Virginia Supreme Court: Get DUI reduced, and you can get arrest expunged

A drunk driving charge can affect your life in unexpected ways. It can impact your job, your career prospects in the future, your finances, even your ability to get into an institution of higher learning or obtain a professional license.

Fortunately, a drunk driving arrest is not the same as a drunk driving conviction. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, you have a right to stage a legal defense. And, under an important case from the Virginia Supreme Court, a strong defense could allow you to clean the DUI from your record if you plead to a lesser charge.

If your DUI is expunged, prospective employers cannot access arrest record

There are many ways a DUI charge can be challenged. For example, perhaps the officer did not have a valid reason for the stop, or improperly administered sobriety tests.

Often, prosecutors will still pursue a DUI charge even if their case is imperfect. An experienced Virginia DUI defense attorney can expose and attack the weaknesses in the prosecution's case, and in doing so, may be able to get the prosecution to reduce the charges in exchange for a guilty plea. This can be advantageous to the defendant in a number of ways, including a lightened sentence and avoiding the uncertainty and expense of a full trial.

Pleading to a reduced charge also has another very significant advantage in Virginia. When someone accused of driving under the influence is offered a lesser charge as part of a plea deal, it is typically for reckless driving (sometimes this is colloquially referred to as a "wet reckless" charge). There are still some meaningful consequences of a reckless driving conviction. But, while a DUI conviction will remain stamped on your record in Virginia, a reckless driving conviction means you are eligible for expungement.

When you are found not guilty of a charge or a charge was dropped, you are eligible to petition a Virginia court to expunge records of the arrest from your files. A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia allowed a defendant who was arrested for DUI but pleaded to the lesser charge of reckless driving to have the DUI arrest expunged from his or her record. You also need to show that the continued existence of the DUI charge on your record will cause you a manifest injustice.

Functionally, expungement means that a record will be sealed and will no longer appear on your Virginia Criminal Record. Employers cannot ask about expunged records, and will not see expunged records in a background report. Only law enforcement officials and certain federal agencies can access the official expunged courthouse records.

Arrested for drunk driving? A Virginia DUI defense attorney can help

While getting a DUI arrest expunged can do wonders to safeguard your future, it is not easy. First, you have to get your DUI charged reduced in the first place, and then you have to convince a judge to grant you an expungement. An experienced Virginia DUI defense lawyer can help your through all stages of the process and ensure you have the best shot possible at getting your charges reduced and eventually securing an expungement. Contact a Virginia DUI defense attorney today if you have been accused of drunk driving.