How Difficult Is It to Expunge a DUI Conviction?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Mar 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

A prior conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) can be a difficult blemish to have on your criminal background. It can get in the way of finding a new job and can lead to some awkward conversations with people who think it's a far bigger crime than it is.

Sealing your record is crucial. However, expunging a prior DUI is not easy. If you don't plan ahead, it can be impossible to do until it is so late that the damage will have been done, already.

What Does It Mean to Seal a Criminal Record?

Sealing a criminal record – also called a "Limited Access" – is the legal process of removing a prior criminal conviction from public records. A prior conviction that has been expunged won't be found in a criminal background check, and so won't be an obstacle when you apply for a job, ask for a loan, or try to rent an apartment.

Sealed convictions still exist – they are not completely erased from history – and can still be seen by a select few government agencies. However, private citizens won't see it and it is completely permissible for you to claim that it never happened when asked about your criminal background in most instances.

If a person is convicted of a DUI charge or pleads guilty to a DUI charge in Pennsylvania, the person has to remain arrest and prosecution-free for 10 years after the DUI case is altogether closed to be eligible for a record sealing.  The 10 year period will be calculated from the date that the case literally came to a close (often when any supervision - be it probation or parole - comes to an end) and not when the person was sentenced for example.

Pennsylvania's Narrow Window of Eligibility for Expungement

In Pennsylvania, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9122(b) is the law that governs eligibility for expunging, or destroying, a criminal record. Under that statute, a criminal record can be expunged if any of the three following conditions are met:

  1. The defendant is over the age of 70 and has not been arrested, in jail, or on probation for the past 10 years
  2. The defendant has been dead for at least three years
  3. The defendant has not been arrested in the last five years and is trying to seal a summary offense

Even these small windows have exceptions, though. Certain serious sex crimes are ineligible for expungement when the victim was under the age of 18.

Expunging DUI Convictions Take Foresight

Misdemeanor DUIs, though, can be expunged if you choose to go through Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, rather than the court process. ARD is a pre-trial diversion program for non-violent offenders who have a clean or nearly clean criminal history.

There is a catch, though: ARD, depending on the county in which the DUI charge occurs, can be a long and arduous period of supervision which has to be completed with flying colors in order to have the opportunity to request an expungement. Failing in any regard will resurrect the DUI charge, scheduling a trial and throwing away whatever time and effort you have put into the ARD process.

(Of course, if a person is found not guilty of a DUI charge or if the charge is dismissed or withdrawn, the person can seek an expungement of those records.)

A common concern specific to DUI cases in Pennsylvania is that even if a prior DUI case is expunged (for whatever reason - even if the case was resolved via ARD), that record, although not accessible to anyone else, will be maintained for prospective sentencing purposes if the person were to face another DUI case within the next 10 years (the "look back" period).  As such, ARD can be a respectable way to resolve a DUI charge, but it is not necessarily a "perfect" resolution.

DUI Defense in Philadelphia 

Deciding whether to pursue ARD with the intention of expunging a DUI charge or whether to fight it in court can be one of the most important decisions that you make. Our DUI Criminal Law Team can help you make it.

Call his law office at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to discuss your options and make the best decision for your circumstances.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.