual has successfully completed probation or the other sentences that they were punished with.
- Do I need an attorney to handle my expungement? In many cases, filing for an expungement does not require the assistance of an attorney. Many jurisdictions have expungement forms available often referred to as “Motion for Expungement.” If your case is relatively complex, having an attorney review the application may be a good idea.
- What consequences are associated with expungement? It is important to remember that even though a conviction may have been cleared, it can still show up in certain circumstances.
Information on “Certificates of Actual Innocence”
In the spectrum of DUI and other criminal charge expungements a “Certificate of Actual Innocence” is the most powerful and sought after result. While an expungement seals the individual’s arrest and charge, it can sometimes resurface in certain circumstances. A “Certificate of Actual Innocence” also seals the individual’s arrest and charge but also states that the charge should have never existed. In laymen’s terms, the certificate states that the individual is factually innocent.
Some examples of how a “Certificate of Actual Innocence” works include:
- Dan was arrested for vandalizing the side of a building with spray paint and charged with vandalism but the charges were later dropped by the court. A “Certificate of Actual Innocence” would prove that he was factually not guilty of the crime for which he was charged.
- Steve was arrested for vandalizing an old train car with spray paint and was arrested and charged with vandalism. The case went to court and Steve was found not guilty. A “Certificate of Actual Innocence” would reinforce that Steve was factually not guilty of the crime for which he was charged.
DUI and Crime Expungement for Juvenile Offenders
In many states, juvenile offenders often have a much easier time having convictions expunged from their record. Usually, the “underage offender” has the option to have their records sealed once they reach the age of 18 as long as they have stayed out of any additional trouble prior to turning legal age. Some of the factors that play a role in expungement eligibility for juveniles include:
- Offenders Current Age (Must be considered an adult to apply for expungement)
- Type of Offense Committed
- When the Offense Took Place
- Any Subsequent Convictions or Arrests
Generally, if the juvenile was convicted of a misdemeanor offense and has not gotten into any additional trouble when they turn 18, having their youthful offender record sealed is usually a simple process.
We can provide help online with getting your DUI expunged by filling out the free arrest review form so we can properly advise you what steps to take next.
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Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and DUI law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any driving under the influence arrest charges, get free online assistance in learning how to fight a DUI case for the best possible outcome.