Florida’s expungement laws are among the strictest in the country. So are Florida’s DUI laws. While a DUI “conviction” can not be expunged or sealed, some DUI arrests and prosecutions can be sealed so that no public record is visible to your family, your employer or coworkers, prospective landlords, insurance companies, or bank loan officers.
Can a Florida DUI be expunged? The answer is yes, sometimes, and no, sometimes.
In this blog post, we at the Stechschulte Nell law firm want to explain the details and the subtleties included in both the DUI law and the Expungement law here in Florida. If you have more questions, or you are currently charged with a DUI or accused of Refusing a Chemical Test, we want to hear from you. Get a free consultation about your case with our experienced DUI attorneys by calling 813-280-1244 today.
Expunging a DUI Non-Conviction — What Counts as a Conviction?
Florida law is clear that a DUI conviction cannot be expunged from the public record, nor can the records be sealed. But if your DUI charge was reduced or amended to another driving offense, like reckless driving, you may be able to seal or expunge the records.
It sounds a bit complicated but it’s really not. DUI convictions do not get sealed or expunged. What counts as a conviction?
F.S. 775.083 declares that a “conviction” means a determination of guilt which is the result of a trial or the entry of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld.
DUI laws in Florida require every judge to enter adjudication and not withhold adjudication in any DUI case in which the defendant pleads nolo, pleads guilty, or is determined to be guilty after trial.
Florida insists on keeping DUI convictions on the public record as an especially powerful deterrent, thinking it will make people too afraid to drive drunk. A public record of a DUI conviction can be a lifelong anchor around someone’s neck when they see social, employment, and financial opportunities. A DUI conviction can repeatedly trip up their forward progress in life.
Learn More> Is My DUI Public Record in Florida?
Sealing a DUI Charge or Lesser Offense (Reckless Driving)
The offense of Reckless Driving is similar enough to a DUI case that some prosecutors will agree to change a DUI charge to a Reckless Driving charge instead of risking losing the case at trial. The benefit to the defendant is that a judge can withhold adjudication in a reckless driving case. That makes your case eligible to have the records sealed.
Many first-offense DUIs are either dismissed, reduced to Reckless Driving, or resolved by an acquittal if an experienced and skillful DUI defense lawyer was hired.
What is Reckless Driving? Reckless driving can be committed by operating a motor vehicle with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others. The manner of driving that constitutes Reckless Driving in a particular case may be speeding at grossly excessive speeds or driving more than 30 miles an hour over the speed limit while weaving in and out of traffic or passing other cars. Fleeing the police in a car is reckless driving “per se.”
Because Reckless Driving is consistent with what the prosecutor is attempting to prove in the DUI, that the defendant was so impaired that they could not operate the automobile safely, the elimination of the alcohol or drug component of the case can make the conduct reckless.
If your lawyer is successful in either defeating the DUI completely with an acquittal or a dismissal, a Reckless Driving charge where the judge “withholds adjudication” can begin to be sealed as soon as your probation supervision and other sentence obligations are completed.
Defense of DUI Charges – Avoiding Conviction is Key to Expunging and Sealing
Getting a DUI charge expunged or sealed depends largely on how effective and how experienced your DUI defense lawyer is. DUI must be proven by the prosecutor, and they must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the prosecutor has trouble proving any one of the required points with the evidence they have, the case could fall apart. That’s where your defense attorney’s expertise is most valuable. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, in Tampa, where our lawyers are Board Certified Criminal Defense Lawyers, we represent many DUI and Refusal defendants. Ben Stechschulte was once a DUI prosecutor, so he knows the law of DUI and Refusal comprehensively.
A DUI defense lawyer’s strategy in any single case is driven by the minute-by-minute events that occurred during the defendant’s traffic stop and arrest procedure.
- Did the police have reasonable suspicion of a violation justifying the traffic stop?
- Did the defendant respond to the police lights appropriately? If so, it means they were alert.
- Did the driver produce their license, registration, and insurance? If they didn’t drop them or “fumble” them (as some police allege), then their dexterity was good enough to manage that fine more skill.
- Is there any evidence of the driver slurring speech, failing to respond verbally and appropriately, or having “red and bloodshot eyes?” (Evidence useful to the defense regarding speech can be available on the officer’s bodycam.
- Were there sufficient grounds to ask the driver to exit the car?
- Were standardized field sobriety tests performed? (SFSTs)
- Which SFSTs were performed?
- Were the SFSTs administered properly, complying with the test design?
- Did the officer provide the correct instructions and score the correct clues for failure?
- Was the terrain where the tests were performed level, free of obstacles, and well lit?
- Did the driver refuse to take the SFSTs? (Refusing the SFSTs is not an offense and denies the police evidence that the driver failed the tests.)
- Was there probable cause to arrest the defendant?
- Were the breathalyzer rights warnings properly read or recited by police?
- Did the police continually observe the defendant for the required period before administering the breath test?
- Is the breathalyzer machine certified as properly calibrated?
Related Reading> Factors That Can Influence Breathalyzer Test Results
Florida DUI Defense
These and other questions are among the examination of the facts we perform here at Stechschulte Nell where we provide highly effective and often successful DUI defense.
Charged with a DUI? Call Stechschulte Nell for a case review today; 813-280-1244.