Expunging a California DUI Conviction


 

Many of my DUI clients are mistaken in the belief that their DUI conviction magically disappears from their record after a number of years. I’ve heard clients believe the number to be anywhere from three years to ten years. Often they discover that they were mistaken when, years later, they apply for a job and discover that the DUI conviction is, in fact, still on their record.

Fortunately for those clients and anyone else convicted of a California DUI, California Penal Code section 1203.4 allows a person to petition to have their DUI conviction “expunged.”

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…”

In other words, if a person has successfully completed probation and if the court deems it appropriate, that person can petition to withdraw their guilty plea or guilty verdict and the court will then dismiss the case.

Although commonly used to describe the relief provided by California Penal Code section 1203.4, the term “expungement.” is actually a misnomer. Despite what most people think about expungements, it does not actually expunge or delete the conviction from the record. Rather, if the expungement is granted, the record will still show that the person was arrested and charged with a California DUI, but was dismissed by the court.

When applying for jobs to private employers, a person who has successfully petitioned the court for an expungement of their California DUI conviction does not need to disclose the conviction.

Clients are often concerned that, notwithstanding the expungement, the mere arrest will keep an employer from hiring them. However, the California Business and Professions Code prevents employers from asking about and using an arrest against a person. Simply put, an arrest legally means nothing without a conviction.

The caveat to these benefits, however, is that the conviction must 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.

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