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Expungement of a California DUI Conviction

Updated on Wed, 8/12/2015

It is important to note that a DUI results in two types of records: a DMV record (commonly called a driving record) and a criminal record. A DUI in California will automatically fall off of a person’s driving record within 10 years. However, a criminal record for a conviction for DUI stays on a person’s record for life, unless it is expunged through the court system. A DUI on a criminal record can cause a person to have difficulty finding employment as that record may show up on background checks.

While nothing can be done to remove or conceal a DMV record, expungement of a criminal record for DUI is possible in California.

DUI law in California is very complex and can be very confusing. The most common DUI charges are for violations of Vehicle Code 23152(a), driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and Vehicle Code 23152(b), driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or greater. There are several other Vehicle Code sections that cover DUI violations, depending on the level of intoxication and whether you consented to a breath or blood test.

Typically the first, second, and third convictions for DUI are misdemeanors. The penalties can include probation (typically 3-5 years), fines, DUI classes, and a license suspension. For subsequent offenses, there is also the possibility of up to one year in county jail, which typically only applies to a second or third offense. After the third offense, you will typically be charged with a felony.

California Penal Code 1203.4 allows for those convicted of most misdemeanors and felonies to have their case reopened, the finding of guilt withdrawn and the case dismissed (expunged). Once expunged, the conviction comes off of your criminal record, and you can truthfully say that you were never convicted. While the case will still appear on the more thorough background checks that require fingerprinting, such as the CA Department of Justice report (Live Scan) or the FBI report, these background checks will indicate the case has been dismissed pursuant to 1203.4. The case will not appear on commercial background checks commonly used by employers and landlords that are searching for conviction data only.


To be eligible for an expungement, you must have completed probation (or wait one year on low level misdemeanors where no probation is given), paid all fines and restitution, and not be facing any other charges or serving any other sentence. This means that for almost all DUI convictions, the case is eligible to be expunged at the time probation is completed.

A licensed attorney who specializes in record clearing can help you get your California DUI conviction off of your criminal record. Hiring an attorney to assist with the expungement process is in your best interest. Your attorney will make sure the process is done properly the first time to ensure you have the highest chance of success and prevent unnecessary delays. A licensed attorney will also handle objections from the District Attorney and attend court proceedings to argue the case, if necessary, on your behalf.

An attorney can be even more beneficial when seeking to expunge a DUI in California. For Driving Under the Influence convictions, the petitioner must show the court that expungement is in the interest of justice. DUI cases must satisfy that higher standard, and the judge has more discretion when deciding whether to grant the expungement of a DUI conviction as compared to other offenses. Hiring an attorney to expunge your DUI conviction will ensure the best argument is made on your behalf, because your attorney will draft a motion arguing the case on your behalf, and respond to any objections raised by the district attorney’s office.

A DUI conviction on your criminal record can be the difference between securing a great new job and struggling to get past the background check phase. Convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are eligible to be expunged in California, and there is no reason to allow a previous DUI conviction to continue to affect your future. An expungement will allow you to move past a prior mistake and get the conviction removed from your criminal record.