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Can I get my DUI charge sealed or expunged in California?

Getting your criminal record “expunged” generally means the criminal charges will be cleared from your criminal record. This can help an individual avoid the negative aspects of having a criminal record that is visible by employers, property owners, or the public.

Most people who are convicted of a simple DUI in California can be eligible to have their record expunged after probation ends. Individuals may still have to disclose the DUI in certain situations but for the most part, an expunged DUI does not have to be disclosed to employers on a job application.

If you were arrested for drunk driving in Alameda County or Contra Costa and are worried about having a criminal record, talk to an experienced East Bay DUI defense lawyer. Your lawyer can challenge the arrest and fight against a criminal conviction to keep your record clean.

Eligibility for Expunged or Sealed DUI Conviction in California

In order to petition the court to expunge a DUI conviction, the individual has to be eligible under California's expungement laws. This generally requires the individual:  

  • Was not sentenced to time in prison; and
  • Successfully completed probation.

Most DUI convictions in California do not require the defendant to serve time in state prison. Most misdemeanor DUI charges may carry some jail time but generally do not result in a prison sentence.

Probation for a DUI in California can depend on the specific charge, prior criminal history, and other factors. Most first-time DUI convictions in California carry a 3-year summary probation period. After successfully completing the terms of probation, the individual may be eligible for expungement of their criminal conviction.

Completing Summary Probation After a DUI in the East Bay

The terms of probation can vary based on the situation, the individual, and even the judge. Most of the time, a first-time DUI conviction will require the individual to complete the probationary period (usually 3 years) and:

  • Complete traffic school;
  • Pay all court costs, fees, and fines;
  • Cannot be convicted of another crime;
  • Cannot drive with any amount of alcohol over a certain amount (even if under the legal limit of 0.08% BAC); and
  • Cannot refuse a chemical breath or blood test (even a PAS breath test).

Other terms of probation may include: 

  • Abstaining from alcohol use,
  • Drug Testing 
  • Community service,
  • Substance abuse counseling and treatment;
  • Ignition interlock device (IID);
  • Participate in a MADD Victim Impact Panel;
  • Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM); or
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.

Can I Petition for DUI Expungement Early?

Individuals may be in a hurry to clear a DUI from their record. Generally, you will have to wait until the summary probation period is over before you can petition for expungement. However, you may be able to get probation terminated early. If probation is terminated early, you can petition for expungement as soon as probation ends.

To get early termination of probation for a DUI, the individual will have to petition the court. This generally requires showing why the individual needs early termination, such as for employment or job requirements. The individual will also need to complete all the other terms of probation (including DUI school and paying all court costs and fines).

However, early termination of probation is not common. You may be required to wait out the full probationary period before you can petition to have your record expunged.

Who can see my DUI charge after it is expunged from my record?

After your record is expunged, it will generally not show up on a public search of your criminal record. You can legally tell most employers that you do not have a criminal conviction after the record is sealed. However, after your record is expunged, it does not completely eliminate the prior DUI.

Law enforcement will still have access to your expunged records, as well as federal agencies. You may also be required to report a criminal conviction for professional licensing.  

Will an expunged DUI erase the prior DUI if I get arrested for another DUI?

An expunged DUI will not be erased for the purpose of multiple DUIs. There are increased penalties and consequences of multiple DUIs in California. Whether a DUI is priorable is based on a prior conviction within a 10-year period. An expunged DUI still counts as a prior offense.

For example, Jim was convicted of a DUI in 2012. Jim completed probation in 2015 and successfully petitioned to have his DUI expunged. Jim was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of marijuana in 2019. Even though his DUI was expunged, he will face charges for a 2nd DUI after the latest DUI because it occurred within the 10-year lookback period.

Avoiding a Criminal Conviction for a DUI

The best way to avoid having to deal with a criminal conviction, probation, and expunging your record is to avoid a criminal conviction in the first place. The police and prosecutor may make it seem like you will be convicted and you should take the plea deal. However, you may have a stronger defense than you realize.

Talk to your DUI defense attorney about ways to fight against a criminal conviction. East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick has more than 35 years of DUI experience and understands how to challenge DUI arrests and breath test evidence. Contact California DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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