After the DUI arrest: Can you get a do-over?

It was a normal Saturday for Jim. After a long work week, he looked forward to relaxing and spending time with his wife of 30 years. The plan was simple. Just dinner for two and to celebrate successfully raising their oldest daughter who started college this week. Coincidentally, Jim got another promotion at work too after 25 years with the same company. It’s more responsibility, but with more compensation as well. Jim isn’t ready to retire yet, so now with the house and college nearly paid for, he is ready to step up his investment savings and give his wife the comfortable retirement he always promised.

“Life is good dear” as he toasted with a glass of wine.

Later that night Jim sees blue lights in his rear view mirror and that’s the moment his life changed forever.  He was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence.

We see this scenario frequently. Sometimes good people get caught in an unfortunate circumstance. Whether you have sympathy for Jim or contempt due to his lack of judgement, the law is clear and Jim has a heavy burden to pay.

It’s clear that in cases like Jim’s, the prudent thing to do is seek some professional legal help.  The stakes are high. With a conviction, Jim will likely lose his job, license and the ability to support his family. Unfortunately for him, he may lose his house and cannot continue to pay for his daughter’s college education she worked so hard to earn. His very future is in danger.

Jim is sick over this and just wants it all to go away.  Perhaps surprising for some this can be made possible if Jim, with the help of his criminal defense counsel, is able to get the DUI broken down to reckless driving, by raising various defenses and submitting extensive mitigation. Why is this important you ask? Very simple: if a person enters a plea to a DUI in the State of Florida, the Judge has no choice but to convict him. DUI is one of the crimes, where the legislature has mandated a conviction, meaning a permanent criminal record. On the other hand, if Jim’s attorney is able to negotiate a reckless driving charge for him (called a wet reckless because it has a DUI component), the Judge than will have the option to withhold adjudication. This means that the Judge will accept Jim’s plea to a wet reckless but will not convict him of the crime. This is where expungement and sealing come in, giving Jim a second chance.

What is Expungement/Sealing?

Expungement is a statutory process by which the person’s criminal record is erased from public records and allows the person to deny arrest completely. It is important to note what is the difference between expungement and sealing of criminal record. It lies in who is eligible for it. Expungement is only reserved for people with no prior convictions and whose case (that they are trying to expunge) was dropped completely by the State. Sealing on the hand can be applied for even if you entered a plea, as long as you previously have not been convicted of a crime.  There are of course exceptions, and below are some of the crimes that cannot be sealed after entry of a plea:

Sexual assault
Child abuse
Domestic Battery
Burglary of a Dwelling
And several others.

Expungement or a sealing is a mechanism that can only be used once in a lifetime.

Some benefits of getting a criminal record expunged:


Most employers for professional level jobs will conduct a criminal background check. If you have your record expunged, you can truthfully declare that you have never been been arrested for a criminal offense nor entered a plea. There are exceptions, such if you are applying for admission with the Florida Bar or to work with disabled adults.


A criminal history will impact your life in many ways. Not only could a criminal record prevent you from receiving a loan to purchase a home but it could also prevent you from being able to rent housing. Most landlords run background checks when you apply to rent as a tenant and having a criminal record could result in them denying your application to live there. If your record is successfully cleared, it will not appear on a background check and you would not have to disclose it when applying for housing.


Without a clear record, you may be prevented from obtaining a state license or certificate for many professions, including a nursing license, real estate license, a contractor’s license, or a license to practice law, just to name a few. Imagine spending your life working toward your dream vocation, only to have it dashed because of a minor discrepancy on your Florida record.


A criminal record can even affect your ability to travel. While many countries deny entry to people with criminal records, regardless of how minor the charges, sealing or expunging your Florida record could make life more simple. The laws pertaining to criminal record and your ability to enter the country will vary from country to country; however having a clear record would make your travel plans easier.

Peace of Mind

Erasing a lapse in judgment and getting a real life do-over can have enormous psychological benefits. When a contributing member of society and a well-respected individual finds themselves on the wrong side of the law, it can be liberating to know it’s gone, like it never happened.

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Disclaimer: information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice.

Kate Mesic headshot by Agnes Lopez(1)Kate L. Mesic is the President of Mesic Law, specializing in business law and criminal defense.

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