How long will a DUI/DWI stay on my record?

Q:

How long will a DUI/DWI stay on my record?

A:

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), you might be tempted to simply plead guilty and try to put the arrest and conviction behind you. Unfortunately, given the severity of the penalties and the high costs of the DUI fines, this might be a mistake.

In fact, one of the most important considerations is how long the DUI might stay on your record, making it more difficult to find certain types of employment, get affordable car insurance, and maybe even rent a home.

Should I just plead guilty to my DUI charge?

It is important to consider all of your options before pleading guilty to DUI. Unfortunately, however, because DUI laws are developed in large part by each state, it can be tough to determine not only the penalties for specific DUI charges, but how long a specific conviction might remain on your record. First, however, it’s important to understand that a DUI arrest, charge and conviction generates two records: your driving record and your criminal record.

Your Driving Record vs. Your Criminal Record

State laws determine what charges and convictions are posted to your criminal record, how long those charges and convictions remain a part of the record, and whether they can ever be expunged.

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state, however, governs what driving infractions are part of your driving record, how long the record remains, and what impact the charges and convictions have over time.

For example, in Texas, a DWI conviction will stay on your driver's record forever. A DWI conviction also remains on your DUI criminal record forever. Texas law, however, does allow the DWI to be expunged from a person's criminal record if certain specific conditions are met.

For example, in the State of Texas, you may be able to get certain Class A, B or C Misdemeanors expunged, or felonies expunged from your criminal record if you were tried and convicted but pardoned, if you were found not guilty at trial, or if you were charged but released and not convicted.

Keep in mind, however, that even if the factors listed above exist, there are rules and exceptions, and you will have to wait the specified time period outlined under Chapter 55 in the Texas Code. Specifically, (under some conditions) an expungement may be requested for certain Class C Misdemeanors 180 days from the day of the arrest, Class A or B Misdemeanors one year from the day of the arrest, and felonies three years from the day of the arrest.

Do other states allow for a clean record?

As mentioned above, whether a DUI conviction remains on a criminal record or driving record depends on state laws. The good news, however, is that some states do have more lenient laws than Texas.

In California, for example, the DMV will keep your DUI on your driving record for 10 years, allowing law enforcement officers as well the Department of Motor Vehicles to use this record to make decisions about your driver’s license. This means that if you are arrested for a second DUI within 10 years, the DMV will charge you with a second DUI. If, however, your second DUI arrest is 11 years after your first DUI arrest, it will be considered your first and not second DUI charge.

In California, a DUI conviction can also be a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense, and will be part of your criminal record as well as your driving record. Whether you will be able to expunge your criminal DUI conviction in California depends on several factors, including whether you are currently facing any additional charges, whether you went to prison, and whether you have served your penalties and paid your fines.

Assuming that you meet all the necessary requirements, your criminal DUI charge may be expunged from your criminal record. If the expungement is granted, the record is removed from your criminal record. In other cases, however, you may only be allowed to petition for a non-disclosure petition, which may only eliminate an employer's and/or credit bureau's right to view the record.

What about your driving record in other states such as Florida? Florida will not remove a DUI from your driving record for at least 75 years. Other states have a minimum of 10 years.

Florida will also keep your DUI criminal conviction on your criminal record forever, because a DUI conviction requires an adjudication of guilt, which prevents you from sealing or expunging your record. Exceptions exist in certain jurisdictions, however, if you successfully complete a DUI diversion program and the state's attorney's office dismisses your charge. In this case, a DUI expungement may be allowed because you were not technically convicted of a DUI.

Bottom line: There is no hard and fast rule for determining how long a DUI conviction will stay on your driving and criminal record. And while an arrest (without a conviction), pardon, or not-guilty conviction may be eliminated or expunged from certain state’s criminal records, in most states, a DUI conviction that is not pardoned could be a part of your criminal record forever. It's also important to note that a DUI will remain a part of your driving record in every state for at least 10 years — with some states making it permanent.

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Whether you're facing a legal issue or just seeking information, Justipedia aims to be your most trusted resource for legal information on the Web. With the help of legal professionals across the country, we put the law in plain language to help answer your top legal questions.

Justipedia was founded by Internet veterans Cory Janssen and Mitchell Allen. Janssen founded Investopedia.com and grew it one of the largest investing sites on the Web. Allen is an author, speaker and the founder of LeadRival, the leading provider of pay-per-action advertising in consumer legal services.

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