A DUI conviction does appear on criminal background checks in most cases. Related charges, such as impaired driving or refusing a breath test, can also show up. However, DUI arrests will not always show up.
The way that criminal background checks are used, and whether your criminal history can be held against you, depends on a number of factors—and it is possible to have DUI charges removed from your record.
Who Uses Criminal Background Checks?
Criminal background checks are used for four main purposes:
- By a possible future employer, when deciding whether or not to hire you.
- By a current employer, reviewing the records of its employees.
- By professional associations, when determining whether to license you in a particular skill or trade.
- By colleges and universities considering whether to accept you as a student.
A DUI conviction can count against you in all of these circumstances. It is legal for an employer, or any of these other bodies, to consider your DUI when deciding whether to hire, license or accept you. If they turn you away because of your criminal history, it’s not discrimination—it’s standard procedure.
Obviously, that’s bad news for anyone with a DUI, but you do have options.
Are You Forced to Disclose?
Sometimes, employers will simply ask you about your criminal history. Nearly every job application has a section for this. They will not always follow that up with running an actual criminal background check. So do you have to disclose your DUI when applying?
The answer is basically yes. It may not be illegal to lie on an application, but it’s a bad idea. Even if the company doesn’t run a formal background check, they may simply Google your name and find out about your DUI. Or, they may end up asking for a background check after all. When they find out you lied, your chances of being hired are virtually zero.
Instead, there are ways to discuss your DUI that may make it a non-issue. Even better, you may be able to get it expunged—essentially taking off your criminal history altogether.
Getting a DUI Expunged from Your Record
Expunging a DUI means it is “sealed” so that, for most purposes, it’s invisible to the public. It doesn’t quite make it as if you never got a DUI at all, but for the purposes of background checks, it comes close.
The expunge process is best done with a DUI lawyer to help you. They will make sure you are eligible, so that you go into the process with a high chance of success. They will also prepare your expunge request so that it’s less likely to be challenged. If it does get challenged, they’ll fight it out with the prosecution for you.
If your DUI is expunged, it will not show up on most criminal background checks. Even if an employer does find out about your DUI, they can no longer hold it against you. Unlike a normal criminal conviction, an expunged conviction cannot be considered for employment, professional licensing, or college admissions. Doing so would now count as discrimination.
That does not mean your DUI is invisible, but it does become a non-issue. For example:
- Your arrest may still show up in some records. However, federal law prohibits the reporting of arrests after 7 years, so it will fall off the report eventually. And it’s illegal for employers to consider arrests that didn’t result in convictions.
- Sometimes a criminal check will show an expunged conviction, but it will note that it’s expunged. It’s illegal for employers to discriminate based on an expunged conviction, period.
- Employers cannot even ask you about expunged convictions or arrests that didn’t lead to convictions.
The Limits of Expunging
As noted above, expunging your DUI does not completely remove it from criminal background checks. There are some additional limits to the power of expunging a DUI in California:
- It will not help you reinstate a suspended driver’s license.
- It will not restore your right to own a gun, if it was stripped as part of a felony proceeding.
- It does not remove the “points” that a DUI puts on your license.
- The DUI will still count against you as a past offense if you get another DUI within 10 years.
Even with these limits, expunging your DUI is a powerful step. It can put you back on a level playing field with other candidates when applying for jobs, and get your career and life back on track.
Our site exists to match drivers like you with the best Los Angeles DUI lawyers. These lawyers can help you get your DUI off your criminal record. Simply fill out the form to the right and get a free, no commitment consultation today.