An Answer to the Most Common Question After a DUI

One of the most common questions or requests that I get after a misdemeanor-DUI arrest in South Carolina is, “Can I get my DUI expunged?”

I’m going to break this answer down into three categories. But first, a little background information: an “expungement” is a court order that commands for the arrest and booking record, files, mugshots and fingerprints from a DUI arrest be destroyed and that no evidence whatsoever of the arrest record be retained by any municipal, county, or state law enforcement agency. In other words, an expungement is a command that all information from a person’s arrest be destroyed and removed from all record keeping agencies. Ultimately, the order will be circulated through the state law enforcement division (SLED) and the FBI. It is a simple but lengthy process. The “expungement order” is originally generated by the prosecutor’s office, then sent to two separate judicial offices, and then circulated among the appropriate law enforcement agencies. It typically takes around six months to completely make the rounds and have all of the arrest information eliminated.

Now, back to what you really want to know: the three categories of information that apply to a misdemeanor DUI arrest and/or a felony DUI arrest:

  1. A person was arrested and convicted of DUI in South Carolina – This never comes off of your record. A conviction for DUI will be a permanent part of the driver’s NCIC and state criminal record forever. It will remain on the person’s driving record for 10 years. No expungement. No exceptions.
  2. A person was arrested and the DUI was dismissed – This makes a huge difference. This person IS eligible upon formal dismissal of the DUI charge for an “expungement order” as outlined above.
  3. A person arrested for DUI and found not guilty at trial – This person is also eligible for all information associated with their DUI arrest to be expunged.

You can visit the following links to read all about the primary expungement statute in South Carolina, along with the expungement application and expungement order currently in use in Greenville County.

For some interesting reading regarding a nationwide debate over a similar topic (the gathering of individual DNA through cheek swabs and blood samples) for all individuals arrested by law enforcement, see an article from the Wall Street Journal published on August 11, 2011.