“Expunging” a California DUI

When a person is convicted of a DUI, they face at a minimum of three years of probation, fines and fees of several thousand dollars, and a DUI class. Beyond that, depending on the severity of the DUI, a person can also face jail, rehab, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel, a Hospital and Morgue Program, or an exorbitant amount of AA meetings (to name just a few of the consequences). However, for some, none of these penalties is as concerning for them as having the DUI on their criminal record.

Naturally, their first question is, “Can I remove the DUI conviction from my record?”

Unfortunately, when a person is arrested and convicted of a California DUI, both the arrest and the conviction will stay on their record forever. However, an arrest alone cannot be used against a person if they were never convicted. Remember, everyone is innocent until proven guilty and if a conviction never occurred, then the person is still innocent. Simply put, an arrest means nothing without a conviction and employers cannot inquire about an arrest that did not lead to a conviction nor can they use an arrest as a reason not to hire someone.

A conviction, on the other hand, does mean that a person was guilty, and a conviction can be used against them by employers.

Let’s return to the question, “Can I remove the DUI conviction from my record?” While the answer might be, “no,” there’s a very large “but” right behind it. “No, but a person can get an expungement.”

California Penal Code section 1203.4 provides, “In any case in which a defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation…or in any case in which a court, in its discretion and the interest of justice, determines that a defendant should be granted relief under this section, the defendant shall…be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; of, if he or she has been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and, in either case, the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and…he or she shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted…”

Simply put, if a person convicted of a DUI successfully completes probation, they can petition to withdraw their guilty plea, no contest plea, or guilty verdict following a trial and the court retroactively dismisses the case.

The word “expungement” is somewhat of a misnomer in that, while many people believe that the DUI will be “expunged” or erased, it does not. It will, however, appear as having been “dismissed” by the court. Dismissed cases do not result in convictions. Thus, if a DUI is dismissed (i.e. “expunged”) through California Penal Code section 1203.4, a person will no longer need to disclose the DUI conviction to most potential employers.

Although a person does not need to disclose a DUI that was dismissed/expunged to most employers, there are exceptions. The conviction must still be disclosed when applying for a government position, a state license, public office, or for contracting with the state lottery. If this is the case, however, a person can then say that the conviction was dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4 after they have disclosed it.

A DUI conviction should not hold someone back forever, and expungement laws exist so that they don’t. If you, or someone you know, has suffered a DUI conviction, were successful at completing probation, and are ready to move on, contact a California DUI attorney about expunging the DUI.

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