A prospective employee may have moving violations, such as a DUI, expunged from their MVRs, depending on the jurisdication, which can impact a company's liability position if that employee...

A prospective employee may have moving violations, such as a DUI, expunged from their MVRs, depending on the jurisdication, which can impact a company's liability position if that employee will drive a company vehicle. 

Photo: Borkia

Expunged MVR violations, such as speeding tickets and DUIs, are occurring with greater frequency based on anecdotal information from fleet managers and companies that provide this service. Expunging MVR violations is occurring more so in some jurisdictions than others. For instance, the most notorious jurisdiction is Puerto Rico. There are instances where employees in Puerto Rico successfully expunged not one, but a series of moving violations from their MVRs. Two states where expungement of MVRs are occurring with greater frequency are Illinois and Pennsylvania.

What is Expungement?

In terms of MVRs, expungement is a legal procedure to remove from view part of an individual’s driving record. In some jurisdictions, expunged records still can be considered by courts in future cases or used by law enforcement and government agencies for limited purposes. This possibility should be of concern to fleet managers.

In today’s litigious world, the last thing you want is to be hit with a hidden surprise. The legal question is whether the prior MVR with the speeding violations or DUI is “discoverable” if there is a future lawsuit. In some jurisdictions, there may be exceptions where expunged records can still be discovered or accessed in certain legal proceedings, for example, if the lawsuit involves specific issues related to the individual's driving history or if a court grants a motion to unseal the expunged records based on compelling reasons.

What is your company’s liability exposure by allowing an employee to continue driving for company business after knowing a record was expunged? Legal opinions go both ways. However, if you are a defendant, guess which position the plaintiff’s attorney will argue. It is critical to make sure you can demonstrate your “due diligence” in vetting your drivers.

After expungement, the record will not show up on an MVR. Laws vary by state, but generally a prospective employee does not have to disclose an expunged conviction on a job application. A person with an expunged criminal conviction can honestly answer “No” when asked if they have any previous convictions. From a legal standpoint, if a record has been expunged, it doesn’t exist.

However, in most states, nothing prohibits you from asking about expunged records. If your state allows it, be sure to ask on the employment application if a driver has had anything expunged and, if so, what the expungement is. Either the driver will admit to the expunged violations, in which case, you now know about it and can deny employment on that basis; or the driver will deny it, which is evidence that he or she lied on the employment application, and you can perform due diligence in deciding whether to terminate.

Danger of Expunged MVR Data

When hiring prospective drivers, it is important to beware of “expunged” motor vehicle records (MVRs). Many states have a process where drivers can remove part of their driving record from view, hiding violations from potential employers. Most states, however, do not prohibit you from asking applicants about expunged records. Prospective drivers should be asked to list the violations, and you can decide whether or not to employ them. If a driver conceals expunged records, you are in a better position to defend against a negligent entrustment claim.

Expungement cases are more frequent with employees who require a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Drivers with prior infractions often hire attorneys to seal or expunge records so they do not appear on an MVR. Sealing a conviction prevents the public, including employers, from gaining access to that record. One CDL driver wrote online: “I had to have a lawyer expunge all my tickets off of my driving record because no company would take me in their CDL training program.”

Although a CDL driver may succeed in expunging his or her records, this violates Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. The FMCSA has a regulation that requires states to process violations as written, and not allow expunging, masking, deferred judgment, or diversion of violations when it comes to CDL licensed drivers. However, many local courts are not familiar with this rule and still allow the practices of masking, deferring, diverting, and expunging.

It's worth noting that the expungement process typically involves legal proceedings and may require the involvement of a lawyer. Companies that employ drivers often have their own policies and standards regarding motor vehicle records and may conduct their own background checks or reviews of driving histories as part of their hiring process or ongoing employment requirements.

Rules Governing Expungement

Expungement of motor vehicle records refers to the process of removing or sealing certain driving-related offenses or violations from a driver's record. The availability and procedures for expungement vary from one jurisdiction to another, as traffic laws and regulations are set at the state or local level. The prevalence of expungement can depend on several factors, including the specific laws and policies of the jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the offense.

In some cases, drivers may be able to petition for expungement after a certain period of time has passed, provided they meet certain criteria and have maintained a clean driving record during that period. However, the types of offenses eligible for expungement, the waiting periods, and the requirements can differ significantly from one jurisdiction to another.

States keep motor vehicle records on all drivers, but the duration of these records vary by state. In general, most states allow convictions of ticketed moving violations to remain on a driver’s history for three, five, seven or 10 years.

In most cases, the only way to remove violations from a driving record is by the passage of time. However, each state has a different policy that allows someone to expunge violations from a driving record. Laws and conditions that specify when a record can be sealed or expunged vary by case and by state.

In most states, to have a record expunged, it must be a first-time offense, but not always. Most often there is a period before a petition can be made to the courts to have an expungement. To be eligible to dismiss a criminal conviction, probation must be completed, or if no probation was given, all fines and restitution must be resolved. The expungement procedure generally involves a petition to the court, which includes an affidavit and motion seeking the relief, which is reviewed by a judge.

To obtain up-to-date and accurate information on the prevalence of expungement of motor vehicle records by company drivers, it would be best to consult the specific laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in question or reach out to legal professionals or relevant authorities who specialize in traffic or employment law.

The solution for situations involving a state that allows record expungement of driver record is to just ask the question directly so the candidate is either forced to reveal or will lie — either answer can screen the candidate for employment. 

About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award, presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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