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Expungements Not Available Merely for DWI Arrest

May 26, 2017

On May 23, 2017, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, in J. E. Bright v. Nia Ray, Director of Revenue, et al, No. ED104934, ruled that expungements of an arrest, plea, trial or conviction of an alcohol-related driving offense under RSMo 610.130 , formerly RSMo 577.054, are limited to those cases in which Defendants actually plead guilty to or are convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense. "To expunge Petitioner's guilty plea or conviction under Section 577.054, Petitioner must have 'pleaded guilty to or been convicted of alcohol-related driving offense.' Therefore, it is the offense to which a person plead guilty that must be alcohol-related, not the arrest or original charge leading to the plea." (emphasis added)

In the underlying municipal case, Mr. Bright was arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated, and, after plea negotiations, he entered a plea of guilty to the amended charge of Careless and Imprudent Driving. In doing so, he kept the DWI off of his record and put himself in a position going forward to be able to honestly answer "No" to any questions of whether he had been convicted of, entered a plead of guilty to a DWI. (There are some exceptions to this rule, e.g. applying for certain federal jobs--talk with an attorney before answering "No" to any questions on future applications.)

Negotiated outcomes such as the one Mr. Bright wound up with are not uncommon; however, Defendants should be cautious of focusing on short term benefits at the expense of long term goals.

In entering a plea to the amended charge of Careless and Imprudent Driving, Mr. Bright "accepted the benefit of his bargain...[but at the costs of] negotiat[ing] himself out of the [benefits] of Section 577.054 in doing so." Since "the statute for expungement specifies that the petitioner must have pled guilty to 'an alcohol-related driving offense,' not an 'alcohol-related driving arrest' that resulted in a plea bargain to a lesser offense" Mr. Bright is not eligible for expungement of his DWI arrest, or the subsequent plea of guilty to Careless and Imprudent Driving.

Remember if you've been arrested and charged with a DWI, then it's important to make sure that you have the right attorney defending your interests. Don't be short sighted.

*The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.