Being arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) is no insignificant matter. A conviction can pose a number of short- and long-term penalties that compromise your privileges and freedom, and may pose potential terms of imprisonment, hefty fines and financial consequences, and other repercussions.
When it comes to understanding the true costs and consequences of a DUI conviction, it’s important to understand how they’re treated and viewed in local and state criminal courts, why they can be important in criminal cases, and what options and you have when moving forward.
Some of the main issues associated with DUI convictions include:
- The length of time it remains on a criminal record – One of the most fundamental aspects of our criminal justice system is that crimes and convictions are accompanied by consequences. While these consequences vary depending on numerous individual facts and circumstances, they generally and often will include a “criminal record.” That means certain crimes will remain on one’s record for, if not indefinitely or permanently, at least a certain period of time before offenders may have the ability to “clear” them for various purposes, such as expanding their employment opportunities.
- Subsequent convictions and enhanced penalties – DUI convictions and their existence on one’s criminal record play an important role in cases where individuals with a prior conviction or prior convictions are charged with a new offense. That’s because multiple DUIs result in more severe penalties, including mandatory and increased terms of imprisonment, and in some cases felony charges, such as in the case of a fourth DUI. In California, there is a 10-year “lookback” period, which means that for the purposes of subsequent charges and enhanced penalties, any DUI conviction within the past 10 years (and even similar convictions for an offense like “wet reckless”) can be considered a prior offense.
- Post-conviction life / living with a criminal record – Having a criminal record comes with consequences that can persist beyond serving one’s jail sentence, taking classes, paying fines, and completing probation. This most typically includes employment opportunities. In cases of DUI, convictions can reduce or eliminate certain types of job prospects, in addition to having ancillary consequences involving a driving record or auto insurance.
- Post-conviction relief / clearing up a criminal record – For those who have a DUI conviction, there may be some options for potentially clearing or “expunging” that criminal record, which means it would for most purposes be erased from public view (though it can still be accessed for certain reasons and by certain entities). However, whether you have available options for obtaining an expungement depend on the facts involved, including the severity of the offense and whether or not it resulted in a state prison sentence (i.e. a felony DUI). Because of California’s 10-year lookback period, even an expunged DUI conviction can still be used for sentencing enhancements if it occurred within the past 10 years.
Ultimately, the answer to how long a DUI conviction will remain on your record is: it depends. If issues like employment are prompting you to consider taking action to expunge a conviction, having an experienced criminal defense attorney who handles these types of cases and issues in the local court system can be helpful to exploring your available rights and options. Generally, you should understand a few important requirements and know a few things, including:
- You must have completed probation;
- You must have not served time for the offense in a state prison, unless it would have been served in a county jail following the passing of Prop 47 (most DUIs in California meet this requirement);
- You file a petition to expunge the record, which will be closely evaluated by a judge;
- Following the granting of an expungement, any guilty or nolo contendere plea is changed to not guilty and the case is dismissed, or any trial verdict is set aside and the case is dismissed.
- You can legally state you have not been arrested or convicted of a crime in relation to an expunged offense.
- An expunged conviction does not automatically restore lost driving privileges.
- An expunged DUI conviction can be used in reference to penalty enhancements if it occurred within the past 10 years.
Speak With an Experienced DUI Lawyer
Whether you are facing charges or have questions regarding expungement, our criminal defense lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP can provide the insight and experienced counsel you need. Learn more about your rights and options, and what our award-winning defense team can do to help, by calling or contacting us online. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas of Southern California.