Are DUIs Public Record?
While all criminal cases are technically public, some states have a database that makes them far easier to find than in other states. Everyone has the right to go to the court clerk's office and request documents from a court case. Assuming you have a valid reason and the case isn’t sealed, they will provide the documents to you.
However, this requires driving to the courthouse and paying for a copy of each page, which few people are willing to do. In other words, requiring an in-person visit to access records makes your conviction far less public than if it was accessible via an online search engine.
An Expungement Seals your record
The only way to truly prevent people from finding your DUI is to have it expunged. Expungements can vary from state to state, but most states have a tiered level of expungement that includes either a partial expungement pursuant to a deferred sentence, or a full expungement.
With a partial expungement, your case can still be found in a public records search, but it will typically show as dismissed. Additionally, law enforcement is still able to see the full details of your case. A full expungement completely removes the conviction from public record and gives you the ability to legally say the conviction didn’t happen.
Expungements by State
An expungement can look different depending on your state. Some states only provide expungements to qualifying misdemeanor cases, while others have broad expungement statutes that permit the expungement of most felonies.
Using research provided by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, the chart above arranges the individual states into five categories of cases that would qualify for expungement, and provides links to more information for each state.
These categories are important for identifying if your case would qualify for an expungement. In most states, a first-time DUI is a misdemeanor and would qualify for some form of expungement. However, if your DUI was a felony, there are fewer states that permit the expungement and even more qualifications you will have to meet to get it expunged.
While we grouped each state by the degree of expungement afforded, it is impossible to group them by their qualifications as they all have completely different expungement laws. If you are considering an expungement, the best thing you can do is contact an attorney about your individual case to determine if it meets the expungement requirements in your state.
Public Records In Oklahoma
Oklahoma has one of the most public criminal law systems in the United States. In most states, you have to request the case information from the records custodian, articulate your reason for wanting it, and pay to print the pages. However, in Oklahoma, all you need to do is a simple search on our State Courts Network (OSCN). Using just a name, your search can bring up full dockets, or each charge that has been brought against a particular individual.
OSCN is user friendly and more accessible than the systems in place in other states. This makes it much easier for people to find your DUI, and much harder to move on after a DUI. As previously mentioned, your case becomes harder to find after an expungement. A partial expungement in Oklahoma will not remove your case from OSCN, but will show that your case was dismissed. A full expungement will completely remove your case from OSCN.
Court Records in Other States
If you are looking for a court system website in a certain state, you can utilize the National Center for State Courts. It breaks down each state and type of court, and provides links to their contact information or websites.
The Bottom Line
Each state has a different system for accessing court cases and public records, with varying degrees of accessibility. The best way to prevent your DUI from being found by the public is to obtain an expungement. While each state has different qualifications for obtaining an expungement, almost every state has some type of expungement available for first-time DUIs.
If you are looking to expunge your DUI and prevent the public from finding your court records, check out our partner Tulsa Expungement Guy.