Clearing the Slate: How to Get a DUI Expungement

You made a mistake.

You drove under the influence of alcohol and got caught in the act.

Not good. But you’re far from the only one to do it.

Indeed, back in 2010, over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for the same offense. And, according to the same source, that’s only a fraction of the 112 million adults who admit to drink-driving every year.

The stats alone might not help. After all, the basic fact remains: you’re lumped in with the DUI stats. Jail-time, drivers’ education courses, license suspension and so on are all to follow in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

It doesn’t stop there though.

The implications of a DUI, as we’ll go on to see, can extend far into the future. Thankfully, it’s possible to get a DUI expungement to remove it from your record. But how?

Keep reading to learn what the implications are of your DUI, and exactly how to get your DUI expunged.

Implications of DUI on Your Record

It’s in your interest to seek an expungement of your DUI record.

Why? Because having it has all sorts of implications. The DUI can impact your life in an array of significant ways, even after any sentence has passed. It has the potential to undermine your desires and opportunities for years to come.

Here are the main negative implications of a DUI:

1. Removal of Your License

Expect to lose your drivers’ license for a period of time after the arrest.

A first offense may instigate revocation for up to two years. That’s a long time to go without the ability to drive. Think of the knock-on effects.

What if your job requires you to drive a vehicle? You may end up losing your job (more on employment issues later). Likewise, cars are often essential to everyday life. Simple errands become harder to perform. Public transport is time-consuming and unpredictable.

And, ultimately, you lose a level of independence. Suddenly, there’s a reliance on others to drive you around. There’s a level of shame and frustration that can accompany it.

2. Tenancy Issues

Background checks are often performed by landlords on new potential tenants.

This can cause problems for you in terms of finding housing for you and your family. They may be disinclined to offer you a lease on the property.

Imagine multiple people showing interest in the house/apartment. A landlord may be happier renting it to someone without a historic conviction to their name.

3. Education Issues

Expect a similar outcome when applying for college financial aid.

The background checks they run may make it impossible to access the money you need to attend. Obviously, the knock-on effects of that can be extreme and long-lasting as well.

That’s bad news for an aspiring college grad. With your entire life in front of you, this can feel like an almighty setback before you even get started.

4. Employment Problems

A DUI is damaging to your career in many ways too.

Some employers may have an outright firing policy written into your contract. Any criminal conviction automatically leads to termination of the contract.

We’ve already seen how losing your license may make it hard for an employer to keep you on. After all, the job may simply not be possible without one. Job applications themselves often require disclosure of criminal convictions.

Furthermore, DUIs spell trouble for professional types (think lawyers, therapists, and doctors) who require a license to work. It’s often a legal requirement to disclose any conviction. The DUI can impact the license and ability to practice as normal.

5. Higher Insurance Premiums

Insurance becomes a greater financial burden with a DUI to your name.

You’re considered ‘high-risk’ by providers. As such, they put the premiums up accordingly. You have to pay more for the same coverage than someone without a DUI. Some providers might end your current policy too.

If money isn’t an issue, then higher payments aren’t overly problematic. But for most people, an extra few hundred dollars makes a big difference. Especially when it’s extended over a long time period.

Those high premiums may make insurance impossible to afford.

6. Relational Issues

Relationships can suffer too.

Personal support networks may not care.

Professional relationships can become strained though. A DUI is a sure-fire way to instigate gossip and rumor among colleagues. Your reputation can be tarnished in the workplace.

Likewise, anyone with a high-profile public position can expect particular relational issues. Media coverage can spell particular trouble.

For all these reasons, getting that DUI expunged should be a priority. It means the conviction will be erased from your record. People running background checks won’t see it there. Law enforcement may still know, but that’s about it.

5 Steps to Having Your DUI Expunged

You know the harm it can do. Here’s are the steps to get it expunged from the record.

1. Check Your State Law

Expungement requirements, processes, and stipulations vary from state to state.

Be sure to check what’s required for yours.

You might find your possibilities are limited. For example, New York only permits the sealing of a DUI conviction. It stays on your record for particular parties to see.

In other places, such as Alabama, an adult expungement isn’t even permitted. Circumstances don’t matter. It just isn’t possible.

If that’s the case in your state, then your only alternative is to seek a pardon from the governor. Unfortunately, it’s rare for a pardon to be granted. However, it’s surely worth a try.

Any uncertainty around the law? Be sure to speak with a professional attorney to find out more about what you need to do.

2. See If You Are Eligible

Not everyone is eligible for an expungement.

It’s your job to find out whether you can do it or not.

For example, you may find it’s only allowed after a certain amount of time has elapsed. In some cases, it can be as much as 10 years after the incident before you’re eligible.

One DUI conviction means expungement is more likely. Multiple convictions make it improbable, at best. Likewise, alternative convictions on your record can mean it’s almost impossible too. Wiping the slate clean is far harder with a history of arrests to your name.

3. File the Petition

Once you know you’re eligible, you can proceed with the legal process.

Don’t expect it to be smooth-sailing and straight-forward. In reality, it’s more often a long, arduous, and expensive road ahead.

Check whether you need a lawyer too.

The state may not require it. But many strongly advise you do so. It’ll obviously cost money, but the help with proceedings may be worth it.

Regardless, begin by obtaining a copy of your criminal records. Next, get the requisite form for the task. The source of expungement forms varies. Sometimes it’s as easy as downloading it from a court’s website. On other occasions, you need to access it directly from the clerk in the court.

Try calling the attorney who worked on your initial DUI conviction. They will be able to tell you where to go for the form. Indeed, some states don’t even have one. In these situations, your lawyer will go through the courts instead.

Expect lots of confusing paperwork!

With it all completed (you need your criminal history for this part), go ahead and file it with the court. This may require another visit to the clerk. Alternatively, you may need to visit the district attorney’s office first.

4. Pay the Money

It’s worth mentioning the money required.

The expungement process isn’t free.

First off, you’ll have to pay out to get a copy of your criminal history. That’s not too bad. Expect $5 or so to access your records.

The larger expense is the filing fee itself. These aren’t the same across the country. Each state and jurisdiction set their price. Expect between $100 and $200. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

In other places (like Rhode Island) you don’t pay anything to file an application. It’s only if/when the expungement is granted that they demand payment (Rhode Island charges $100, for example).

Of course, any lawyer fees will need covering too. But that expense will vary on their individual rates, plus the amount and type of support they provide.

5. Be Patient

The final step is patience.

There’s always a waiting game involved. Once the application is filed, it can go to a judge, the prosecutor on the initial case, and any other interested parties. The idea is to give everyone the chance to object.

This process alone can take between one and two months. Best case scenario? No objection and you’re good to go.

However, any objection can trigger a court hearing. This is often another month of waiting after the objection. Here, you’ll need to persuade a panel that your record should be expunged. Looking for tips on how to do it?

Here’s some good advice on preparing for a DUI hearing.

Time to Get that DUI Expungement

There you have it: exactly how to get a DUI expungement.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is unfortunately common in the US. As we’ve seen, the implications of getting a DUI are serious and long-standing.

Getting an expungement is the best way to curtail the damage. However, it’s sometimes easier said than done.

Hopefully, this post has provided enough information to get you started along the path.

Like this article? Be sure to read more law-related posts on the blog. Type ‘legal’ into the search box to get started!

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.