If you’ve been convicted of a DUI, you may be wondering how long it will affect your life. The answer is it depends on what you’re trying to do. Here’s what you can expect and how you might be able to speed up the process.

How Long Does a Criminal Record Last?

A criminal record is a permanent record. This is different from a credit report where your history expires after a certain number of years. If you’re convicted of a crime as an adult, that conviction will always show up in court records or background checks.

Some consequences of a DUI may get less serious over time. For example, many car insurance companies may refuse to cover you if you have a very recent DUI, cover you with a much higher rate after a couple of years, and give you the same rate as other drivers after even more time has passed. If you’re applying for a job that requires a clean driving record, they may only consider charges that happened within a certain number of years.

Most of the time, how far back an employer, insurer, or other company looks at criminal records is at their discretion. This means that they could potentially consider a DUI that happened decades ago. If you don’t want an old DUI to hurt you, you may want to get it off your criminal record with an expungement.

What Is a DUI Expungement?

An expungement is a legal process that removes a criminal conviction or charge from your public criminal record. This means it won’t show up in most background checks. An expunged charge isn’t completely erased, and there is still a record in private law enforcement databases. However, the expunged charge can only be accessed in very specific circumstances. This might be if you apply for a sensitive job such as in law enforcement.

For most purposes, once you have an expungement, it’s the same as if you never had the DUI. You can even honestly state that you have never been convicted of a crime, assuming you have no other criminal convictions.

How Do You Get a DUI Expungement in Pennsylvania?

In order to get an expungement, you have to get a court order. It is not something that happens automatically. A judge should grant your petition if you meet the eligibility requirements, but it’s important that you complete the process correctly. Many people rely on the assistance of an attorney to do this.

The general requirements for an expungement are as follows.

  • Be at least 70 years old and free of arrest or prosecution for at least 10 years following the completion of your sentence for the crime you were convicted of.
  • A person of any age may petition the court to expunge certain summary offenses if it has been at least five years since the conviction and they haven’t had a subsequent arrest or prosecution.
  • The family of a deceased person can file for an expungement three years after their death.

Pennsylvania also has a specific program for first-time DUI offenders. An Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition allows you to expunge the DUI charge as part of the disposition of the case instead of waiting for the usual expungement period.

What Is the ARD Program?

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition is a special way of handling a DUI case. It is not a traditional conviction, and the records of the case will be expunged if you successfully complete the process.

You are eligible for the ARD program if you meet the following requirements.

  • You have no prior criminal history for the past ten years.
  • You have no prior DUI convictions or use of the ARD program.
  • You did not have a passenger under the age of 14 in your vehicle at the time of your offense.
  • You did not cause an accident that killed or seriously injured another person.

In all cases, the district attorney for each county has the discretion to offer accelerated rehabilitative disposition, similar to how they have the discretion to offer plea bargains. Participation in the ARD program is not a guaranteed right. Local district attorneys may set additional criteria, so you will need to ask your defense lawyer about local practices. A judge’s approval is also required, but they will almost always approve an agreement between the prosecution and defense.

If you complete the ARD program, you will see the following consequences.

  • The DUI will count for the purposes of habitual DUI offender laws and certain other crimes.
  • Your license will be suspended but usually for a shorter period of time than a standard conviction.
  • You may need to complete a period of supervision of up to two years as well as community service hours.
  • You may need to pay court costs and other fees.
  • The DUI record will be expunged once you complete all the program requirements and petition the court.

How Long Does an Expungement Take?

An expungement can take several months because there are a number of steps to the process.

  • Prepare the expungement petition and submit it to the court.
  • A judge reviews your petition and checks your eligibility. It can take some time for a judge to get to your petition because they are busy with many other cases.
  • If the judge approves your petition, the court forwards the order to the government agencies that have your records.
  • The government agencies receive the order and remove the records. Again, this can take some time because someone has to manually complete the process, and they are also responsible for processing many other expungements and other types of records.
  • The government agencies confirm the records have been removed.

Contact an Expungement Attorney

If you need an expungement for a past DUI or want more information about the ARD program, contact a local DUI attorney today. Our attorneys fight hard for your rights and want you to stay at home instead of going to jail. Schedule a free consultation now by calling us or contacting us online.