For many opportunities in life, a background check is required to assess the criminal history of the individual in question. Whether you are searching for a job, looking for a new place to live, or applying for a scholarship, many of these tasks require answering the following application question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor?” If you were arrested and charged with driving while under the influence, you may be wondering if your DUI charges will show up on your criminal record. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know to answer this question.
Is a DUI a Criminal Offense?
Yes, driving while under the influence is a criminal offense. Although a DUI may be a traffic violation, it is also considered a crime in every state across the entire United States. The circumstances of your arrest influence the severity of the charges pressed against you and the penalties you will endure. Because DUI arrests and convictions are a matter of public record, employers, landlords, and college admission committees alike will see the DUI charge after performing a background check on you. How this will affect opportunities in your life vary from person to person, but generally speaking, the consequences of a DUI charge on your livelihood can be severe. That being said, navigating DUI law in the State of Rhode Island can be tricky, therefore you should consider speaking with an experienced attorney about your case.
DUI Convictions: Felonies vs. Misdemeanors
How a DUI is classified and what it means for your criminal record can vary considerably. Generally speaking, it is unlikely that you will be facing time in jail if you were charged with a non-violent DUI without prior convictions. In the State of Rhode Island, first offense DUIs are considered misdemeanors. Second offense DUIs are also considered misdemeanors, however, the penalties are typically more severe and require the defendant to serve a minimum mandatory jail sentence. Depending on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), this sentence can range from ten days to one year in jail. Third offense DUIs are considered a felony and carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence of one year. Given the wide extent to which a DUI can be classified, it’s important to be prepared to explain the circumstances of your charge when faced with prospective opportunities. Telling your version of the story when disclosing these charges on a job application will decrease the odds of your hiring manager only seeing a one-sided story of your past.
Erasing Your DUI Record
Mistakes happen and sometimes even the most conscientious of drivers have been arrested for DUI. Fortunately, you do not have to live with your mistake forever. The State of Rhode Island allows those convicted of DUI to seek expungement after a certain period of time has passed. DUI expungement clears all public records of your DUI case so that you are no longer required to report it on official documents. This means that, after expunging your DUI record, employers and other persons conducting a background check on you will not be able to see any DUI charges. The expungement waiting periods vary depending on the circumstances and severity of your case. Typically, non-violent misdemeanors have a minimum waiting period of 5 years, while non-violent felony charges have a minimum of 10 years. Overall, the take-home message is this: while a DUI will go on your criminal record, the opportunity for expungement offers room for forgiveness.