Having a DUI conviction on one’s record can have serious consequences long after the sentence or probation has been served. It is fairly common for job and credit applications to ask whether applicants have any convictions, and answering dishonestly can have severe consequences itself.
As a result, many people seek to expunge any DUI convictions from their record. As a practical matter, having a record expunged, whether arrest or conviction, means that the existence of the arrest or conviction is removed. Different jurisdictions define expungement as a legal matter differently. For example, Illinois has no statutory definition of “expungement,” but its functional effect is to make the event as if it never happened. The records of the arrest or conviction get destroyed.
While expunging a record is a legal option available in many cases in Illinois, one cannot expunge DUI convictions in the state. Other states may take a different approach. This is one reason why it might, in appropriate cases, be critically important not to plead guilty to a DUI charge in Illinois.
Illinois law, however, does allow one to expunge or seal the records of a DUI arrest if one was found not guilty or had the charge dismissed. As noted above, expunging DUI arrests in Illinois means the records themselves are physically destroyed. Having a record sealed means the record still exists, but it isn’t publicly available.
In both cases, a person isn’t generally required to disclose an expunged or sealed record. If there are instances when one is still required to disclose an expunged DUI arrest, the state’s law will explicitly state so. One should be able to find out exactly what those situations are in a state either through a state agency or attorney.
The Process to Expunge DUI Arrests
The specific process will vary from state to state but generally have the same basic steps. The process outlined below explains the general steps to expunge or seal a DUI arrest record in Illinois.
- File the appropriate petition with the court or government office that handles these issues.
- Have a notary public notarize one’s petition.
- Make as many copies of the petition as the law requires, including one for the filer’s records.
- Pay the filing fee required.
- Appear at a hearing where a judge will decide whether one is entitled to a sealed or expunged record.
This is just the basic outline. Illinois, like most states, has different conditions qualifying one for expungement or sealing records based on the severity of the DUI offense. At the very least, a person can’t apply for expunging or sealing DUI records until a statutorily required number of years have passed. In Illinois, this is either two or three years, depending on the DUI arrest charge.
The other critical factor necessary to qualify for expungement or sealing records is that the applicant doesn’t commit other offenses during the time since the arrest in question. Courts aren’t likely to agree to expunge one arrest when there are subsequent arrests or convictions on the record as well.