WHAT IS AN EXPUNGEMENT?
Before I address the above referenced DUI strategy, I will first explain what an expungement is. Technically speaking, an expungement is a procedure in which post-conviction; a person can petition the court to withdraw a guilty or no contest plea and dismiss the charge that the person had plead to.
PLEAD GUILTY? "FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS GUILTY"tm
Many people choose to plead guilty or no contest to a DUI based upon the understanding that in the future they can petition the court for an expungement. Many times this option is chosen because the person wants to avoid the consequences of having a DUI on his or her record; however they don’t want to fight their case. The concern is that they don’t want the stigma of a DUI conviction; they don’t want the higher insurance rates; or, they don’t want the DUI to be considered a DUI prior if arrested for a subsequent DUI within the next 10 years. The theory is that they will temporarily suffer the consequences of a DUI conviction based upon the future promise of an expungement. Unfortunately, this decision is made with lack of insight into the expungement process.
Expungements are not granted to the petitioner as a matter of right. In the past, the courts were practically required to grant an expungement if a person met the qualifications. However, that is no longer the case. Under the current law the court will grant an expungement if they feel that doing such is in the interest of justice. So, the person petitioning for the expungement must plead his or her case with the hope that the court feels that the petition should granted in the interest of justice.
DUI CONVICTION ISSUES
Another problem with this approach is that some courts require that you wait for the probation on the DUI to expire before the court will consider granting that petition for expungement. DUI probations are to be from 36 months to 60 months (3 to 5 years). So, by adopting the tactic of accepting a DUI conviction for future expungement, the person must suffer the consequences of the conviction for a period of 3 to 5 years as well as risks the expungement not being granted. If denied, the person will have the DUI conviction on their criminal record for life – even though the DUI is only priorable for a 10 year period.
CONVICTION STILL ON DMV RECORD
And finally, even when granted an expungement does not remove the DUI conviction from the DMV record. So, the petitioner will likely still have higher insurance rates when an expungement is granted because the insurance company focuses on a person’s driving record – not their criminal record. Additionally, many times employers will check a person’s driving record before hiring the person. So, an expungement may not help for employment purposes either.
In conclusion, think long and hard before entering a plea to a DUI. In my opinion, don’t let the possibility of a future expungement being the deciding factor for making the plea.