DWI Expungements Could Become Even More Difficult to Obtain

Even with all gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor convictions being eligible for a statutory expungement, people are still surprised to learn that they can, in fact, expunge their DWI conviction. But, this may no longer be reality if the Minnesota DWI Task Force gets its way.

The DWI Task Force recently came out opposing the ability for Courts to make independent, case-by-case analysis on whether to grant an expungement of a DWI conviction. Instead, the Task Force wants DWIs to be ineligible for a statutory expungement or, in the alternative, more difficult to obtain (how the latter would work is unclear).

Such a position by the Task Force is troubling for a couple reasons. First, getting a DWI expunged has proven to be one of the, if not the most, difficult records to get expunged. According to the article, only five have been granted statewide. While that number is likely low, it’s probably not too far off. The reason it proves to be so challenging is that the Courts are required to look at the nature and circumstances of the underlying offense, and whether the petitioner poses a danger to the public. With DWIs being treated so seriously by courts and prosecutors, and with statistics abound about the dangers associated with DWIs, it’s no wonder that DWI expungement petitioners are being routinely denied.

Second, the Task Force has essentially concluded that no person can ever rehabilitate themselves from a DWI. It refuses to acknowledge that (1) good people, without alcohol problems, get DWIs and (2) people with alcohol problems that get DWIs can rehabilitate. Mind you, this Task Force was also likely in favor of the creation of DWI Court, which is designed to help folks rehabilitate themselves.

What the Task Force fails to account for is that a DWI record can significantly burden persons moving forward. For instance, I had a client explain that they were denied employment for a job they were otherwise qualified for due solely to this record. She remarked that when the HR Department discovered her DWI conviction – mind you, it was 5+ years old – the first question asked of her: is she an alcoholic? With about one out of every seven Minnesotans having a DWI conviction on their record, the impact from these records reaches far too many of us.

It’s a damned shame the Task Force took such a narrow-minded approach before making such a proclamation. The new expungement law gives the opportunity to those that deserve it. But, it also requires them to carry a heavy burden of proof that has proven in practice to be awfully difficult to overcome. Why further restrictions or a ban entirely is necessary is unknown to us.

The Task Force’s announcement makes one thing perfectly clear – if you are seeking to expunge a DWI record, do it now and get an experienced Minnesota expungement lawyer to help fight for you because you’re going to have a fight on your hands.