We all want to believe in clean slates and second chances, but DUI arrests can haunt you the rest of your life. However, there are some circumstances in which a quality St. Augustine DUI attorney can help make your record look a lot better.
File this under “life’s not fair.” In Florida, if you get convicted of a DUI, you will wear the scarlet DUI letters on you for the rest of your life. Well, technically for 75 years, but for most of us, that’s a life sentence. That means every time you look for employment or housing or credit, your criminal record will show up to hurt you. When you’re asked about criminal convictions on applications, you’re obligated to answer the question. A DUI conviction dooms you to very, very bleak, circumstances, which is why you should get the best legal representation possible so you can avoid that conviction. (Even better, don’t risk all this by drinking and driving).
But the “life’s not fair” file gets even fuller! Even if you were arrested for DUI and not convicted, you’re still going to have an arrest record and that record is going to be visible to whoever goes looking for it. So much for innocent until proven guilty.
Which leads to the often-asked question, how do I get my DUI conviction or arrest off my record?
Well, as we already mentioned, if you have a conviction, you can’t. It doesn’t matter how you pled either. That’s the cold, hard, truthful short answer. But… if you were acquitted of DUI, or the case was dismissed, or if you were convicted of a lesser offense, then we can talk.
The two terms you need to be familiar with are “expunged” and “sealed.” If thanks to your amazing St. Augustine DUI lawyer, your charges were dropped by the State or dismissed by the Judge and never went to trial, you might be able to apply to have your arrest expunged. If your charges were reduced, you might be able to apply to have your record sealed.
The main difference is expungement results in all records of your arrest or charges being deleted (at least that’s what is supposed to happen). A sealed record is still going to exist and be accessible in certain circumstances, but for most purposes you care about, it won’t show up in most private employment background checks, and you don’t have to disclose it on applications or in interviews.
If you’re successful getting your record expunged or sealed, who can see it? There are some law enforcement agencies (think FBI) that will be able to see your sealed record. If your record has been expunged, they’ll be able see that you had one expunged, but even they won’t be able to see the full record without a court order (which kind of tosses away the notion that your expunged record really was “deleted”).
Sadly, by the time your record is sealed, damage may have already been done. Your arrest is made public almost immediately in newspapers and numerous websites. That creates separate records of your arrest that will always be out there and searchable, and that can’t be sealed. You can, however, work with a lawyer to go after each individual website and database to have it taken down if it’s creating a real problem.
There’s some more bad news and good news about expunging and sealing. Usually, if you’ve had any criminal record sealed or expunged before, you can’t do it again. If you were wrongfully arrested for DUI though, it may still be possible. And there’s good news if you’re a juvenile or was at the time of the arrest. You can file to get an early expunction if you really need to for some reason, but for you, the record is automatically destroyed when you reach 24 or 26…even if you were convicted. See? There really is such a thing as a clean slate and second chance!
The process of applying for expungement or sealing is long and complicated, but worth it. We are talking about the rest of your life here. It’s nothing you want to try to handle yourself without legal guidance and representation.
As you can probably tell, you’re attempting to do something the system doesn’t make easy. It can be done, but you need experienced legal representation that has seen and knows how it’s been done successfully in the past. Whether you’re trying to clear your name from a past arrest or if you want to be ready in case an arrest happens, put the name and number of Shoemaker Law in your phone today. 904-872-SHOE.