Under California Penal Code §1203. 4 PC, some individuals can have their criminal conviction expunged from their record. That means that the court wipes out a guilty verdict or guilty plea. Instead, a plea of “Not Guilty” is entered, and the case is dismissed.
In other words, an expunged criminal conviction is set aside as if you were never judged guilty or pled guilty. That is what is meant by “cleaning” your criminal record.
However, the arrest is not erased. Expungement implies that the entire criminal matter is erased from your record. A better term for a California expungement might be “dismissed.”
The arrest remains on your record, but anyone reviewing your criminal history would only see that you were arrested. After your arrest, the case was dismissed without a guilty verdict.
Not all criminal convictions are eligible for expungement. The good news is that most driving under the influence convictions in California meets the requirements for an expungement.
Who Can Receive a California DUI Expungement?
Individuals convicted of misdemeanors and felonies may be eligible for an expungement in California if they meet the following requirements:
- Your conviction occurred in state court
- You were not sentenced to serve time in state prison
- You completed probation, or it has been one year since your conviction if you were not ordered to serve probation
- You met all other sentenced requirements, such as treatment programs, community service, fines, restitution, etc.
- You did not violate any of the terms of probation
- You are not currently on probation, serving time for another offense, or charged with another criminal offense
Most of the DUI convictions in California meet the above requirements for a DUI expungement. However, you may want to consult with a California DUI defense lawyer to verify that your drunk driving charge is eligible for expungement.
How Does DUI Expungement Work in California?
You must complete probation and all conditions required by probation before you apply for DUI expungement. General terms for DUI probation in California include:
- Driver’s license suspension
- Alcohol program (DUI school)
- Time in county jail
- Three to five years of summary probation
- Agreement to submit to DUI breath test or DUI blood test if arrested for driving under the influence
- Zero-tolerance for driving with alcohol in your system
- No criminal offenses during probation
There could be other conditions for DUI probation based on the drunk driving offense and the facts of the case. However, regardless of the terms of probation, you must complete probation successfully to be eligible for an expungement of a drunk driving charge.
After completing probation, you file a petition for expungement with the court.
Can I Receive a DUI Expungement Earlier?
Because summary or formal probation for a DUI conviction lasts between three to five years, a person could wait a long time to clear a DUI conviction from their criminal record. However, you may be able to have probation terminated early, which would allow you to petition the court for a DUI expungement.
Some individuals could qualify for early probation termination as soon as 18 months after conviction. However, the following circumstances must apply:
- The person has completed the terms of probation successfully AND
- Some circumstances justify granting an early termination of probation.
Situations that might qualify as circumstances to justify early probation termination include traveling for work, caring for minor children or sick family members, obtaining a job, or obtaining higher education or training for advancement at work.
The judge has the sole discretion to grant early termination from DUI probation if the person meets the above requirements. However, many judges hesitate to grant early termination of DUI probation.
One reason could be the zero-tolerance requirement for driving with alcohol in the person’s system. Other judges may hesitate to grant a petition for early termination when specific facts are present in the case, or the person has a subsequent drunk driving or drugged driving offense in their past.
Do I Get My Driver’s License Back if My DUI is Expunged?
For most people, probation generally lasts longer than a suspended driver’s license. However, if you complete your probation before your driver’s license is restored, a DUI expungement will not overturn a driver’s license revocation or suspension. Expungements do not restore driving privileges.
However, there are other benefits of receiving a DUI expungement. For example, you are not legally required to disclose an expunged conviction when applying for a job.
California’s “ban the box” law prohibits employers from asking about a person’s criminal history before making a conditional employment offer. The employer cannot turn down the applicant for employment because of a conviction revealed after making a conditional employment offer until it completes an individualized assessment.
However, you would not need to disclose an expunged DUI conviction at all. Expunged DUIs cannot be used to make employment decisions, including hiring or promoting an employee.
There is an exception for teaching credentials and state licenses. When applying for these licenses, you must disclose all convictions, including expunged DUI convictions. State licensing boards are permitted to use an expunged DUI case when making decisions regarding your license or employment.
Even if you are required to disclose an expunged conviction, an employer may look more favorably at a dismissed DUI case instead of a guilty verdict.
How Does an Expunged DUI Impact Future DUI Arrests?
Even though your DUI conviction was expunged, it can significantly affect penalties for future drunk driving convictions. Drunk driving in California is a “priorable” offense. That means that the DUI penalties increase for each subsequent DUI conviction.
The increase in penalties applies to convictions within ten years. Therefore, if you are found guilty of drunk driving within ten years of a DUI conviction that was expunged, you can still face harsher penalties, just as if your drunk driving conviction was never expunged.
What Should You Expect After a California DUI Arrest?
If you are arrested for drunk driving, you have two different cases. The Department of Motor Vehicles handles one case, and the other case is your criminal case handled by the Superior Court.
APS Hearing with the DMV
Call the DMV immediately after a DUI arrest regarding your DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) case. You have just ten days from your arrest to request an APS hearing. If you do not request a hearing within those ten days, your driver’s license is automatically suspended.
Your “pink temporary license” given to you by the police officer is only good for 30 days from the arrest date. After that, if you request an APS hearing, the DMV issues a new temporary license effective when the pink temporary license expires.
The DMV schedules a hearing to determine whether to suspend your driver’s license. Many people decide to represent themselves at the APS hearing. Unfortunately, they discover too late that representing themselves was a poor decision.
An experienced drunk driving defense lawyer may be able to present one or more defenses that could help you avoid losing your driving privileges. In addition, the attorney may have the chance to cross-examine the arresting officer and review evidence. These steps could help with your APS hearing and your criminal case.
If you have trouble contacting the DMV about an APS hearing, you might want to call a California DUI defense attorney immediately for help.
Criminal Proceeds for a California DUI Charge
You may also agree to a plea deal with the prosecutor, seek and agree to a court offer, or proceed to trial.
The best way to know what to do is to talk with a lawyer. A lawyer evaluates your case to determine how strong the evidence is against you and what your best options are for defending the charges or avoiding the harshest penalties for a DUI conviction.
Remember to tell your attorney everything about your case. Do not lie or hold anything back from your lawyer. Your attorney cannot represent you effectively if he does not know everything about your case.
If possible, the goal is to keep your driver’s license and avoid a conviction. If not, the goal is to minimize the penalties you face for a DUI conviction.