An applicant for a job that involves driving or their potential employer can request a copy of the person’s driving record from their state department of motor vehicles (DMV) office. A driving record may also be called a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR). There is typically a nominal fee for accessing this information.
Some states, such as California, charge an additional fee for using a debit or credit card to pay for the transaction. In many states, the requesting party must first create an online account with the DMV to request the record and print it.
Information Needed for a Request
Information needed to request a driver record varies by state. In California, an individual doing a driving history search needs to provide:
- Driver’s license number.
- Date of birth.
- Number of copies requested.
- Driver's business name, if applicable.
- Phone number.
- Full name and street address, which cannot be a P.O. box.
They will not need the applicant’s Social Security number.
What a Driver Record Contains
The information in a driving record varies depending on the state and the type of driving record requested. In California, a party can request an official or an unofficial copy of a driving record. The official copy is called a certified copy, and there is no extra charge for certification of a copy. Either type of record will contain accidents, which are reported three years from the accident date, convictions of traffic violations and civil judgment actions.
In contrast, New York has three types of driving records: a standard driving record, a lifetime driving record and a commercial driving record. The standard driving record contains information related to the past few years. Certain violations like a refusal of a chemical test will be displayed longer.
A lifetime driving record contains all information that DMV currently has available about a driver, but may not contain information going back to when the driver was first granted driving privileges. A commercial driver's CDL (commercial driver's license) record shows more than the usual driver history, including convictions, suspensions and revocations in any state in any type of vehicle.
DUIs on a Driving Record
The length of time a driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating while intoxicated (OWI) or operating under the influence (OUI) conviction will be visible on a driver's record depends on the state and whether the person had a standard or commercial driver’s license. In California, a DUI conviction will be on a public record for 10 years for a noncommercial driver. An action taken against a noncommercial driver’s driving privilege because of a DUI conviction, like a driver’s license suspension, will be reported for three years from the license reinstatement date.
Dismissing a Conviction
A person convicted of a traffic-related offense can petition a criminal court to dismiss their conviction if they have no new cases pending and are not on probation or parole in any case. A dismissal of the criminal conviction, such as for a DUI, will not erase the conviction from the DMV’s record. The points the driver received for the offense will remain on the DMV’s record as well. This is because the DMV and the courts are different agencies, and each keeps their own records.
What Falls Off Driving Records
A party doing a driver’s history check may not turn up proof of certain violations if the violations have dropped off the person’s record. In California, a violation designated as two points is considered serious. Such violations pose an increased traffic safety risk. Examples of two-point violations include hit-and-run accidents, DUIs and reckless driving. A two-point violation will be reported for 10 years from the violation date.
California designates a violation as one point if it involves the safe operation of a motor vehicle upon the highway. Examples of one-point violations include speeding and operating a vehicle in an unsafe condition. A one-point violation will be reported for three years from the violation date.
A mechanical violation may be a zero or a one-point violation, depending on whether it affects safe operation of a vehicle. For example, no light on a license plate is a zero-point violation. A zero-point violation will also be reported for three years from the violation date.
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Request Your Driver's Record
- New York Department of Motor Vehicles: How to Get My Own Driving Record (abstract)
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Request for Record Information (INF 70)
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Request for Your Own Driver License/Identification Card (DL/ID) or Vehicle/ Vessel Registration (VR) Information Record (INF 1125)
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Retention of Driver Record Information
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Negligence
- California Courts: Record Cleaning, Misdemeanors
- California Vehicle Code Section 24002 Unsafe Vehicles
- Private search services will often deliver your record within a day, or faster. As of September 2010, their charges usually ranged from $20 to $30. Searching with the DMV directly is always cheaper.
- Although some DMV Web sites allow you to search for someone else's records online, most warn employers to follow separate procedures. Follow all such requests to avoid breaking state privacy laws.
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.