An individual can find out if someone has a conviction for driving under the influence, or DUI, by asking that person. She can also obtain a copy of the person’s conviction, if one exists, from the court that heard the case. A person who wishes to determine if someone has a DWI should not perform a criminal background check through a commercial service; commercial databases are usually inaccurate and outdated.
When Someone Has Multiple DUIs
A person who has lived in one or more counties or states may have DUIs in multiple jurisdictions. Usually the court that hears the person’s second, third, fourth or beyond DUI case requests proof of the prior DUI convictions. The court record of a person’s latest DUI case will likely contain proof of prior DUI convictions.
Information Needed to Check Court Records
A person who wishes to find out if someone has a DUI needs the subject’s name and date of birth to check court records. The person’s driver’s license number and home address may also prove helpful. A person’s name, driver’s license number and home address can change. A party can address this concern by asking a person for their former name/s, driver’s license numbers and home addresses. A state may require a party to create an account and pay a fee to perform a criminal history database search.
An Arrest Is Not a Conviction
An arrest for driving under the influence may not lead to a conviction for a DUI. An arrest is not proof that a person committed an offense. Sometimes an arrest could be unlawful, or, alternatively, the prosecutor may not have enough evidence to prove her case.
When Employers Want to Know
Certain states, such as New York and California, do not allow employers to require a job applicant to disclose information relating to an arrest that did not result in a conviction. For example, New York does not allow an employer to inquire about any arrest or criminal accusation of a person that is not currently pending, that has been resolved in the person’s favor, has been resolved by a youthful offender adjudication, or that resulted in a sealed conviction. Further, in New York, an employer cannot ask about the status of the person’s license, credit and insurance. An employer cannot discriminate against a person because she refused to answer questions about an arrest, a sealed case or a juvenile case that involved a DUI charge.
Sealed and Expunged DUIs
A state may allow an individual convicted of DWI to seal or expunge that arrest from her criminal record, or expunge a conviction for a misdemeanor or felony DUI. A record that does not indicate a DUI conviction is not proof that the person did not actually commit a DUI.
If a person has expunged his DUI in the state where he was charged, another state does not have to consider the DUI expunged. For example, if an individual was convicted of a DUI in one state, got it expunged, moved to another state and was convicted of a DUI in that state, the second state may consider him to have two DUI convictions.
A state typically does not allow a person to expunge a DUI or have a DUI from another state considered expunged when the person has committed one or more DUIs. This is because a court wants to count all of a person’s prior DUIs should another DUI arrest occur.
Is DUI a Serious Crime?
A first and second DUIs are usually not treated as serious crimes. Absent aggravating circumstances, such as committing a hit-and-run while driving under the influence, a first and second DUI are usually charged as misdemeanors. In California, a first, second and third DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor, but a fourth DUI is charged as a felony.
- Superior Court of California, County of Kern: Search Cases/Criminal History by Defendant Name/Driver's License #
- New York State Department of Labor: Employers
- California Penal Code, Chapter 1: The Judgment
- Arizona Judicial Branch: Public Access to Court Information
- Oklahoma Criminal Information History Request Portal
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: How Information Is Protected or Disclosed
- California Labor Code, Article 3, Contracts and Applications for Employment
- 2019 Florida Statutes, Motor Vehicles, State Uniform Traffic Control, Section 316.193, Driving under the influence; penalties
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.