The consequences of drunk driving can be severe. Depending on the laws of your state, a person is generally considered to be legally intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or 0.10%.
Suppose a person chooses to operate a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol or taking drugs that impair their senses. In that case, it can result in facing many legal ramifications, such as getting ticketed, criminally fined, arrested, and charged for driving while intoxicated (DWI), or the more commonly known term, driving under the influence (DUI).
A person charged with drunk driving usually receives a misdemeanor for their first offense, but they can still be charged with a felony if they cause injuries or property damage. People convicted of drunk driving more than once may also face felony charges.
A drunk driver is generally charged with a DUI, but every state has its own criteria for what constitutes a drunk driving offense and its own variety of potential charges.
Finally, it is important to note that drunk driving is more than just a mere traffic citation; it is considered a criminal offense. Therefore, a drunk driving conviction will appear on your criminal record.
What Happens After a Drunk Driving Arrest?
A person arrested for drunk driving will be assigned a court date. A person charged with DWI or DUI must decide whether to fight the arrest, take a plea deal, or proceed to trial.
Also, there might be some defenses available to use against the charges.
These may include the following:
- The person being arrested was not the driver of the vehicle;
- There was no probable cause to pull them over;
- The test itself or the results were unreliable or inaccurate; or
- There was insufficient evidence to make an arrest.
DUI requirements vary widely from state to state, as previously mentioned. In some states, drunk drivers can be arrested even while their cars are parked.
A drunk person behind the wheel of a parked car may still be charged with DUI in some states even if their keys are in the ignition, even if the car isn’t running.
The state’s laws also determine whether the defendant can be convicted of a DUI or if the charges will be dismissed.
Here are a few examples:
- The location of the person who is intoxicated (e.g., are they in the driver’s seat or passenger’s seat?);
- Whether the person is asleep or awake;
- The location of the car keys (e.g., in the ignition, on the floor, in the person’s pocket, etc.); and
- Where the car is parked (e.g., in a parking lot, driveway, or side of the road).
If you are facing charges for a DWI or DUI, it may be in your best interest to consult a criminal defense attorney. Their expertise can help you determine the best course of action, whether any defenses are available, and which factors are applicable under your state’s laws.
What Penalties Can I Face for Drunk Driving?
Drinking and driving penalties vary from state to state and depending on the severity of the offense.
The following are some potential penalties:
- Serious criminal fines;
- License suspension or restriction;
- Loss of driver’s license;
- Prison time;
- Community service;
- Mandated drunk driving courses;
- Increased insurance rates; and
- Inability to work at a job that requires driving a vehicle (e.g., cab or truck driver).
Furthermore, if you are convicted of other crimes besides drunk driving, you will likely receive a harsher punishment. A drunk driver, for example, is likely to receive jail time if they seriously injured or killed someone as a result of their actions.
It is also likely that the fines will be higher if the person has a history of drunk driving offenses.
The employer of a professional driver, such as a truck driver, is entitled to know about a DUI conviction. The employer can also terminate this person.
Drunk driving can have wide-ranging consequences, as discussed above.
What Is DUI Expungement?
Expungement is a term used to describe when a record of criminal conviction is publicly sealed and legally erased from records.
Usually, anyone can expunge a DUI or drunk driving conviction if:
- They were placed on probation; AND
- They successfully completed probation
When Does DUI Expungement Occur?
The process of expungement is not automatic. A petition must be filed before the court where the conviction occurred. It is usually possible to expunge a record after a certain amount of time has passed.
The amount of time will vary by state, but note that the time frame begins after the DUI conviction, not the arrest or when charges were filed. A person can also be expunged after completing probation or parole, which are court-imposed obligations.
What Effect Can Expungement of a DUI Conviction Have?
DUI convictions are usually expunged to avoid mentioning them during employment applications, especially if driving is part of the job. Once a DUI conviction has been expunged, potential employers cannot hold it against you in the hiring process, and you do not even have to disclose the DUI conviction on job applications.
When a DUI conviction is expunged, it is also not necessary to mention it to others, including:
- Educational institutions
- Government agencies
An individual’s public record will not show a DUI conviction after expungement. The conviction will, however, still be accessible to certain agencies, such as the courts and law enforcement.
How Can I Get My Criminal Record Expunged?
Expunctions of criminal records are not constitutionally guaranteed, so people who seek to have them expunged must meet certain qualifications and conditions. Since expunction is a privilege, most states only allow it if you can prove that you have been rehabilitated and have reentered society.
If you have served your sentence and have been in prison for a certain period of time, some states will allow you to expunge your record.
Can Expunged DUI Convictions Come Up in Later Criminal Proceedings?
States have different laws regarding this. Expunged DUI convictions can be considered proof of prior convictions in later criminal proceedings, including subsequent DUI proceedings, during the sentencing phase. Some states, however, consider them inadmissible.
Can a Juvenile Expunge a DUI Conviction?
Yes. In many states, juveniles can expunge their records if their offenses were relatively minor and they have remained out of trouble for a certain period of time.
What Happens if My Criminal Record Gets Expunged?
You can legally deny ever having been convicted of a crime if you have had your conviction expunged. A person who has had a conviction expunged can legally say that they have never been convicted of a crime when they are applying for a job.
Certain exceptions apply to this rule, as some jobs require you to disclose any conviction even if it has been expunged (caregiving for children, government jobs, etc.).
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
State laws regarding DUI arrests and convictions vary widely. If you are interested in having your DUI record expunged, you should contact a DUI /DWI lawyer about your eligibility for expungement.
Use LegalMatch to find the right DUI lawyer in your area. Don’t jeopardize your future by going through legal proceedings alone.