DUI laws have become some of the most important tools in combatting drunk driving, but the penalties for a DUI go far beyond immediate jail time and suspensions, potentially affecting various facets of your life and wellbeing. Let’s take a closer look at DUIs and how you can get your DUI expunged.
So, what is a DUI in the first place? It goes by various names based on the state you live in: DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), OWI (operating a vehicle while impaired). All 50 states set the legal limit for DUIs at 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration. Some states drop the legal limit to 0.04 percent for commercial drivers. Many states have zero tolerance laws for minors (any amount of alcohol in a minor’s system while driving is grounds for a DUI).
Penalties for a DUI
Penalties change from case to case, but for a first-time DUI offense, you can expect a combination of:
- License suspension
- Jail time
- Community service
- Court costs and legal fees
- Enrollment in alcohol and drug treatment programs and classes
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (car breathalyzer)
These penalties grow in severity and length with subsequent offenses and any aggravating factors.
Do DUIs Stay on Your Record?
When it comes to a dui, how long on record it stays will depend on the state. Perhaps the biggest penalty is having a DUI on your record. Even after you have served your suspension and jail time and paid all of the necessary fines and fees, your DUI will stick with your personal record and will be easy to find based on any background check, which can become a problem with any potential employer or landlord. Having a DUI on your driving record can also affect your insurance rates. Some insurance companies will charge more if they see that you have a previous DUI. Others may refuse to insure you at all.
State laws on this can vary based on a variety of factors. In most states, DUI convictions stay on your record for a minimum of 10 years. In Florida, a DUI can stay on your record for 75 years, while Tennessee keeps DUIs on your driving record for your entire life. If you are not sure if you still have a DUI on your personal driving record, you can easily request it online or via the mail through your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (or related administration).
What is Expunging?
Expunging is a means of removing a DUI from your personal record, or RAP sheet (record of Arrests and Prosecution). Expungement removes the DUI from your record, though it does not completely erase it. Expunged records can still be seen by law enforcement and court officials who need to see if you have any prior convictions. However, an expungement essentially hides the details from the public, which prevents employers, landlords, lenders, and other civilians from finding out about your DUI through a background check.
Some states offer record sealing instead of expungement. Although it’s slightly different, it does offer the same protections by “sealing” your record from public background checks.
How to Expunge a DUI
The first step is to determine if your state even allows expunged records. Many do not or only offer record sealing under certain conditions. If your state does allow expungements, determine the eligibility requirements. These can vary greatly and often depend on the severity of the crime, the amount of time that has passed, and if it was your first and only conviction.
The latter is a big determining factor. If you have any other convictions on your record, your chances of getting a DUI expunged are low. Multiple DUI convictions bring your chances down to almost zero. Was your DUI a felony or misdemeanor? It may also be more difficult if the DUI was a felony.
If your state does offer expungement and you qualify, you can begin the process. This generally involves filling out an application or petition on top of other paperwork that has to be filed with either the clerk of the court or the district attorney’s office. You will also have to pay various court fees involved with filing your application.
From there, the judge will determine if you should be granted an expungement. In some states, you may have to request a public hearing along with your petition to state your reasons for an expungement.
Getting an expungement can be long and complicated, and it is highly recommended to get a lawyer to guide you through the process. With the right tools and some patience, you should be able to clear your record and start anew.