On October 1 of this year, the DUI laws in this state got a face-lift. As with most changes to our laws, there are some very happy groups and some not-so-happy groups. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was very happy about this change in penalties for driving under the influence--though some groups originally pushed
for a lower Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Luckily for restaurateurs and social drinkers, the desired change of BAC from the current 0.08 to 0.05 did not occur. However, the DUI laws did see some substantial changes in the latest legislative session.
THE GOOD: Until this new legislation went into effect, one convicted of a DUI could not get that DUI expunged from his record, nor was he eligible for non-adjudication. But now there is hope!
Any first-time offender (who does not have a commercial driver's license) may petition the Circuit Court of the county in which the conviction stands for an expunction of the charge. There are some restrictions, however:
• The petitioner must wait five years after the successful completion of all terms and conditions of his sentence.
• It is only available when all terms and conditions have been met (all fines are paid, all classes attended); if the person submitted to an Intoxilyzer test; if the results of that test were below .16%; if there are no other pending DUIs or convictions; and if the person provides justification to the Court.
Not only are there options for expungements, but there is an option for non-adjudication as well. Non-adjudication is a process allowed by our Courts to essentially give defendants a second chance after a mistake. When you enter into an agreement for non-adjudication, you enter a plea of guilty, but the judge withholds acceptance of that plea and gives you some conditions to fulfill. Once you've completed those to the Court's satisfaction, the charge against you is remanded and essentially dismissed. The catch is that you must complete the Court's terms and conditions--or else you have already pled guilty and will be convicted. A DUI non-adjudication will work the same way, but again with some restrictions:
• Applied to first offenders of any crime only
• Applies only when there was no refusal to submit to testing (unless good cause is shown)
• Must pay all fines as if you had been convicted; must attend alcohol safety classes; must surrender license for 90-days or use an ignition interlock for 120 days.
If you fit into either of these categories and want to speak with an attorney at Coxwell and Associates about your options for expunction, please call to speak with one of our attorneys at any time.
THE BAD: While the penalties did not get any harsher for those who are convicted of driving under the influence, the new law does make it more difficult to move on with life after your mistake. Under the laws as they were prior to October 1, 2014, those convicted of DUI could-- after a certain period of license suspension and after completion of the Court's sentence--petition the Court for a hardship license and essentially get their driving privileges back due to hardships due to work, school, or family. However, the new law does away with this option: Anyone convicted of a DUI will have their license suspended by the Department of Public Safety for 90 days (first offense); one year (second offense); three years (subsequent offenses). The hardship license is not an option.
While the loss of the hardship option is bad news for many, the new law does open up options. Though driving privileges must be revoked when there is a conviction for DUI, the new laws allow for limited driving privileges when the person agrees to use of an ignition-interlock device. If the defendant chooses the ignition interlock option, he or she must surrender her unrestricted license and instead get one from DPS indicating they are allowed to drive only with an ignition interlock. Though I am no scientist, these devices are installed in a car and provide a portable breathalyzer of sorts--in order to start the car, you must provide a sample proving you are not under the influence of alcohol.
THE UGLY: Despite some positive steps towards forgiveness and second chances, DUI laws still carry some very stiff penalties. When in doubt, follow Merrida's never-fail way to get out of a DUI: don't drink and drive. Hire a designated driver or take turns on nights out with your friends. It's not worth the bodily danger to you or others, and it's not worth the serious consequences of the law--even if no one gets injured. If you find yourself facing some of these serious consequences, call the experienced attorneys at Coxwell and Associates to discuss your options.