DUI conviction: Can I seal my court record?

DUI files are public records. Employers, co-workers, landlords, and friends can find records of a DUI conviction through simple searches or through more expensive backgrounds checks. But is there a way to seal those records?

In Ober v. Okla. Dept. of Public Safety, (issued Jan. 5, 2016) the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed its strong preference for keeping court records public, and rejected a motion to seal a DUI conviction because the basis for the request was purely speculative.

In that case, the DUI defendant asked the court to seal her DUI records based primarily upon her position as a teacher who was still early in her career:

I don’t want my players or my students to look up that information, or to even stumble upon it, because I feel like it could lead to a disruption due to my lapse in judgment one evening. And I don’t want that to disrupt my classroom or to disrupt what I do on the court with my players . . . I feel like . . . they don’t need to know . . . because if they do . . . they’re going to hold it as part of my character and as part of defining me, and that’s not what defines me whatsoever . . . the mistake should not follow my career around, especially being so early in my career.

See Ober at Para. 10.

In rejecting this argument, the court held that the defendant “failed to establish a compelling reason why it is necessary in the interests of justice to seal the record.”

Further, the Court recognized that the defendant was “merely speculating that leaving the record open could lead to disruption at work, could interfere with employment endeavors in the future, or could cause others to erroneously define her character.”

The lesson from the decision is clear: a request to seal DUI records must articulate some real-world basis, or at least a rationale that is not purely speculative. This may require a defendant to provide some additional evidence to support the claim that sealing records of the DUI is “necessary in the interests of justice.”

If you have questions about DUI’s or post-conviction procedures, contact the personal injury attorneys at Bryan & Terrill Law, 918-935-2777.