Although a first-offense for driving while intoxicated may not necessarily translate into jail time, the arrest may have unintended consequences.
For example, readers may recall the Virginia misdemeanor charge that was slapped on a legislative candidate for exposing the drunk driving arrest of his challenger. The race was in a different state, between Chart Westcott and Morgan Meyer, but involved Meyer’s arrest years ago, when he had been a law student in Virginia.
Although a public official may not have the same privacy expectations as others, the distinction in this story is that Meyer’s arrest had been expunged after his acquittal. For disseminating that private information, a Virginia court approved a misdemeanor charge against Westcott.
When an individual is arrested but later acquitted of the charges, our law firm recommends the additional process of seeking expungement of the arrest from the individual’s record. The process requires a specific petition to a Virginia court. The request is often approved if an individual can show that the record will result in manifest harm.
After expungement, an arrest will not show up in a background report, such as those performed by prospective landlords or employers, or even educational institutions. In fact, employment laws generally prohibit employers from asking about expunged records. However, law enforcement officials and some federal agencies may still be able to see the expunged records.
In the specific example of driving under the influence, expungement may be available at the end of trial, after a verdict of not guilty, or if the charges were dropped or the case was dismissed. If a drunk driving arrest was plead down to a lesser charge, it may be possible to seek expungement of the DUI portion.
Source: Dallas News, “Chart Westcott faces Virginia misdemeanor charge for revealing runoff foe's expunged court records,” Melissa Repko, May 2014