DWI Arrests Can’t Be Expunged

Expungement is a means for opening doors of opportunity. Unfortunately, not all crimes are eligible, and motor vehicle offenses are never eligible. As such, a DWI arrest cannot be expunged.

Most people understand why a violent crime cannot be expunged, even if it doesn’t seem particularly fair in all circumstances. However, many people wonder why a DWI can’t be expunged, especially when the conviction involved no property damage or the death or injury of any person.

Under New Jersey law, a DWI arrest is technically a motor vehicle offense and not a “crime.” The good news is that because a DWI is not categorized as a crime, it often does not show up when someone runs a criminal background check. Essentially, details of the arrest and conviction are never submitted to the National Crime Information Center, which maintains a criminal record database. Unless someone specifically performs research in the records of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, the arrest is likely to go undiscovered.

Accordingly, having a DWI on a driving record in New Jersey probably won’t present as many problems as having a criminal record might. It’s possible that someone who was convicted of a DWI might never be bothered by that fact when they apply for a loan or try to rent an apartment. But there are no guarantees, and it’s important to understand that some employment opportunities might be barred, such as those that require a commercial driver’s license or a clean driving record.

New Jersey is not alone in excluding DWI arrests and convictions from expungement. In fact, this is fairly common in the U.S. However, expungement laws can and do get changed from time to time. This happened in 2010 when Governor Christie made third and fourth degree drug offenses eligible for expungement. The new law also somewhat relaxed the firm 10 year waiting period to request expungement down to five years in some instances. Clearly, reform of expungement laws in New Jersey can and does happen.

Anyone who was convicted of a crime is likely to have questions about whether or not their record can be cleared. Although the law prevents expungement of certain categories of crimes, it’s possible to have other records removed. Doing so is relatively complicated and requires the advice of a qualified expungement lawyer. Anyone who is hoping to expand their future potential for education, employment and home ownership can call this office for a free consultation at (732) 297-8200.