Many Californians with a DUI on their record just want a fresh start. It may have been your first conviction, and you're worried about how it will impact your personal and professional life. Getting a conviction expunged is one way to start anew. But before you jump in and begin the paperwork, there are a few things to consider. Here's what you need to know about getting a DUI expunged in California.
What does it really mean to get a DUI expunged?
In many states, an expungement works to seal your records so that no one can see your conviction. Terms used for this process include "destruction," "purging," and "erasure," among others. The result is a criminal record that can no longer be seen, almost as though the event never occurred.
In California, getting a DUI expunged essentially means that your criminal records are changed. So, in essence, if you pleaded guilty or no contest to your DUI, getting it expunged would result in that plea being changed to not guilty, then the case would be dismissed. The DUI charge would still remain on your record, but the conviction goes away.
What are the benefits of getting a DUI expunged?
You might wonder if going through the steps of getting your DUI expunged is worth it, but there are clear benefits to doing so. In most cases, when asked on an employee application if you've ever been convicted of a crime, you can answer "no." You do not need to admit to the original conviction that occurred before the expungement. If you're concerned about your potential employer finding out about it, rest assured that most of them do background checks via private companies, and a vast majority of them only display active convictions.
Will you ever have to reveal the conviction?
There are a couple of exceptions to the rule above—some that require you to reveal the conviction and one with a little more gray area.
For instance, if you're applying for a government job, it might be a good idea to admit to the conviction, then explain to your potential employer that the case was dismissed by a judge. If you're unsure about what to do when applying for a government position, you should discuss it with your attorney and see what they recommend.
Now, there are three other situations in which you are required to reveal the DUI conviction, and they include when applying for a public office position (mayor, governor, city manager, city council, etc.), when applying for any state license (attorney, locksmith, CPA, etc.), and, in rare instances, if you're contracting with the California State Lottery Commission.
What are the steps to getting a DUI expunged?
It's a good idea to consult with an attorney that can walk you through every step. But in California, it starts with probation.
The terms of your probation will be contingent upon several factors, one of which is whether or not it's your first offense. But typically, you can expect to pay fines, possibly have your license suspended for 6 months to 4 years, and attend an alcohol treatment program.
You'll also have 3-5 years of informal probation. During this time, you don't have to report to a probation officer, but you will be expected to refrain from driving after drinking any amount of alcohol. And if you are pulled over with suspicion of DUI, you must agree to a chemical test that will measure your blood alcohol content.
After you have successfully completed probation without incident or problems, you can petition the court to expunge your DUI.
What if your probation is holding you back?
There are situations in which a judge will terminate probation before the full 3-5 years have passed. In these instances, you would need to prove that the probation is placing an undue burden on your life or significantly holding you back from seeking employment, getting a promotion, or finding adequate transportation to work. You would also need to demonstrate that you are reformed and that you're no longer a danger to the public. Be aware that most judges won't even hear your case if you haven't completed at least 12-18 months of probation.
An attorney that's knowledgeable about early termination can let you know if this route is worth pursuing. For more information, contact a lawyer at a law firm such as Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices.