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Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > DUI > Could Expunging Your DUI Arrest Prevent You From Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit?

Could Expunging Your DUI Arrest Prevent You From Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit?


A drunk driving arrest carries a social stigma even when the suspect is never formally charged or convicted. So if you have been falsely accused of DUI, you should know that it is possible to have the records of your arrest destroyed. Florida’s expungement law permits an individual to ask a court to order the “physical destruction of obliteration of a record or portion of a record” held by any state criminal justice agency.

Tampa Woman Sues Sheriff After Posting a 0.00 in Blood, Urine Tests

Under federal law, you can also sue local law enforcement agencies or officers who violate your civil rights. This includes allegations arising from a false arrest or false imprisonment. But if you previously sought–and received–an expungement of your arrest records under Florida law, could that affect your ability to pursue a federal civil rights case?

A recent ruling from a federal judge in Tampa considered this question. The case before the judge, Kubisiak v. Gualtieri, involves a female plaintiff falsely charged with DUI. The defendants are a sheriff and deputy sheriff.

According to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, she was driving home after attending her birthday party at a friend’s house. While driving, the plaintiff received a call from her sister. The sister was returning home with another driver who had just been pulled over and arrested on suspicion of DUI. The sister asked the plaintiff to come and move the other driver’s car.

When the plaintiff arrived at the scene, the deputy decided to investigate her for possible DUI. The deputy administered a series of field sobriety tests, and based on those results placed the plaintiff under arrest.

It turned out that the plaintiff did not have any alcohol in her system. A post-arrest breath test indicated a blood-alcohol content of 0.00 percent. The deputy nevertheless decided to order a urine test, and the plaintiff spent 8 hours in jail before being released on her own recognizance. A week later, the urine test results came back and confirmed the earlier 0.00 percent reading.

The State Attorney’s office understandably declined to prosecute the plaintiff. She then successfully petitioned the Pinellas County Circuit Court to expunge the records of her arrest. The plaintiff subsequently filed her a civil rights lawsuit in state court, which the defendants had removed (transferred) to federal court.

In a March 2024 ruling, the federal judge overseeing the case denied a defense motion for summary judgment, meaning the plaintiff’s case can proceed to trial. The judge also granted the plaintiff summary judgment on a counterclaim filed by the defendants. The counterclaim argued that since the plaintiff exercised her legal right to have her state criminal arrest record expunged, she negligently and intentionally destroyed evidence the defendants needed to respond to the federal civil rights lawsuit.

The judge said there was no Florida case law supporting the idea that a party could file a separate lawsuit or counterclaim alleging spoliation of evidence. So on that basis he dismissed the counterclaim. But he said the defense could still bring up the issue in defending against the plaintiff’s civil rights claims.

Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today

If you have been falsely arrested or accused of a crime, you must be prepared to aggressively defend yourself in court. An experienced Orlando DUI defense lawyer can advise you of your rights and represent you in dealing with the police, the prosecution, and the court. Call the Joshi Law Firm, PA, at 844-GO-JOSHI today or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team.



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