So, you got pulled over and the office wrote you up for a possible DUI. It’s not a conviction (yet), but anyone who wants to browse the local district courts or run a background check can see that you were pulled over – and judge you before you ever step foot in a courtroom.
For simple privacy reasons, you should know:
- How absolutely anyone can access an unofficial copy of your criminal records, including your DUI charges;
- What personal information your DUI record exposes to the public; and
- Whether or not you can “hide” – or “expunge” – the DUI record so it’s no longer viewable by the public.
How You – or Anyone – Can Access Your Maryland DUI Records
If you were charged for a DUI – or even just arrested on suspicion of a DUI – chances are good your records are publicly available on the Maryland courts website.
That’s because Maryland’s “case search” database hosts most Marylanders’ criminal records – including DUIs.
The Maryland case search is automatically updated and publicly available within 10 minutes of a clerk uploading the information into the database.
All someone would need is your name to find all traffic cases related to your file for at least the last three years. DUIs tend to stick around much, much longer than that.
What Information Is Public on the Maryland Case Search for DUIs?
Now, the Maryland case search isn’t an official court record. It also doesn’t contain all files or information related to the incident – those are saved for attorneys in the MDEC system.
However, there is a surprising amount of information publicly available for absolutely anyone to see over the internet.
Your average traffic violation on the Maryland case search will show information relating to your traffic stop, including:
- The involved officer’s name, department, and ID number
- The time and date of the alleged violation
- The case’s current status and ID number
- The charge and description of the alleged violation
- The location – both county and road address – of the traffic stop
- Your vehicle’s license and description
Along with the DUI information, there will be extensive personal information available for public view on the case search. This information includes your:
- Full legal name
- Physical address
- Race or ethnicity
- Height and weight
- Date of birth
(At least your Social Security number isn’t listed on the case record, right?)
How Can I “Hide” or Expunge My DUI Case Records?
So, when it comes to “hiding” criminal traffic records, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news: Relatively minor traffic incidents more than three years old are automatically pushed off of the public case search into a more private historical database. However, these records are still available for any MVA clerk to pull whenever they need to.
The bad news: DUIs and related charges are typically not considered “minor” traffic violations. If they expect you to show up to court of some kind, then you can safely assume the state and the MVA doesn’t consider the incident to be insignificant.
That said, it is possible to decrease the visibility of your DUI charge by requesting that the state expunge – or completely remove – your DUI from any public case records or databases.
When Can I Expunge a DUI Record? How Can I Expunge a DUI?
You can request for a DUI to be expunged under very specific circumstances, depending on the severity of the charges. As some good rules of thumb:
- You can’t get an expungement for a case that’s still open or pending. You’ll probably want to fight the charge as best you can to avoid a guilty verdict, though, because…
- The court will not expunge a DUI record for which you plead guilty or have a “Probation Before Judgment” sentence. There are a ton of other ways that a charges can be resolved without a guilty verdict; however, once you plead guilty to a DUI charge, it’s on your public record for life.
- The court can deny a petition for expungement. Even if you’ve checked off all the boxes, the court can decide that your request for expungement isn’t compelling enough to grant the request. Having a lawyer review or – better yet – write your petition can help avoid this particular outcome.
- Even if approved, expungement takes a while. It will take at least 90 days from the day you file to the date you receive your “Certificate of Compliance” from the agency that expunged the DUI record. And no, there’s no way to fast track an expungement – we’d tell you and our clients if there were. Don’t try to file for expungement the day before a new employer does a background check!
- The FBI or police can still see and access your DUI record. The expungement takes it off of the publicly viewable documents, but it’s not exactly like the DUI incident never happened.
Remember: Do not assume that the DUI is expunged until you get that certificate!
Can You Shield a DUI Record?
In legal terms, “shielding” is when a criminal record is taken off of a publicly viewable database, such as the Maryland case search.
Well, perfect! you may be thinking. That’s exactly what I want to do with my DUI!
Unfortunately, there’s a relatively slim list of criminal convictions eligible for shielding under very specific circumstances. None are for any sort of DUI conviction.
In fact, the only three traffic-related convictions eligible for shielding are:
- Driving without a license;
- Driving while privilege is canceled, suspended, refused, or revoked; and
- Driving while uninsured.
There Is Life After Your DUI
Look, mistakes happen. You shouldn’t have to have a single bad night leave you haunted by a random file online for everyone to see for the rest of your life and career.
That’s why expungement can be a solid way to scrub your personal information from a damning record for a fresh start and a clean slate.
While you don’t need a lawyer to file an expungement petition for your DUI charge, the process can be very tricky to try to navigate on your own. If you’re not sure how to proceed or would otherwise like help getting that new beginning for your life and work, then schedule a free consultation with The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC.
During your meeting, our lawyers will review your specific DUI charge, let you know if expungement is a possibility for your case, and how you can best proceed with the petition so you can ultimately move on with your life.