Judges are sensitive to public perceptions and to powerful lobbying groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). To show that they are not “soft on DUI,” judges are careful not to hand out expungements like candy at Halloween. A judge will always be concerned about the adverse publicity that would result if a driver who is granted an expungement kills someone in a drunk driving accident a week later.
Expungement can only be granted for a DUI conviction if the judge believes that expungement serves the interests of justice. Judges are more likely to believe that standard can be met when they are asked to expunge a first offense DUI. It is more difficult for a California DUI expungement attorney to persuade a judge that justice requires the expungement of a subsequent conviction, particularly if the new conviction follows closely on the heels of a previous conviction. Your chances of being granted an expungement improve, however, if you can persuade the judge that you deserve it. Here are some tips for making a persuasive case.
If you were sentenced for a misdemeanor DUI, you likely received probation. The judge established conditions of probation that you were required to complete. For example, you were probably required to attend an alcohol program.
If your probation was revoked, you will almost certainly be deemed ineligible for expungement. Even if you managed to make it through your probation, you risk having a judge deny expungement if you did not comply fully with your conditions of probation. For example, if you missed a session or two of your alcohol program but your nonattendance did not lead to a revocation, the judge might think that you did not take your probation conditions seriously and are therefore unworthy of expungement.
If you have a serious drinking problem — one that has damaged your marriage or caused you to lose a job — you may want to enter an in-patient treatment program in order to prove that you are no longer a risk to society. If you are not an alcoholic but are guilty of lapsed judgment, consider an outpatient program. Treatment that goes beyond any program the court ordered is particularly important if you are seeking expungement of a second or third DUI conviction.
Also consider entering an AA program. Keep a record of your attendance so you can show the judge that you have made a serious commitment to sobriety. A letter from your AA sponsor can be strong evidence that you are faithfully attending meetings and that you have avoided relapse.
You must finish your sentence (including probation) and wait one year after your conviction date before you apply for expungement. As a practical matter, you will probably serve more than one year on probation, so you will probably be eligible to apply as soon as your probation ends.
Keep in mind, however, that you are not eligible to apply if you are serving any other sentence or if you are facing another criminal charge. Avoiding any new arrest during your probation and prior to the time you apply for expungement is critical to your ability to demonstrate that you deserve expungement.
Proof that a DUI expungement will serve the interests of justice is strongest when an expungement will help you secure employment. If you can establish that your conviction is hindering your ability to find jobs for which you are otherwise qualified, you will be in a better position to seek expungement. That is particularly true when you are applying for expungement of a second or subsequent offense.
DUI defense lawyers handle expungements as a routine part of their practice. They get to know prosecutors and judges. They understand that an argument might sway one judge but not another. When you hire a DUI defense attorney to help you with your expungement, you can put experience to work that will help you tailor your application to the judge who will decide whether to grant it.