Expungement is a process by which your arrest or criminal conviction record is effectively erased. It's as if the arrest or conviction never happened. A conviction or an arrest that doesn't result in a conviction can negatively impact many facets of your life. This includes your ability to find gainful employment. After conducting a background check, prospective employers will be aware of any criminal convictions or arrests for a period of time.
Expungement can be highly beneficial. If a drunk driving conviction taints your record, you'll want to know how to expunge it. Not all states allow for expungement, however. The ones that do permit expungement often have tight restrictions. Although it's a complicated process, you might be able to expunge a DUI on your own.
This article discusses why you might want to expunge a DUI conviction. It also covers how to expunge a DUI conviction or arrest without a lawyer.
Why You Might Want to Expunge a DUI
A criminal conviction or arrest of any kind will go on your record and be available to:
- Potential employers
- Creditors, including student loan lenders
- Others with an interest in your background
Each state is different concerning expungement laws. Some states allow expungement only for arrests that didn't lead to a conviction. This is commonly called "record sealing." Other states don't allow expungement or restrict it to first offenses. With an expungement, law enforcement will still have access to your files.
For example, Florida law allows for the disclosure of otherwise expunged records when the person is:
- Being considered for a criminal justice job
- Applying to the Florida Bar
- Seeking employment as a teacher
Suppose you want to hide your DUI case while applying to become a police officer, attorney, or teacher. In that case, expungement won't help you in Florida.
Your insurance rates will go up after a DUI or DWI offense. This is another incentive to seek expungement. That said, expungement doesn't usually erase a DUI from your actual driving record. It also won't overturn a driver's license suspension.
How to Expunge a DUI Without Legal Representation: The Basics
The following basic expungement steps are meant as a general guide only. State laws regarding expungement differ widely. Be sure to take a closer look at your state's laws on expungement.
Make Sure You Qualify
You want to avoid getting too far into exploring expungement if it's not an available option. Illinois, for instance, disallows the expungement of DUIs. The only way to erase a DUI conviction in that state is to get a pardon from the governor. That's a rare occurrence. Some states have a waiting period before expungement is an option for a criminal offense.
Other factors that might influence eligibility include:
- The amount of time that has passed since the conviction
- Whether it's a first-time DUI offense
- Whether any additional alcohol-related crimes are on your record
Obtain a Copy of Your Criminal Records
More jurisdictions have converted paper records to digital (and often online) records. This makes accessing your criminal or arrest records easier. However, smaller municipalities may require you to visit the courthouse in person.
Most states charge a nominal fee for accessing criminal records. This is true whether your request is for electronic or paper copies of your DUI records. You'll also need to authenticate your identity. The procedures for expunging your criminal record vary from state to state.
Access and Complete the Appropriate Forms
You'll need to download (or pick up from the court) the appropriate form for your expungement request. This form will ask for details about the arrest or conviction. The request for details may include:
- Code or section of your DUI offense
- Classification of your offense
- Whether your offense is eligible for reduction
There may be extra questions about eligibility. These might require additional documentation. See California's Petition for Dismissal (CR-180) form for an example.
Attach Additional Documents
Each petition for expungement is different. You may be required to provide more lengthy explanations using:
- Official declaration forms that are signed and dated
- Affidavits from other people willing to vouch for you
- Other documentation that supports your request
In North Carolina, for example, your petition must include affidavits from two people unrelated to you who can verify that your character and reputation are good.
File Forms, and Send a Copy to the District Attorney
Before you file your petition with the court, you must send a copy to the district attorney responsible for your DUI prosecution. The prosecutor will sign and return the form if they have no objections to the expungement. The prosecutor may allow victims to object. It's a good idea to verify how the district attorney's office prefers the serving of the petition. Some jurisdictions may not accept petitions through the mail.
You can either file your expungement request directly in court or mail it to the address provided (if applicable). You'll need to pay a filing fee as well. The amount varies by jurisdiction but is typically in the $100 range.
You may be eligible for an indigent waiver of the fee if you can prove financial hardship. You can expect to wait about 30 to 60 days for a reply to your request. Requests to expunge first-time misdemeanor DUIs are usually processed faster than felony DUIs. The court will schedule a hearing if it objects to your request. If that happens, legal advice and representation are highly recommended.
Still Need Help Expunging a DUI? Talk to a Local DUI Defense Attorney
After serving your sentence following a DUI conviction, you'll want to put your life back in order. Are you curious to see if you can expunge a DUI or other prior conviction such as reckless driving? Are you dealing with a license suspension? Talk to an experienced DUI attorney today for help with your DUI charge. A defense lawyer can help you with your defense after a DUI arrest. They can also educate you on DUI laws and the expungement process.