One of the worst aspects of getting convicted for operating under the influence (OUI) in the state of Maine is that it is impossible to have the conviction taken off your criminal record. Maine is one of the few states in the U.S. not to have an expungement process – the process of sealing the record of your conviction from public view. Instead, Maine relies entirely on the process of executive clemency, which requires a petition for the Governor to officially pardon you of your crimes. However, there are a handful of convictions that even the Governor is not allowed to pardon, and one of them is for OUI.
This means that, while it is extremely difficult to get a criminal conviction taken off your record in the state of Maine, it is literally impossible if that conviction is for drunk driving.
Other states are also excessively strict about expunging drunk driving convictions. This is because OUI has long been a politically-charged piece of legislation, with no politician wanting to appear to be “soft” on people who drink and drive. However, this attitude has started to wane in recent years, as people and politicians have started to realize how unfair it can be for someone without a criminal background to be saddled with a charge without the hope of getting it removed.
This is why it's so refreshing to see Texas take the lead and introduce a bill that would make it easier for certain OUI convictions to be expunged in their state.
Texas Introduces “Second Chance” Bill
The Texas State Legislature has been working on a bill that would allow certain OUI convictions to be expunged and sealed from the public eye. It would only work for a first OUI conviction, though, only if it involved a blood alcohol content (BAC) level under 0.14%, and does not apply to people who were arrested after hitting a pedestrian or a vehicle that had someone inside. It also requires all court fees and fines to be paid, a six-month ignition interlock program to be completed, and five years to have passed since the sentence had ended.
While this seems like a laundry list of things that need to be done before the conviction can be expunged, the reality is that this is actually very reasonable. There are many other states like Maine that would rather see hell freeze over before allowing OUI records to be expunged.
The fate of the Texas bill even looks to be in good hands. After being introduced on March 6, 2017, it passed the Texas House unanimously on May 2, 140-0. It then passed the Texas Senate, 28-3 on May 22. Because the senate amended the bill, it has to pass the house again before going to the Texas governor's desk, where it is expected that it will be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Maine OUI-Defense Attorney William T. Bly
Maine should look to states like Texas for guidance on how to handle expungement. It's unfair to make it so difficult to get criminal records – even for minor offenses in the distant past – sealed from public view. Until they are, though, it can be difficult to move on with your life.