Getting your DUI “expunged” means getting it removed from most public records. Expunction can be a powerful form of relief after a conviction, because it prevents your DUI from following you around and hampering your life in most ways. It can be used for any misdemeanor version of DUI, and some felonies, if the requirements are met. Below, we’ll discuss the benefits of expunction, what expunction does not do, and how you can get your DUI expunged.
What are the benefits of expunging my DUI?
It makes your DUI much less of an obstacle to you. When you get your DUI expunged, the benefits include:
- It will not show up on most public background checks
- Most employers cannot hold it against you for hiring, firing or promotions
- Landlords cannot use it to decide against renting to you
- You may be eligible for professional licenses and public employment that you would otherwise not be eligible for
Expunging a DUI does not completely remove it from your record, but even when people discover your DUI it usually means they cannot legally hold it against you.
What are the limits of expunging a DUI?
While expunging a DUI can never hurt, there are cases where it also does not help. These include:
- Future arrests. California uses a “prior” system, the penalties are tougher for repeat DUI offenders. Expunction does not help you avoid this. If you are arrested for DUI again in the future, your expunged DUI is visible to the court and will still count as a prior offense. Similarly, law enforcement can see your expunged DUI on your criminal record any time they pull you over or run your name in their system.
- Insurance rates. Expunging a DUI will not affect your insurance rates. You will have to pay the same higher rates based on your DUI conviction whether it is expunged or not.
- Applying for government jobs. Some public jobs, such as working for law enforcement or joining the military, require you to disclose your criminal record. You must still disclose your expunged DUI, and you could face perjury charges if you do not (you will also be turned down for the job). However, an expunged DUI may not be held against you, and you could still get the job even after you disclose the offense.
- Professional licenses. Similarly, you will need to disclose your DUI for certain professional licenses such as a bar license for attorneys, or a real estate license. Again, you must disclose it but you may get approved anyway because the offense was expunged.
You should also know that felony convictions may not be able to be expunged. Generally, if you served time in state prison (for any reason, including a probation violation), you cannot expunge your offense. Since all California felony DUI offenses carry the possibility of state prison time, they often don’t qualify.
How do I get my DUI expunged?
The rules for expunction are set down in California Penal Code 1203.4. The basic requirements are:
- You have already served all penalties and requirements for your DUI, including jail, fines, DUI school, etc.
- You have completed the full 3-5 year probation term you were given. (In some cases, you can request early termination of your probation.)
- You are not currently facing any other criminal charges or serving any other criminal penalties, even for an unrelated crime.
- Your DUI offense did not include state prison time.
If you meet these requirements you can request an expunction. The paperwork for this is complicated, and mistakes can set back your expunction by months or longer. It’s best to have a lawyer help you. Your lawyer will:
- Request a dismissal of your charge
- Request early termination of your probation if needed
- Attach a statement that you meet all requirements, and a personal statement as to why the expunction will help your career or your family
- Deliver copies of the paperwork to the prosecutor and the probation department to give them a chance to contest it
If you meet the requirements, in most cases your expunction will be granted.
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