Getting a DUI off Your Driving Record
How long does a DUI stay on your record in California? In California, a DUI stays on your driving record with the DMV for 10 years. This record can be seen by law enforcement officers as well as within the DMV. It is used by the DMV to make decisions about your driver’s license such as whether you are eligible to reinstate a suspended license.
The bad news is that there is no way to remove a DUI from your driving record. The good news is, this record is not included in a background check and cannot be seen by potential employers. It does not count as a criminal record (although a DUI also goes on your criminal record—see below). It is used almost exclusively by the DMV.
Previously, California law kept a DUI on your driving record only 7 years. This was changed in 2007. If you have any past DUI conviction, even from before the law changed, it will now stay on your record the full 10 years. In the future, the period could be even longer.
The 10 years starts from the date of your arrest.
DUI “Points” on Your Driver’s License
California driver’s licenses use a “point” system to track risky behavior. All drivers start with 0 points, but may acquire points for certain infractions—like speeding, or DUI—or for causing an accident.
Points hurt you in two ways. For one thing, they affect your insurance rates. More points mean higher car insurance bills. Additionally, they can cost you your license. Your license will be suspended if:
- You get 4 or more points in 2 years
- You get 6 or more points in 3 years
- You get 8 or more points in 4 years
DUI’s are in the highest point category. Each DUI adds two (2) points to your license. Obviously, the sooner those points go away, the better off you are.
Unfortunately, DUI points also take the longest to get off your license. Points from a DUI stay on for 13 years. There is no way to shorten this period.
But you can reduce your total points in other ways. Points from traffic tickets, for example, can sometimes be removed if you agree to go to traffic school. You can look up DMV approved traffic schools here.
Previous DUI’s and New DUI Charges
Any DUI charge on your record also affects future DUI penalties. California state law assigns different penalties for a first, second, and third+ DUI. Each one is more serious than the one before it. To compute this, any DUI within the last 10 years counts as a previous charge.
For example, let’s say you’re facing a DUI charge right now. You already have one previous DUI conviction. If that previous conviction was 8 years ago, it will count against you, and the new charges are a “second” DUI. If the previous conviction was from 11 years ago, however, they do not count. Your new DUI is treated as a first offense.
There is no way to shorten this period. Again, the 10 years is counted from the date of your arrest.
Expunging a DUI from Your Criminal Record
The last place where a DUI is recorded is on your criminal history. In California a DUI is not just a traffic violation, it is a criminal offense—usually a misdemeanor, but sometimes a felony depending on the circumstances. You have to disclose your criminal history when you apply for jobs or professional licenses, and it can be held against you.
Normally, a DUI stays on your criminal record permanently. However, you may be able to have it expunged. You are eligible to expunge a DUI if:
- You have already served all penalties, including probation
- Your sentence did not involve state prison (as opposed to jail time)
- You are not currently facing any other criminal charges
If these all apply to you, a California DUI attorney can help you expunge your DUI. They will file a request to expunge. The prosecutor’s office may or may not oppose the expungement, in which case your attorney can fight for you. There will be a hearing and, in most cases, the expungement will be approved.
Once a DUI is expunged, it is no longer part of your criminal record. You can apply for jobs with a “clean” criminal history and do not have to disclose your DUI. However, the DUI will still count as a past charge if you are arrested for a new drunk driving charge.
The short answer is that a DUI stays on your driving record for 10 years in California, and stays on your criminal record permanently. However, the full story is a little more complex. There are a number of records that a DUI affects, and you can take action to change some of them.