Driver’s License Offenses No Longer Prevent Convictions from Being Expunged in Nashville

By Nashville Expungement Attorney Daniel A. Horwitz:

*Note: This is a free informational resource about expungement law in Tennessee.  If you are looking to hire an attorney to expunge your record for you, please click here instead.*

In yet another welcome victory for expungement access in Tennessee, driver’s license offenses will no longer prevent people from expunging other criminal convictions.  The Davidson County District Attorney’s Office formally clarified its position on the matter in response to a petition filed by Nashville expungement attorney Daniel A. Horwitz.  The development will permit thousands of individuals in Nashville to get their convictions expunged who have only a single criminal conviction on their record other than a driver’s license offense.

Under Tennessee law, people who only have a single criminal conviction on their record can often get the charge expunged.  Felony convictions that are eligible for expungement are listed here.  Additionally, the only misdemeanor convictions that cannot be expunged are listed here.

Unfortunately, however, if a person has more than one two criminal convictions on their record, then Tennessee law generally prohibits the person from expunging any criminal conviction—even if both charges would qualify for expungement independently.  Sadly, this “multi-conviction ban” prevents thousands of otherwise-eligible individuals from expunging their criminal records, causing people to be denied employment, housing, and other opportunities for no good reason.  Additionally, at present, there are only two exceptions to that rule:

1.  If the additional conviction is a “moving or nonmoving traffic offense”;[1] or

2.  “If the conduct upon which each conviction is based occurred contemporaneously, occurred at the same location, represented a single continuous criminal episode with a single criminal intent, and all such convictions are eligible for expunction under this part.”[2]

Until recently, it was thought that convictions for a Driving on a Revoked License charge or a Driving on a Suspended License charge precluded any additional convictions from being expunged based on the “multi-conviction ban” described above.  However, representing a client who had multiple Driving on a Revoked License convictions on his record but only a single misdemeanor conviction for Simple Possession of a controlled substance, Attorney Horwitz petitioned for expungement of the client’s misdemeanor conviction.  His specific legal theory was that driver’s license charges qualify as “moving or nonmoving traffic offense[s],” and thus, that such charges are exempt from Tennessee’s multi-conviction ban.  That theory was supported, among other things, by precedent from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in State v. North, No. 01C01-9312-CC-00418, 1994 WL 474841, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 1, 1994), which expressly refers to a “driving on a revoked license” charge as a “traffic offense.”

In another groundbreaking victory for expungement access, Nashville’s District Attorney agreed.  Thus, Davidson County District Attorney’s Office formally clarified that driver’s license convictions do not preclude expungement of additional, otherwise-eligible convictions.  Thus, for example, if you have three Driving on a Revoked License convictions on your record but only one felony conviction that appears on this list, then you are eligible to have the felony conviction expunged as long as you satisfy the additional expungement criteria described here.

If you have a criminal record that you want expunged, there is no substitute for consulting a lawyer to review your own individual circumstances.  If you think you may be eligible to have your record expunged and want to hire an attorney to evaluate your eligibility or file your paperwork for you, please click here for an individualized case review.

[1] Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101(g)(2)(A).

[2] Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101(g)(1)(E).