After you have paid all the fees and fines, attended the classes, served your sentence and completed all the requirements to get your driving privileges back, you may find that just having a DUI conviction on your record can be a form of punishment by itself.
A drunk driving conviction can hamper you in getting a job, obtaining credit, purchasing a gun, getting a student loan or even renting an apartment in some cases.
Long Lasting ConsequencesMany people who found their way into recovery as a result of being arrested for drunk driving and have cleaned up their act, quit drinking and remained sober, have become frustrated when they find that years later they are still paying for their crime any time someone runs a background check on them.
The solution to that problem is to try to have your DUI conviction expunged from your record, if you can do so. Whether are not you can have it expunged depends on the laws of the state in which you were convicted.
The laws concerning expungement of criminal records vary from state to state. Some states do not allow it at all for convictions - only for arrests that did not result in a conviction. Other states will allow expungements, but only under certain conditions.
What Is Expungement?When a court orders a criminal record expunged, it means the conviction is sealed or erased so that it no longer appears on the background check available to potential employers, lenders, landlords or the public in general.
The record is really never completely erased, however. It can still be seen by law enforcement and court officials to determine if you have had prior convictions. But an expungement will keep your record from hampering you in getting a job or applying for a loan.
How Do You Get an Expungement?The first thing you need to determine is if the state in which you were convicted allows expungements. If it does, then the next step is to determine what requirements you need to meet to have your record cleared.
The eligibility requirements for an expungement vary from state to state, but generally the factors most states consider include:
- Was the DUI your first and only conviction?
- How much time has passed since the conviction?
- What was the severity and nature of the crime?
Determining If You Are EligibleIf you have other convictions on your record, chances are you will not be eligible to have your record expunged. If you have multiple DUI convictions, the chances are almost zero that you can get them sealed.
Most states have a time limit in which you must have maintained a clean criminal record to be eligible for expungement. Again, it varies from state to state and can range from three years to 10 years.
If your DUI conviction was a felony - if someone was killed or injured or if property was destroyed - it may be more difficult for you to get the record expunged.
Beginning the Expungement ProcessIf you find that your state does offer expungement and you are eligible, that is just the beginning. Now the work begins. You will have to fill out an application or a petition to file with the court. It requires a lot of paperwork and there are court fees involved with the filings.
In some states you may have to file the petition with the clerk of the court and in others you may have to file them with the district attorney's office instead.
Process Can Be Long, ComplicatedIn some jurisdictions, the judge will determine if you will be granted an expungement by reading the papers that you have filed along with your background check and other reports or opinions from the district attorney.
In other jurisdictions, a public hearing is required on your petition, at which time you will be allowed to state your reasons for applying for the expungement.
Is It Worth the Effort?The process can be long, complicated and even confusing. It is possible to proceed on your own, but if you can afford it, you might be better off getting an attorney to guide you through the process.
The bottom line is, if your DUI was not your only conviction, or if you are still drinking and driving, chances are seeking an expungement would be a waste of time and effort. But if the DUI was your first and only offense and you have truly cleaned up your act, it might be worth your time to clean up your record too.