In Florida, most people who are arrested for DUI are not career or habitual criminals, but just somebody who made a mistake. Typically, the DUI arrest is the only mark on their record, but, it only takes one arrest to have a criminal record that can impact everything from future employment to housing. After a DUI arrest, it is important to 1. hire a good DUI attorney, then 2. have your arrest record sealed or expunged, if eligible.
When a record is expunged in Florida, it is physically destroyed and purged from the criminal justice system. In effect, it is as if the arrest never happened. When a record is sealed, it is no longer accessible to the public. The record still exists, just no one can look at it. Once a criminal record has been sealed or expunged, you are no longer required to disclose it, except under special circumstances.
You may be able to get your DUI sealed or expunged in Florida if you were arrested and:
No charges were filed;
The charges against you were dropped;
The charges against you were dismissed by the court; or
You were charged with DUI, plead guilty or no contest, and received a withholding of adjudication.
Some bad news though… It is typically no longer possible to seal your DUI criminal record in Florida based on current prosecutorial policy. Prosecutors in Florida no longer offer a “withholding of adjudication” as part of proposed plea bargains. Which means you would be ineligible to have the charge sealed. But, you may have received a withhold adjudication from a number of years ago, in which case you could seal the record, assuming you met all other eligibility requirements. You also cannot seal or expunge any convictions in Florida.
However, if you were successful in getting the DUI charge reduced to a lesser charge, such as reckless driving for example, and then received a withhold adjudication for the lesser charge, you would be able to seal your record (again, if all other eligibility requirements are met). Remember, your eligibility to seal a record under Florida law is determined by looking at the ultimate charge that you pled to and received a withholding of adjudication on – not the original arrest charge. Also, if your DUI charges were dropped by the State or thrown out by the court, you may be eligible to expunge the DUI arrest record.
Basically, if you can answer “no” to these three questions and the charges against you were dropped or dismissed, or you receive a withhold adjudication, you are most likely eligible to seal or expunge your DUI arrest in Florida:
1. Have you ever been convicted of a crime before, in Florida or any other state?
2. Have you ever sealed or expunged a criminal record before, in Florida or any other state?
3. Are you still completing any court ordered programs (ie probation or classes) in connection with the charge you are seeking to seal or expunge?
Since I am a Florida attorney, I can only speak about Florida law. But there are some good state-wide manuals that explain the expungement process in each state and also offer guidance about insurance and other considerations after a DUI conviction. I’ve included the link to one such resource Click Here!
To read more about how to expunge a DUI arrest in Florida, read this article: DUI Expungement - Can I Clear A DUI Charge From My Record In Florida?