Can My DWI Be Expunged?

Police road block - DUI Expunge concept

A DWI in North Carolina can come with harsh penalties and lifelong consequences. Not only might you face jail time and license suspension, but a DWI can also mean a criminal record. In limited circumstances, a criminal record may be expunged — this means that the criminal record reflecting the conviction would be destroyed. Although DWI offenses can rarely be expunged, a defendant may be eligible for expungement if certain legal criteria are met.

What is a DWI in North Carolina?

A DWI is a serious misdemeanor offense in North Carolina. Notably, there are five levels of DWIs in the state. These levels of DWI with the corresponding punishments are as follows:

  • Level 5 — Punishable by a maximum $200 fine, 24 hours – 60 days in jail, community service, license suspension.
  • Level 4 — Punishable by a maximum $500 fine, 48 hours – 120 days in jail, community service, license suspension.
  • Level 3 — Punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine, 72 hours – six months in jail, community service, license suspension.
  • Level 2 — Punishable by a maximum $2,000 fine and a minimum of seven days – one year in jail. A judge cannot suspend the minimum jail sentence.
  • Level 1 — Punishable by a maximum of $4,000 fine and a minimum of 30 days in jail, up to a maximum of two years. The minimum jail sentence cannot be suspended.

Judges may consider aggravating and grossly aggravating factors against you in a case. For habitual DWI offenders or drivers who have had over three convictions in the past seven years, a DWI can be charged as a more serious felony.

What is an Expungement in a Criminal Case?

An expungement, also referred to as an expunction, refers to when a criminal record is ordered to be sealed so it cannot be seen by the public. The purpose is to seal the record to make it as if the arrest or charge had not occurred. As a result, the charges are effectively destroyed and removed from the state’s records. Critically, a person who has had an expunction granted cannot be found guilty of perjury in the event they deny the arrest or charge ever took place.

What Are the Requirements for DWI Expungement?

In December 2017, a law was passed in North Carolina making it easier for individuals to obtain an expungement of a criminal conviction for non-violent misdemeanors and felonies. However, DWIs are not included in the definition of non-violent misdemeanors, making them ineligible for expungement.

Specifically, expungement is not possible if you have a DWI conviction. North Carolina law only allows for expungements in DWI cases in two circumstances. The case must have been dismissed or you must be found not guilty at trial.

What is the Process for Obtaining a DWI Expungement?

Even if your case was dismissed by the judge or you were found not guilty by a judge or jury of your peers, your DWI case isn’t automatically expunged. If you qualify for an expungement, there is a certain legal process that must be followed. You must file a “Petition for Expunction” requesting the expungement of your DWI with the court in the county in which you were charged. A petition can be filed immediately once the case has been dismissed or the judge or jury returns a non-guilty verdict.

The court will hold a hearing after the petition has been filed. If the court accepts the Petition for Expunction, the information related to the case will be removed from agencies throughout the state — including the Division of Motor Vehicles and other state or local government agencies.

What Happens if You Can’t Get Your DWI Expunged?

If you were convicted of a DWI and are ineligible for expunction, it’s crucial to be aware that the DWI will remain on your record indefinitely. However, it’s important to understand there is a look back period that specifies the amount of time a conviction can be used against you when determining a punishment for a subsequent DWI offense. The North Carolina look back period for a DWI is 10 years for a felony DWI and seven years for a misdemeanor DWI. This means that if you are charged with another DWI within seven or 10 years of the previous conviction, the court will consider more severe penalties.

Contact an Experienced North Carolina DWI Attorney

If you’ve been charged with a DWI, it’s crucial to have the representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can work to get your case dismissed or obtain an acquittal. The knowledgeable Johnston County DWI defense lawyers at Reece & Reece, Attorneys at Law are committed to safeguarding the Constitutional rights of those who have been charged with DWI offenses. With a successful track record of helping clients throughout Johnston County, we also represent out-of-state drivers who have been charged with DWI offenses within the county. Call (919) 300-1249 to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help.

Categories: DUI/DWI