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How to get a DUI expunged

Understanding DUI expungement availability and eligibility

While DUI expungement procedures and availability vary by state, the basic eligibility requirements are similar in most states that offer it.

What is expungement?

Expungement erases a portion of your criminal record. It is sometimes also referred to as sealing a record, although these are technically different things.

  • A true expungement destroys your record. Nobody can ever see it again
  • A sealed record still exists, but is hidden from most searches. Only certain people in law enforcement or the court system can see it. It may sometimes be used as proof of prior DUI if you get another one.

Some states use both procedures for different situations. Others use only one, but may use both terms interchangeably.

Does every state allow DUI expungement?

No. Certain states don't allow any DUI expungements. Others allow expungement of DUI arrests, but not convictions in some situations:

  • The charges were dropped, or
  • You were found not guilty at trial, or
  • You finished a deferred sentence (which is technically not a conviction)

A suspended sentence is considered a conviction. It wouldn’t be eligible for expungement in states that don’t allow them for convictions.

Even in states that allow it, DUI expungement is often limited to a first offense.

Finally, getting a DUI expunged from your criminal record may not remove it from your driving record.

Eligibility to get a DUI expunged

States that allow DUI expungement usually have a waiting period. This can also vary by state but is usually at least a year.

Some other eligibility requirements are common to many states:

  • You must have completed all parts of your sentence. If, for example, you had your probation revoked, you won’t be eligible.
  • Your sentence cannot have included prison time.
  • You’ve stayed out of trouble since your DUI. This may include both criminal activity and driving violations.

Your state may have other requirements to meet before you can apply.

Steps to get a DUI expunged

Like eligibility, the steps to get an expungement can differ by state. The general outline is similar:

  1. File a written petition. Include any required documents, like criminal records and/or arrest and case numbers related to your case.

  2. Notify relevant agencies of your filing, if the state doesn’t do it. This may include the prosecutor’s office and the law enforcement agency that arrested you.

  3. Request a court hearing. Once the time has passed for objections, you can get a hearing to plead your case.

Many states have the appropriate forms available for download on their websites. If not, check with the court where the original charges were filed or where your trial was held.

If you get your expungement, make sure every agency holding records related to your DUI gets a copy of the order. Any that don’t may not seal their records.

A lawyer can help ensure you submit all the right paperwork. He or she may also know if your state offers other options, like a certificate of good conduct, if you’re not eligible for expungement.

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