Being arrested and convicted for an offense like driving under the influence can have lifelong ramifications. Even if you were relatively young when you committed the crime, you may have the rest of your life to pay for your mistakes. Living a normal everyday life can be difficult and in some instances impossible.
Rather than allow a DUI conviction to haunt you for the rest of your days, you may want to have the DWI conviction sealed or hidden on your permanent driving and criminal record. Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, you could be eligible for a DUI expungement in your state.
Expunging Your Driving and Criminal Record
A DUI conviction can stay on your permanent record for years and in some cases forever depending on in what state you live. After you are convicted and sentenced for the offense, you will have this blemish on your permanent record for as long as the state laws mandate.
Most states require a misdemeanor DWI to stay on your record for as long as 10 years. During those 10 years, the DWI conviction will show up on every background check you submit to when applying for a job, a new apartment, financing, admission to a school, and for other routine tasks. If you are convicted of a felony DUI, you could have this blemish on your record indefinitely.
Of course, the DUI will also show up whenever you are arrested or questioned for criminal offenses. Law enforcement, the court system, and immigration authorities will always have access to your DWI conviction even if you do pursue an expungement.
When you go through with an expungement, however, you effectively seal or hide your DWI conviction and DUI arrest record from entities that could hold power over your everyday life. If you are approved for an expungement, landlords, school admissions offices, some government agencies, banks, and financiers will not be able to see your DWI conviction when they perform a background check on you.
Before you pursue an expungement, you should learn in what states you can ask the courts for this courtesy. You also should appreciate the process involved with getting a DWI expungement.
Can DUIs Be Expunged?
A DUI can be expunged from criminal and driving records in some but not all states. The states that allow for DWI expungement are:
- South Dakota
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
If you live or committed DWI in any of these states, you could ask the court for an expungement of the DUI on your criminal and driving record.
Of course, whether or not you are granted an expungement of your DUI conviction will largely depend on the severity of the offense, whether or not you paid back your debt to society, and other factors. If the DWI was a misdemeanor offense and you have paid the fine or served out your stint in jail, chances are that you could be given an expungement of the DWI as long as you have not been charged or found guilty of driving under the influence again.
However, if you are a repeat DUI offender or caused harm to people or property during the commission of your DWI, you may not be able to have the offense expunged from your record. In fact, the court may regard your DWI as a felony offense and therefore not eligible for expungement.
As with any DUI case, however, the factors may vary for your circumstances and border the laws in the state you live in or in which you were convicted. Even if you think that you will not be granted an expungement, you could still find out for sure by hiring a skilled DUI attorney to look at your case and make an argument for you in court. Your lawyer could know about loopholes in the DWI laws that may convince the judge to grant you the expungement of your DWI conviction.
What is the Process for Getting an Expunction?
The process for requesting an expungement of your record varies from state to state. However, a basic overview of the process calls for you to first file the necessary deposition forms with the court. These forms notify the court that you are seeking an expunction of your DUI conviction and want it to be cleared from your record.
Along with filing the necessary forms, you also may need to secure the original copies of your conviction and submit a new set of fingerprints to law enforcement. You also may need to submit a certificate of rehabilitation or pardon if you served out your sentence, paid the civil fines for your offense, or were wrongfully convicted in the first place.
After you provide the court with all of the requested documents, you then will be given a date for your expungement hearing. It is important that you show up to the hearing on time and be completely honest with the judge about your DUI situation. If you attempt to hide information or outright lie to the judge, your request could be denied. You also could find yourself charged with contempt of court.
If you are not sure if you can represent yourself adequately before the judge, you should hire a DUI attorney to represent you. Your attorney will know what documents to file and on what date to show up for the hearing. He or she can also speak for you during the hearing so all of the facts are known, and you have the best chances of your expungement request being granted the first time.
The process leading up to the actual expunction hearing can be complex and difficult for you to understand. You can get the best advice and go through the process relatively easily by retaining a skilled attorney who is well-versed in DUI law in your state or the state in which the offense was committed.
Who is Eligible for a DUI Expunction?
A DWI expungement is available to a wide array of DUI offenders even people who may not think that they can ever have their records effectively sealed in the eyes of the law. The states that allow for expunctions of DUI criminal and arrest records generally will grant the request to people who committed their offenses as juveniles. If you were under the age of 21 when you were charged with and convicted of driving under the influence, you may be able to have the record expunged especially if 10 years have elapsed since your conviction.
Likewise, if your offenses were deemed as misdemeanors, you could petition for an expunction of your record. Misdemeanor DWI offenses are serious but not as serious as felony charges. If you have paid back your debt to society, paid the court costs and civil fines, completed community service, and otherwise satisfied the terms of your sentence, you may be granted an expunction of your record.
Even if you were convicted of a felony DUI offense, you still might be granted an expunction if a decade has passed and you have not had any more criminal convictions added to your record. Your attorney can show the judge that you have made amends and have avoided committing more crimes. As a rehabilitated offender, you may be given the chance to have your record expunged once and for all.
The last reason that judges grant expunctions is for people who have been wrongfully convicted of DUI or DWI. If your attorney can prove that your BAC was below the legal limit or can call your field sobriety test into question, you could have your record expunged. To prove a wrongful conviction, you need a skilled attorney working your case, however.
These eligibility factors typically come into play for anyone who wants to have his or her DUI record expunged. Your attorney can tell you if you meet any of these requirements and whether or not you have a good chance of being granted an expungement of your DWI driving and arrest record.
Reasons to Have Your Record Expunged
You might wonder if the process for having your record expunged is truly worth it. After all, you were found guilty by the court and sentenced to jail, community service, and other punishments. What good would it do to have the record expunged if you have already carried out your sentence?
In fact, a number of good reasons exist for why you may want to have your record fully expunged of your prior DUI arrests and convictions. You may not even realize how gravely a DWI on your record can affect you until you try to resume your normal everyday life.
To start, you might find getting a good job with a DUI record difficult or in some cases impossible. High-paying, white collar jobs are generally reserved for people with spotless criminal and driving records. Your potential employer may see the conviction on your own record and pass you over for an interview.
Even some lower paying and entry-level jobs like pizza delivery or courier services require applicants to have good driving records. An employer will probably not invite you for an interview after seeing a DUI on your record. The company cannot take on the liability of hiring a person who chose to drink and drive in the past.
Aside from applying for and getting a good job, a DUI conviction can also be an impediment to other important tasks that you may want to carry out in your life like:
- being admitted to university or college
- applying for and getting financial aid
- getting a bank or credit union loan
- volunteering in the community
- becoming a foster parent or adopting
All of these possibilities will be out of reach for you if you have a drunk driving conviction on your arrest and driving records. When you have the records expunged, you essentially seal them in the eyes of the law. Only the criminal court system as well as law enforcement will be able to see your prior DUI arrests and convictions. Even at that, the convictions will only matter if you go onto to commit crimes in the future.
Your lawyer can start the process of expunging your records and giving you back the integrity you want for your life. You do not want a foolish mistake that you made in the past to haunt you forever.
You may find resuming your normal everyday life easier once you have your records expunged. The process for doing so can be lengthy and complicated. By hiring a DUI attorney, you make the process faster and easier and may get the exact results that you want.