DUI Expungement In South Carolina

A drunk driving arrest and conviction tends to have a haunting effect. Long after you've paid your fines, served your time and learned from your mistake, you can find yourself being denied employment and having your rental applications tossed in the trash as a result of your criminal record.

You may have heard friends, relatives or others talk about the possibility of expunging your record in order to get a clean slate and move on. Expungement can be highly effective in eliminating the burdens that can come with having a criminal conviction on your record.

Unfortunately, unlike many other criminal and traffic matters in South Carolina, driving under the influence (DUI) is not eligible for expungement. The only way to prevent a DUI from following you for the rest of your life is aggressively fight the charges against you and seek an outcome that does not result in a guilty plea that cannot be expunged.

At Drennan Law Firm, we take on tough DUI cases and win in Charleston and surrounding areas of South Carolina. Your future is worth protecting. Contact us anytime for a free consultation with one of our proven DUI defense lawyers.

What Is The DUI Expungement Process?

First of all, let's look at what expungement is and what it is not.

According to the American Bar Association "expungement is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record. An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it has never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant's criminal record as well as, ideally, the public record."

Expungement is not forgiveness for a crime that was committed, unlike a pardon which can be granted by public officials such as the governor of South Carolina or the president of the United States. In fact, an expungement makes no moral judgment on the underlying conviction; it exists solely to keep a person's past mistakes in the past so they can move on with their life and make the most of the years in front of them.

The "public record" portion of the American Bar Association's explanation is crucial, as a criminal conviction showing up on background checks can make it more difficult to find employment, be approved for housing or secure student aid. Beyond the peace of mind that comes with having a clean record, expunging a criminal conviction can have tangible financial and quality-of-life benefits.

Those benefits are why it is so crushing to find out that a DUI conviction cannot be expunged. This could change in the future as a result of updates to South Carolina laws. However, think about this: how likely is it that politicians will come out in favor of expunging drunk driving convictions? While we think everyone deserves a chance at redemption, we can't recommend holding your breath while you wait for state law to change on DUI and expungement.

Who Is Eligible To Have Their DUI Expunged?

No one, but not all hope is lost. Depending on the specifics of your case you may be able to use expungement to lessen the damage for yourself now and in the future. It is not uncommon for other offenses to be charged in conjunction with a DUI. Such "companion" offenses include:

  • Reckless driving
  • Speeding
  • Hit-and-run
  • Inattentive driving

If you were charged with other offenses in addition to DUI you may be able to have them expunged, lessening the overall damage to your record. It's not ideal to still have a DUI on your record but each step in a positive direction is worth taking when it's your future on the line. It is easier to explain one issue on your background check than multiple issues on your background check when applying for a job or seeking a place to live.

How To Expunge A DUI Conviction In South Carolina

The only way to prevent a DUI conviction from staining your record is to avoid having a DUI conviction in the first place. That means fighting for your rights at every stage of the process starting with the moment you're pulled over. Once you're pulled over it's too late to go back in time and hand your keys to someone else, but you can take steps to make sure the burden of proof remains on the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.

First of all you should not tell the officer whether you have had anything to drink or try to make innocent small talk. Anything you say can and will be used against you to justify further actions such as a search of your vehicle or administering sobriety tests. Save your talking for after you call a DUI defense attorney.

Your attorney can start helping you by challenging the legality of the initial traffic stop; for a stop to be legal there must be probable cause. Your attorney an also challenge any evidence that resulted from a search of your vehicle that occurred without a warrant or without probable cause ("fruit of the poison tree"). Evidence that was gathered as a result of your constitutional rights being violated cannot be used by the prosecution as they try to gain a conviction in your case.

If you were charged with DUI after taking a breath test, it's important to realize that breath tests are notoriously inaccurate. If proper calibration procedures were not followed by the officers you could be sitting behind bars as a result of a false test.

Leave Your Past In The Past Where It Belongs

While expungement is not an option for your DUI conviction there may be other remedies available to you for reducing the damage you suffer from your record. Our experienced DUI defense lawyers look forward to evaluating your case and making sure you understand your options. You can start the process today by calling our office in Charleston at 843-352-4149 or sending us an email to request your free consultation.