DUI Expungement


Having trouble getting a job because of a previous DUI conviction? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could check the box that says “no” on job applications when they ask if you’ve been convicted of a crime? You can give thanks to California Penal Code section 1203.4.

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…”

It still sounds like legal jargon even after I shortened that. So this is what it means:

If you have successfully completed probation and probation terms, the court will allow you to go back in time, if you will, and change your guilty plea into a not guilty plea. The court will then “dismiss” the charges. Therefore, it’s as if you initially pled not guilty and the court dismisses the case so that you were “never convicted.”

If you pled not guilty and took your case to trial, but lost, 1203.4 allows the court to set aside the guilty verdict and then dismisses the case.

I like to call it a retroactive dismissal.

There are of course restrictions. You cannot have served prison time, you cannot currently be charged with a criminal offense, be on probation for a criminal offense, or be serving a sentence for a criminal offense. Also, certain sex crimes cannot be expunged.

I have a lot of people currently on probation ask if they can terminate probation early and then get an expungement. The answer is yes, however, in my experience, courts are extremely reluctant to terminate probation early for DUIs. The reason is that courts view DUIs as a major problem and are intent on seeing defendant’s serve the full duration of probation, especially if you agreed probation as part of a plea deal.

If you do get a prior DUI expunged, be aware that it may still be used as a prior DUI conviction for purposes of enhancing the penalties for any future DUIs you might get. I hope that isn’t an issue.

Also know that if you do get a prior DUI expunged, you must disclose the conviction when applying for a state license, public office, or for contracting with the state lottery.

Section 1203.4 is something positive in an otherwise austere penal code. It allows people convicted of a DUI a “fresh start” and many people do not know that they can take advantage of it.

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