One of the most common misconceptions about a California DUI conviction is that it magically disappears from a person’s criminal record after a certain amount of time. Unfortunately that is not the case.
A California DUI conviction stays on a person’s criminal record forever.
Following the probationary period given for a DUI conviction, a person can petition the court for a dismissal of the conviction under California Penal Code section 1203.4. This is commonly referred to as an “expungement.” While an expunged DUI conviction cannot be used against the person in the future, it still shows up on a criminal background checks as a DUI conviction that was dismissed pursuant to California Penal Code section 1203.4.
Expunged DUI convictions can also be used against someone to increase the penalties of any subsequent DUI conviction as long as they occur within 10 years.
Unlike a conviction, a DUI arrest can be completed deleted from a criminal record with a petition to “seal and destroy.” To qualify for a seal and destroy, however, is extremely difficult. First, the person must not have actually been convicted. This means that there was no guilty plea or a finding of guilt after a trial, but rather a dismissal after a filing of charges, the prosecutor declining to file charges, or an acquittal after a trial. Furthermore, the person petitioning for the seal and destroy must prove that the arresting officers had no reason to make the arrest in the first place. This is an extremely difficult standard to meet.
The DMV is a little more forgiving about how long a DUI conviction remains on a driving record. In California, a DUI conviction stays on a person’s driving record for 10 years. During this time it can be seen by law enforcement and the DMV. The DMV uses it to make decisions regarding your driving privileges.