Are DUI Records Truly Sealed or Not?

by Law Guru on April 10, 2013

Having a driving under the influence (DUI) charge on your record will have long-lasting effects on your life. One simple mistake can lead to a lifetime of rejected job applications, bringing financial hardship in its wake. This is why many first-time DUI offenders seek to have their records sealed so that they can have a fresh start on life and opportunities for good jobs in their communities. But are DUI records truly sealed? Does sealing mean that no one can ever find record of your DUI conviction again? The answers to these questions are important as having unwanted information pop up at the wrong time can be disastrous.

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Sealed Records – Dream or Reality?
Many people wonder if it is possible, or even legal, to have records sealed. After all, court records are open to the public, right? The fact is that most state governments have made provisions for first-time offenders to have their records sealed from the public view, giving those persons a clean slate and a fresh start on life. Requirements may vary by state, but in many cases it is possible to have your records sealed.

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Why Seal?
It is common practice for employers to search criminal records or do a background check on potential employees. This is done in the best interest of the company, to protect itself and its customers from being harmed by known criminals. Many online dating services or people searching on such sites do background checks on potential dates. One lack of judgment behind the wheel can affect a person’s chances of getting a decent job or finding the live of his or her life. Sealing a record gives an offender a “second chance.” In fact, legally, a person may fill out forms inquiring into his criminal background that state “no such conviction record exists with respect to such person” (1).

Is a Seal Secure?
Now is the time for a bit of bad news. A court-ordered seal does not completely absolve a person from all scrutiny on his past. Certain agencies are always permitted access to sealed records. The following are examples of instances in which your sealed records may be revealed:

  • If you apply for a job with a criminal justice agency,

  • If you are seeking admission into the state bar,

  • If you seek employment in a state agency dealing with children, healthcare, families, elderly care, disabled persons, etc.,

  • If you seek employment by a school,

  • If you attempt to purchase a registered firearm,

  • If you are arrested for a subsequent offense,

  • If you stand trial in a criminal prosecution. (2)

In addition, it is the responsibility of the person seeking for documents to be sealed to notify all of the appropriate agencies of the sealing order. If you fail to notify the appropriate agencies, your records will likely remain unsealed.

Information Brokers
Once your records are sealed, it is important to keep in mind that the information is still out there and available for those who care to dig a little deeper. Before your records were sealed, they were public and available. This means that information brokers could snatch up that information and keep it on file. With a little effort, a private investigator can turn up these records. After all, the sealing orders are only sent to the applicable government agencies, not to every other information-gathering service that exists. Although the government states that sealed records are no longer available to the public, including private investigators (3), they have little control over the databases maintained by non-governmental agencies.

Jon Reiter writes for Adams Law Firm in Denver. They provide legal defense services for DUI offenses and other criminal charges.

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