Whether you were charged but not convicted or simply arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) but not charged with the crime, your interactions with the criminal justice system may be a matter of public record. Why would this be of concern to you? It really depends on your own personal situation and the severity of the offense, but the hard truth is that one simple DUI arrest -- even if the charges were dropped or never filed in the first place -- can come back to haunt you in several ways. Even a clerical error, if left unchecked, can cause similar headaches.
For instance, your DUI arrest record may be all a hiring manager needs to see in order to eliminate you from consideration for a job, even if charges were never filed. It may sound unfair, but your police record can cast a long shadow on your future plans. This could also come up if the job you are applying for requires you to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL). Knowing exactly what arrest records are out there can help you get out in front of it and possibly get those records expunged from your record.
Below, you will find information about how to obtain your DUI arrest records, including state-specific examples, and an explanation of why you may need to access these records.
Arrest Records, Court Records, and Rap Sheets
Before you begin looking for your records, it's important to understand the difference between police records, court records, and rap sheets. Your court records include actual convictions and related court proceedings. Your police records include all recorded interactions with the police, including arrests that don't result in charges or a conviction, stretching back seven years. Your rap ("Record of Arrests and Prosecutions") sheet contains any contact you have had with the criminal justice system and is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The limits of what records a third party (such as an employer) may access and use for decision-making purposes are subject to both federal and state law, and sometimes vary by county, although enforcement can be very difficult. However, third-party access to your rap sheet is limited to certain state and federal agencies for background checks and security clearances.
Arrest records of juveniles are not available to the public in most cases. Also, police records considered too sensitive for release (for instance, if doing so would endanger someone's life or interfere with an investigation) may be barred from public view.
Accessing Your DUI Arrest Records: The Basics
The process for accessing your police records will vary by state and by jurisdiction. Some police departments require you to contact them directly for arrest records, while others make them available online. To obtain a copy of your rap sheet, you must submit a signed application and a set of fingerprints to the FBI, along with a processing fee.
There are also several privately operated sites that aggregate publicly available police and court records. If you aren't sure where to look, a good starting place is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) website.
Below is a sampling of state-specific resources:
Need Help with Your DUI Arrest Records? Talk to an Attorney
If you're applying for a job, searching for an apartment, or want to expunge a DUI arrest, you will first need to access your arrest records. Consider talking to an attorney if you have questions about the law surrounding arrest records or have other concerns. Get started today by contacting an experienced DUI lawyer in your area.