Clearing Your Record: Set-Asides and DUI Convictions in Arizona

Everyone makes mistakes. For some, it's having one too many drinks at a sporting event before getting behind the wheel, For others, it may be a happy hour after work that got a bit out of hand. Whatever the reasons behind a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge, it is important to be aware of the impact a conviction can have on a person's future.

DUI convictions have a negative impact not only on an individual's immediate future, but for years and years to come. The presence of this conviction on one's record can make finding a job or even renting an apartment difficult. It can impact an individual's driving privileges and increase insurance rates.

Expungements Versus Set-Asides: Removing a DUI Conviction

Thankfully, in some cases, those with a DUI in Arizona are allowed to remove the conviction from their records.

The process of removing a DUI conviction from an individual's record in many states is generally referred to as an expungement. The procedure for expunging one's record varies from state to state. Arizona doesn't have expungement. We use a process known as "set-aside" in Arizona.

Advantages to Setting-Aside a Criminal Record

Law enforcement officers, employment and education facilities often review a person's criminal history before hiring or granting that individual's application. Many are often denied simply because they have a DUI conviction on their record. Getting a set-aside for a DUI conviction in Arizona can potentially diminish this barrier to employment and educational opportunities.

Both felony and misdemeanor convictions are eligible for receiving a set-aside. Depending on the severity of the conviction, additional advantages to receiving a set-aside can include:

  • Ability to apply for right to possess firearms
  • Renewed right to vote
  • Ability to hold public office

In most cases, receiving a set-aside provides applicants with the ability to confidently answer "no" when asked if they are currently convicted of a misdemeanor or are a felon.

Negative Impact of Past DUI Convictions

According to a Wall Street Journal report, past offenses negatively impact many people, and are becoming an increasing problem for "blue-collar and middle-class applicants with solid work histories" looking to find work in today's recession.

Unemployment is high and employers can afford to be picky about the candidates they hire. So they likely choose ones based on the information provided in the background check.

As a result, applications to set-aside criminal convictions have increased over the last several years. In 2006, for instance, over 80 percent of companies performed background checks, an increase from the 50 percent of background checks completed in 1998.

Unfortunately, it is important to note that a court approved expungement does not wipe away all traces of the past conviction. For example, online news sites that post mug shots will likely remain available.

How to Apply for a Set-Aside

A set-aside can only be issued by the court. An individual with a DUI conviction can "apply to the judge, justice of the peace or magistrate who pronounced sentence or imposed probation" or another in office to have the conviction set-aside. The court will then review a variety of factors before granting a set-aside. These factors can include:

  • The amount of time that has passed since the conviction was issued
  • The presence of any additional incidents since the first conviction
  • The seriousness or type of crime committed
  • Whether the applicant fulfilled the terms of the issued sentence

After review, the Court will either set a hearing, grant or deny the request for the set-aside. If the request is denied, the applicant may be able to request the Court reconsider his or her application.

If the application is granted, the conviction is set-aside. The Court will dismiss the information and order the individual's "release from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction."