California DUI Expungement Lawyers
Helping You Get a Fresh Start
Expungement is often described as “erasing” a conviction from your criminal record. That’s not quite accurate. Sometimes, the Clerk of Courts office staff will tell people that after an expungement, “it’s just like the conviction never happened.” Again, that explanation is not entirely accurate. Even an expunged conviction can have lasting consequences. An expungement can nevertheless be helpful for people seeking employment or housing after being convicted of a DUI in Orange County.
What Is DUI Expungement?
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor DUI in California, you can petition the court for a dismissal. If you were convicted of a felony DUI, you might be able to petition the court for a reduction of the charge to a misdemeanor and for dismissal of the misdemeanor. If the petition is granted, the court will reopen the case and dismiss the charge.
After the dismissal is granted, you will no longer have a conviction on your record. That does not mean that all traces of it have been wiped out of existence. But for most purposes, you can honestly say that the charge was dismissed and that you have no criminal record.
Who Can Ask for an Expungement?
Your eligibility for a DUI expungement depends on the facts of your case. For a misdemeanor DUI conviction, you can seek relief after you’ve successfully completed probation, paid all fines, complied with all other court orders, and stayed out of trouble. Unfortunately, even if you do all of these things, you do not automatically receive an expungement. Instead, the court has the discretion to grant or deny the petition.
For a felony DUI conviction you were not sentenced to prison for, you may be able to petition the court to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and get a dismissal of that charge. Not all DUI felonies are eligible for reduction to misdemeanor, but some are. However, if you were sentenced to prison (rather than jail), you must apply for a pardon instead of an expungement.
If you were convicted of a DUI, the court may grant your petition for dismissal if you:
- Complied with all conditions imposed upon you at sentencing, including payment of fines and other court-ordered obligations, completion of probation and community service, and completion of any sentence imposed;
- You did not commit new crimes while on probation;
- You are not currently charged with, on probation for, or serving a sentence for any other offense.
Even if you meet the conditions above, you must persuade the court that dismissal is in the best interest of justice.
Factors that might influence the court include:
- How much time passed since your conviction
- Your good conduct since the conviction
- Your voluntary (not court-ordered) efforts to rehabilitate yourself, including completion of alcohol treatment programs and regular attendance at AA meetings
- Proof that the conviction is inhibiting our ability to obtain employment
A DUI lawyer familiar with Orange County judges can help shape a compelling argument for you.
How to Expunge a DUI in CA
To seek an expungement of your DUI conviction, you must first ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements.
To be eligible, you must:
- Have successfully completed probation,
- Not have been sentenced to imprisonment in state prison, or
- If you were sentenced to prison, have been eligible for a county jail term under Prop 47 “realignment,”
- Not have any other criminal cases pending, and
- Not be on probation or parole for any other offense.
Any time after you’ve completed probation – meaning you paid all fines and restitution, attended required treatment programs, and did not commit any new crimes – you can submit a “Petition for Relief” to the court where your case was held.
If you are still on probation, you can seek early termination with the court. The court has the discretion to grant or deny your request. In most cases, however, early termination of probation for a DUI offense is not approved.
Because you are trying to have a DUI conviction expunged, you must also submit additional paperwork with your petition. Essentially, you must provide a statement about why you’re seeking relief and how being granted it would be “in the interests of justice.”
The court will review your materials to determine whether or not to grant relief. If it approves your request, your case will be dismissed, and you will be, with some limitations, “released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense…” (California Penal Code 1203.4).
California DUI Expungement Law
The law concerning DUI expungement is California Penal Code 1203.4. It provides that after a person successfully completes probation (whether they adhered to all conditions or were granted early termination), they can seek relief.
The statute also states that, as long as all other conditions are met, the court may allow the individual to withdraw their guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty. If a judge or jury convicted them, the court may set aside the verdict. Then, the case may be dismissed.
The law prohibits anyone from seeking an expungement if they:
- Are serving a sentence for any offense
- Are on probation for any offense
- Have been charged with a new crime
Statute of Limitations for DUI in California
In California, the amount of time a prosecutor has to begin a case depends on the level of charge. More specifically, it depends on the term of imprisonment that can be imposed for the offense.
1-Year Time Limit
First, second, and third DUIs are punishable by up to 6 months or 1 year in jail, making them misdemeanors. Under California Penal Code 802, the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor – one not punishable by death or a prison sentence enumerated in California Penal Code 1170(h) – is 1 year. That means the prosecutor must file an information or take other substantial actions regarding the case within that period; otherwise, the case may be dismissed.
3-Year Time Limit
Fourth DUIs, DUIs with prior felony convictions, and DUIs resulting in injury or death of another carry a prison term of up to 3 years. Thus, they are felonies, and, pursuant to California Penal Code 801, prosecution may commence within 3 years after they’re committed.
What Can An Expungement Do?
An expungement order can be helpful if you apply for private employment. In most cases, if an employment application asks whether you have been convicted of a crime, you can legally answer “no” if the only crime on your record has been expunged. However, if you apply for government employment, you must disclose that you were convicted and that the conviction was dismissed.
Expungement can also be helpful if you are asked on a rental application whether you have been convicted of a crime. You can answer “no” if a private landlord asks the question and your only conviction has been expunged. You may need to disclose the conviction if you apply for public housing.
Remember that in the age of the internet, records never disappear. Many private database services collect information from government records. Private employers in California cannot legally search for criminal charges that did not result in convictions (including convictions that were expunged), but that does not mean they do not do so. Online firms that sell “background checks” may furnish information about your conviction even if that conviction was dismissed, and you may never learn that your prospective employer or landlord received that information.
What Are the Limitations of an Expungement?
Your conviction can still be used against you, despite its dismissal, to enhance the penalty for future offenses. In other words, if you get a new DUI the day after your first DUI conviction is dismissed, the new DUI will be considered a second offense and you will be subjected to second offense penalties.
If you apply for a professional license or certification, such as a real estate license or teacher’s credentials, you must disclose the expunged conviction on the application. The same is true if you apply for law school or other professional training in a career that requires licensing.
Expunged felony convictions still count as convictions for purposes of federal firearms laws. You cannot possess a firearm or ammunition after a DUI felony conviction, even if the conviction has been expunged.
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