If you get a DUI in California, you probably don't want it to show up on your criminal record for the rest of your life. Fortunately, you can expunge the charge from your record, removing it from public view so it won't show up in background checks. While most people hire an attorney to help them, if you can't afford the lawyer fees for expungement, you can do it yourself.
Why Expunge Your Record?
When you apply for jobs, housing and even college, you will usually have to go through a background check. If you have a DUI on your record, it will show up in the background check and it could cause your application to be rejected. Once a crime on your record has been expunged, it will be erased from your record. If you apply for a job, you are not legally required to disclose any crimes that have been expunged. Even if the employer did find out about the offense, California law prohibits a company from using an expunged conviction as an excuse to not hire, retain or promote an employee.
Limits of Expungement
While expunging a crime from your record can help you pass background checks and avoid job discrimination, it is worth noting that it does not erase all trace of the crime. You are still legally required to disclose the expunged conviction when applying for state licenses or teaching credentials, and these organizations can use a DUI against you when deciding whether to grant or renew a license or credential.
Expunging your record will also not remove a DUI from your driving record or deduct the related points on your record. This means if an employer checks your driving record, the DUI will still show up. Additionally, you will still be required to pay higher auto insurance rates and face increased fines and penalties for future driving infractions.
Finally, while an expungement will erase your conviction from your public record, it will still be visible to the court if you face future DUI convictions. There is no way to have previous DUI convictions not show up as prior convictions when it comes to sentencing, other than to wait 10 years for it to no longer count as a prior offense.
Who Qualifies for Expungement?
While some crimes can never be expunged, most DUIs can be, even if they are felonies. In order to qualify for expungement, you must have successfully completed probation and not gone to prison. Since very few drunk driving cases result in prison sentences rather than jail terms, most DUI offenders qualify after they have served probation.
How to Expunge a Record in California?
After you have completed probation for your DUI, you can petition the court to expunge the record of conviction. While most people use expungement lawyers, the cost can be prohibitive and you can do this without an attorney.
A judge will review your petition after it has been filed to determine if you are eligible for expungement. If your petition is granted, you will either withdraw the guilty or no contest plea you made and then re-enter a not guilty plea, or if you pled not guilty but were found guilty in trial, the judge will set aside the verdict. After your plea or verdict has been changed, the judge will then dismiss the case.