Can I Get My DUI Conviction Taken Off My Record?
Expungement is the removal of an arrest from a person's record. However, Record Restriction / Expungement does not mean that the information is destroyed. Instead, the information is made unavailable for all purposes except law enforcement and criminal justice proceedings. In response to the confusion surrounding the term, as of July 1, 2013, Georgia law refers to the process as “record restriction.”
Many people contact my office explaining how a Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") conviction has affected their life. Having a DUI on a person's record can make it more difficult to get a job, apply to school, or renew a professional license. DUI also makes your car insurance rates skyrocket.
Unfortunately, a Georgia DUI conviction on your criminal record can never be expunged. However, if your DUI charge has been dismissed or otherwise not prosecuted, the prosecuting attorney may allow expungement of the charge from your record. Contact an experienced Georgia DUI Attorney for more information on whether your case qualifies for expungement.
The key point that people need to understand is that you cannot expunge or restrict any charge to which you have either plead guilty or have been found guilty by a judge or jury. The result of your Georgia DUI case is forever, and as a result, the case needs to be taken seriously from day one. I receive countless calls from people on a weekly basis asking me what can be done about a DUI conviction. The answer is always the same: nothing can be done. That is why any criminal case should be taken seriously from day one.
Some people mistakenly believe that the sentencing guidelines associated with the number of DUIs within 5-years or 10-years relate to expungement procedures. This is not the case. The 5-year "rule" and 10-year "rule" have nothing to do with records restriction. Those rules have to do with mandatory increases in punishment for a person with a certain number of convictions within either a 5-year or 10-year period.
The 10-Year Rule in Georgia Explained:
Georgia sentencing guidelines require that if you are convicted of a second DUI within a 10-years, you will be sentenced to a minimum of 72 hours in jail and a fine that ranges from $600 to $1,000 (plus court surcharges). You will also receive 240 hours community service, DUI School, 12 months on probation, a clinical evaluation, and any recommended substance abuse treatment.
The 5-Year Rule in Georgia Explained:
If you are convicted of a second DUI conviction within 5 years, the penalties are even more severe. In addition to the penalties listed above, you will also be required to pay a $25.00 fee to publish a notice of your conviction and your photograph in your county newspaper. You will also be required to surrender the license plates to any vehicle registered in your name, and your driver's license will be suspended for a minimum of 18 months.
If you are convicted of a second DUI within a 5-year period, you will be ineligible for a limited driving permit for at least 4 months. Additionally, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car as a prerequisite to getting a permit to drive.
Further Misunderstandings About Prior DUI Convictions in Georgia:
If a person has a prior DUI conviction from more than 10 years prior to the current arrest, the prior offense can still have an affect on the case. This is particularly confusing. Prosecutors are not required to overlook offenses outside of the 10-year window. In fact, most prosecutors and judges will view all prior convictions as a pattern of behavior and punish people accordingly.
The purpose of requiring additional punishment for more than one DUI conviction within 5 or 10 years is to set a minimum amount of punishment allowed. Essentially, the punishments prescribed by the 5 and 10-year rules are to set a floor, not the limit. In Georgia, a judge can sentence anyone convicted of any misdemeanor up to 12 months in jail.
Prosecutors and Judges are people too and have every right to judge a person based on what factors they deem relevant. As a result, one prior DUI conviction outside of 10 years will have some bearing on the prosecutor's position about the case. If a person has multiple convictions, the fact that those are more than 10 years old will be irrelevant to most prosecutors and judges. Multiple previous convictions will always be held against the accused.
Proposed Changes To Georgia's Expungement (Records Restriction) Laws:
In January of 2012, Georgia lawmakers contemplated changing this policy. That year, Georgia Representative Culver "Rusty" Kidd of Milledgeville proposed a law, House Bill 799, which allowed Georgia DUI offenders to expunge a DUI conviction if they did not receive another traffic infraction (of any sort) for five years. Representative Kidd introduced this law believing that those convicted of DUI deserve a second chance.
Rep. Kidd acknowledged that those who make the mistake of driving drunk once must live with a lifetime of problems, which include being disqualified from jobs and scholarships.
Unfortunately for our clients, this law did not pass. Thus, hiring an experienced attorney is crucial if you are facing DUI charges. The only hope a person has for record restriction in a DUI is to win the case.
What About a Pardon?
A pardon will not work for a person convicted of DUI in Georgia. Our Governor does not have the pardon power, as with many other States. The power to pardon exclusively rests in the Georgia Pardon and Parole Board. As a policy, they only consider felony convictions. As a result, misdemeanor traffic offenders cannot apply.
As mentioned above, the outcome of a person's DUI case in Georgia is forever. Take it seriously and hire the best attorney possible.
What About a Dismissed Case, Is it Still on My Record?
Yes, but you can apply for a records restriction. Many people fail to understand that a dismissal and expungement / records restriction does not happen on its own. If a person's case is dismissed for lack of evidence or after going through diversion or conditional discharge, the defendant in those cases must take an extra step and apply for records restriction in Georgia. If not, their criminal record will still show the arrest with disposition reading "dismissed." Without taking the extra step to get the record restricted, any employer could see the arrest during their application process. Remember, this is the affirmative duty of the accused to seek the restriction of their records.
Always Consult An Experienced Atlanta DUI Lawyer:
If you have been charged with a DUI, it is crucial that you do not simply plead guilty to the charges without understanding that it will remain on your criminal record forever. An Atlanta DUI Attorney can work with the prosecutor to get your DUI charges reduced to a lesser offense.
Richard Lawson is the top-rated and most reviewed Atlanta DUI Lawyer. He is a former Georgia DUI Prosecutor with more than 20 years experience defending people accused of DUI throughout Atlanta, Metro-Atlanta, and North Georgia. His reviews can be found on Avvo.
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