As many who have suffered a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction admit, the repercussions are worse than the arrest. Or the penalties, for that matter. In fact, a drunk-driving verdict can follow you for years after you get your driving privileges back and pay all your fines. While an arrest by itself is fleeting, you can rest assured a DUI judgment has staying power. Employers and others whose trust you seek will know of this stain on your character.
What Does Expungement Mean?
To expunge a DUI conviction simply means to erase it from the public record. This is not a pardon whereby the authority declares that a convicted person innocent. Expungement is an act of deletion, removing the judgment from public view. For all practical purposes, the driver has no blot on his or her record; officially though, the court and law enforcement continue to observe the conviction as active.
Accordingly, if a driver successfully gets a conviction expunged, he or she can apply for jobs, rent an apartment or serve as a volunteer EMT without any decision-maker knowing of the prior verdict. If, however, the driver is again apprehended for DUI (or DWI – driving while intoxicated), that counts as a second offense, the expungement notwithstanding. Sentencing will be based on a repeated offense rather than a first-time violation.
Can You Get a DUI Expunged in Every State?
Each state is sovereign when it comes to traffic laws so, therefore, each has the option to allow or disallow the privilege of expungement. The hard truth is that some of them do not offer this avenue to DUI recipients. Among those that do, different criteria apply in terms of penalties satisfied, waiting times, misdemeanor vs. felony etc. The attorney general’s office of your state can tell you the policies and procedures specific to that jurisdiction.
States that do not accommodate the practice of expunging DUI convictions include Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia and Hawaii. In Alabama, expungement is only granted to minors. North Carolina, which permits the practice, refers to it as “expunction.” Other states will expunge if the court reduces the judgment to “reckless driving.”
Does Expungement Apply to All Records?
Again, state rules determine the scope of expungement but it is not necessarily exhaustive, There are two facets to a DUI case: one is criminal, and governed by the court of conviction and the relevant law enforcement agency. The other is administrative and managed by the state motor vehicles agency. Consequently, a petition for erasure might have to be two petitions.
Can you get a DUI expunged from your driving record? The truth is that state MVAs are generally less willing than courts to entertain this. In New Jersey, for example, DUIs are treated exclusively as motor vehicle offenses even though they are processed through courts and carry criminal penalties. Since expungement is primarily a matter of criminal records, the conviction remains on the driving record intact. In the end, the driving record affects insurance premiums and any future infractions. It is of less effect than a criminal record (unless, that is, you’re applying for a driver job).
How Long Does It Take?
Of course, the time it takes from conviction to expungement varies by state, too. First, in order for a court to agree to “close” your case, First of all, the clock does not start until you satisfy all the penalties: fines paid, suspensions completed, community service or jail time served. The shortest threshold of time from that point is one year.
It does not just happen. Application paperwork is always a requirement as is an application fee, which can be several hundreds of dollars. Pennsylvania mandates an Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition before automatic expungement after 10 years. Actually, a decade is about the longest any state calls for before considering expungement.
States Without Expungement
So, how do you get a DUI expunged when state law does not provide for it? As noted above, expungement is not a pardon. However, a pardon supercedes any power of expungement. A pardon is the state government declaring that the DUI conviction never happened. It is an executive pronouncement of official innocence, the facts notwithstanding.
There is only one state official with the legal authority to pardon a convicted person and that is the governor. Needless to say, given the ratio of pardons to convictions, this option is s longshot. Still, with the help of an attorney familiar with pardon procedures, it may be a worthwhile effort. Although some states like New York afford petitioners a quick and easy application process, the levels of bureaucracy through which it must rise will hold off a decision for what could be years.
Can You Get a DUI Expunged Without a Lawyer?
With or without an attorney can you get a DUI expunged. Obviously, a lawyer costs money, the last thing you want to part with after onerous fines and surcharges. Yet the slew of documentation necessary to secure expungement is often complicated. Legal counsel can explain what the court seeks to know, and also how best to present such information.
For instance, most applications call for the specific ordinances violated to appear in the appropriate section. A lawyer can format this information quickly whereas a layperson might find it confusing. Furthermore, counsel will know whether or not you are eligible in the first place. If not cost-prohibitive, representation makes success more likely than going it alone.
Can you get a DUI expunged? Yes, but not without conditions. Did you pay your debt to the public as decided by the court? How long since the matter was settled? Where do you live? Was the DUI conviction a felony or misdemeanor? The answer to these questions will answer the original. Yes, getting an expungement makes life much easier when asking people or institutions to trust you. Will you do the work? Can you wait for it?