Oh the shame
April 13, 2010 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me come to terms with my DUI?

So, I had a DUI in a state in which I no longer reside some 8 years ago. There was some sort of settlement whereby I agreed to attend a DUI seminar of some sort and pay a fee. I don't really know what the final disposition of the case was. There are two reasons the details about this are vague: 1) I am lame. 2) When I was sorting this out I was recovering from one surgery and getting ready for another, was on about sixteen different types of pain medication and stoned/nodding off all the time. One detail I do know is that the attorney who handled this for me is no longer practicing.

So, now it's now. I'm looking for work. I'm encountering criminal history questions. And I don't want to lie anymore. I want to own up to the fact that at one time I did A Bad Thing. But I also want/need to find work.

Point being, I would like to not lie about this anymore, but it may be in my financial interests to do so, esp. given the job market.

Perhaps important data point: I don't drive. I use public transportation, only. I drink once in a blue moon, if ever. Also, not on pain meds anymore, if that's at all relevent
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First thing you need to do is find out what the final disposition was. There's a good chance you were convicted of a misdemeanor. Many job applications only ask if you've been convicted of a felony. If you haven't, then you don't need to disclose anything.
posted by amro at 8:01 PM on April 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

There are a gazillion people who have DUIIs on their record. It's not necessarily a dealbreaker. Having a warrant out for your arrest is a big deal, though. (You could have gotten a warrant for failure to complete the terms of your sentencing.) If there is, you should clear it up. Consult a lawyer in the state you lived in at that time and figure out what to do. If you can't afford a lawyer, see if your state bar has some sort of modest means, low income program to hire a lawyer. If you can't or don't want to do that, then at least call the courthouse where you resolved the DUII and see if they can tell you what the status of your case is and whether there's a warrant. It's possible the case is completely done and you just owe money as a civil judgment matter. It's possible you have a failure to appear warrant and would quite likely be arrested if you came in contact with law enforcement in that state. This is why you should talk to a lawyer. But if you don't, someone at the courthouse could answer some of those questions for you.

Also, if the lawyer you used originally worked for a public defender's office, or private firm with other lawyers, or some sort of hybrid grouping of the two, you can try to figure out who else might work in that office, contact them, see if they can access your file and tell you what to do.

This is not legal advice, which is why you need a lawyer :-) I'm not your lawyer. Talk to a lawyer in your state.
posted by Happydaz at 8:01 PM on April 13, 2010

Can you talk to a lawyer about expunging an old, if-presumably-felony DUI count?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:02 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it's not something a potential employer would find out on their own (i.e. with a criminal record check), I can't see what you would gain from telling them about it. It sounds like it's not a problem, and you know it's not a problem, so no biggie. (If criminal record checks are involved, talk to a lawyer.)
posted by Dr. Send at 8:03 PM on April 13, 2010

Eight years ago! That's, like, a really decent amount of time.

A lot of people do stupid things. Sometimes they get caught, sometimes they don't. For every person that's driven under the influence and been caught, there's many more who have done the same and were lucky enough to not get caught and/or cause any disasters. Really, I'm not sure I could even count how may people I know ("respectable" folks!) who have driven drunk and just not been caught. (The thought is actually really disturbing me right now.)

In the past, I've had two bosses who had DUI's in their past. One of them was an older man who was a former mayor of the city. The other was a younger guy who used the humiliation and day-of-reckoning to make some significant changes in his life. People make mistakes, and then they make things better. Should it come up, just be honest. It was a long time ago, things are different now, your life has taken a different direction. I do not believe this is something you need to worry too much about.

Also, for what it's worth, I used to work at a staffing agency. We required that our candidates disclose any criminal history, and then we would run criminal background checks on each one. Although folks would often declare their DUI's in the interest of full disclosure, the DUI's did not show up on the background checks unless there was property damage/personal injury involved.
posted by hegemone at 8:17 PM on April 13, 2010

I was hoping to skate by the application question asking if you've been convicted of a crime because mine was not a felony. Unfortunately, though, every app I filled out had a caveat: a felony or DUI/drug conviction of any kind. So, I felt obligated to disclose. Not sure if that will be the case for you, but if it is, I think there will probably be a small area where you can go into more detail. At that place, but that it was 8 years ago, and for most positions, I don't think that it will be a deal breaker. It wasn't for me.

Good luck and cut yourself some slack, as hard as it may be to do so. You made a mistake. Don't compound the mistake by lying or letting this taint the way you see yourself forever.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:42 PM on April 13, 2010

You should find out what you actually have first before assuming that you have a felony DUI. Most first time DUIs get diversion where they pay some fines, complete some classes and the DUI is usually pled down to a low misdameanor or completely expunged from your record. However, if you didnt complete the diversion process, you could very well have a felony warrant out for your arrest. Bummer. First thing to do is call the court where you got the DUI (Google the city/county court where it happened) and then give whoever answers the question you posted here. They can probably check your record and let you know what happened with your case or tell you who to call. If you do have an outstanding warrant or something terrible like that, get a lawyer ASAP.
posted by MsKim at 9:37 PM on April 13, 2010

You're on the right track. Guilt is about feeling bad for something you have done, which is resolved by making amends and not doing it again. Shame is about feeling bad about some aspect of who you are (or think you are), which is harder to resolve. You can help put a stop to any shame you feel by acknowledging that the DUI is on your record because of something you did, not because of some essential aspect of your being. You can then address your guilt by making amends and not doing it again. But wait, you already did that.** So that's just what you need to say if asked.

As others have said, first find out what you actually did, according to the law. If you had a settlement, you can't be sure what is your record right now. These days most states have online databases where you can easily check for certain kinds of convictions, including DUI and related charges. Just take that first step and see what's on your record. Then, if there is something there, see if it can be expunged. And, finally, if it can't be and you are asked on any job application, just answer honestly. You don't need to feel guilty because you have already addressed your guilt. And you don't need to feel ashamed because you're not explaining some dark aspect of your essential self. Use the available space (there is usually always space) to address the facts of the conviction not to explain yourself. You wouldn't need to go into lots of gory personal detail -- you don't need to mention surgery, painkillers, your lameness, your shame, or anything remotely like that. Simply state something along the lines of "In 2002 I was convicted of XXX, which i regret. I fulfilled the terms of my conviction, made amends, and successfully put the incident behind me."

This is not a deal-breaker. But lying often is and is never in your interests, including your financial ones. It will come back to bite you.

**I am assuming from your post that you did address it. If not, as Happydaz said, do that now so you can move on.
posted by beanie at 10:05 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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