Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol is a serious offense. But people sometimes fall short and get in trouble with law enforcement. Unfortunately, the consequences of a DUI conviction are grave. At best, you get a criminal record and a suspended driver’s license. However, you could also be levied a fine or jail time in many cases.
The impact on your auto insurance rates is also significant. First, it may be challenging to find an auto insurance provider post-conviction. Additionally, if you already have an insurance company, they may demand higher premiums or a review of your current insurance policy.
In this guide, we’ll be diving into many aspects of a DUI conviction. You’ll get to know the effects it will have on your life and even what steps you can take to remove the DUI conviction from your criminal history.
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How Long Does A DUI Stay On Your Driving Record?
The length of time for DUI convictions is determined by state legislation, and most states are strict with DUI violations. Therefore, this tends to be a significant length of time. In several states, the DUI will stay on your driving record for 5–10 years. It can last much longer or be permanent in other states.
Two key factors determine the length of time your DUI conviction stays on your driving record.
- Location: This is the most important determinant. Some states stipulate as low as five years for the DUI charge, while others are ten years. However, there are states whose legislators believe that the DUI charge should remain for multiple decades (as high as 70 years).
- Previous Charges: If you have had a prior DUI case, it may affect how long the DUI conviction stays on your driving record. Several states operate with a points system for traffic violations. So each ticket or misdemeanor causes extra points to be added to your driver’s license. These points may stay on your driver’s license for several years but typically range between 1 to 3 years.
Subsequently, getting caught by law enforcement for the same offense may lead to an eventual license suspension. Nonetheless, you can gradually reduce the points if you avoid further traffic misdemeanors.
Committing a DUI attracts many more points, significantly increasing the total number of points on your driver’s license. This increases the number of years it may take for the DUI to drop off your driving record. The few states that don’t use the points system have harsher penalties. They simply suspend an offender’s driver’s license. Some other heavy sanctions may follow this license suspension.
Here, we summarize the policies of different states regarding DUI, including the length of time for which the DUI stays on a driver’s record and the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold for a DUI in each state.
How Long A DUI Stays on your Record – By State
How Long Does A DUI Conviction Stay On Your Criminal Record?
After a DUI, concern for your driving record is valid; however, it is not the only official record that gets affected by a DUI conviction; it also reflects on your criminal record. Driving and criminal records are entirely different.
Your driving record contains all the history and information about your driving and traffic activities. It has your driver’s license history, current license status, cases of license suspension, prior DUI violations and suspensions, tickets, accidents, driving privileges you currently have access to, and more.
On the other hand, the criminal record (also called the Record of Arrests and Prosecutions, or RAP sheet) is maintained by law enforcement and contains all your criminal history, including criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, acquitted criminal charges, dismissed criminal charges, and more. The vast majority of DUI arrests will make it onto a criminal record.
A first or second DUI offense will most likely be entered into your criminal record as a misdemeanor, provided no one was hurt or injured. Each subsequent DUI has a greater likelihood of being entered into your record as a felony.
Generally, a DUI stays on your criminal record permanently. You can only expunge DUI criminal convictions from court or criminal records in a few cases.
DUI Vs. DWI: What’s The Difference?
Whether or not there is a difference between DUI and DWI, the misdemeanor is regulated by the state where the offense occurred. Federal laws don’t differentiate between the two. Nonetheless, several states have adopted working descriptions.
Generally, DUI means “Driving Under the Influence” of alcohol and other harmful substances, which entails that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The drugs don’t have to be illegal; law enforcement can issue a driver a DUI charge for being under the influence of over-the-counter and prescription medications.
On the other hand, DWI means “Driving While Intoxicated,” which typically refers to large consumption of alcohol or other substances such that it affects a person’s ability to drive. Some states also refer to DWI as “Driving While Impaired” and consists of a range of acts that consist of driving when someone’s ability to do so is severely affected. Such acts often include drunk driving, sleepy driving, etc.
The state in which you were issued a ticket will determine whether or not there is a difference between the two terms. In most state laws, DUI and DWI are exactly the same. Both terms can be used interchangeably.
However, a marked distinction between DUI and DWI convictions in a few other states may attract varying degrees of punishment. Some states that regard them differently include Texas, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah.
Effects Of Having A DUI On Your Record
A DUI on your record can have dire consequences for your personal, financial, and professional life. Some of these effects are enumerated below.
— Potential Employment Issues
A DUI conviction can affect your employment and professional life. If you already have a job, getting a DUI conviction can affect your relationships at work and the perceptions of colleagues and superiors.
It is not uncommon to find organizations reassigning tasks earlier issued to someone with a DUI conviction or relieving them of certain responsibilities.
Furthermore, a DUI conviction can greatly impact your prospects if you don’t have a job yet. Potential employers generally conduct background checks on applicants, and finding a criminal conviction (including a DUI) can affect the potential employer’s decision on a candidate. Even a DUI arrest without a conviction may send the wrong signals to potential employers.
This becomes more obvious and justified if the work involves operating a machine, driving, or making critical decisions. This may affect your job performance, as a DUI criminal conviction may require frequent court visits or community service.
— Difficulty With Insurance
Insurance companies manage risk, and engaging in drunk driving makes you a high risk. Thus, they may review your auto insurance policy following a DUI. This often leads to higher premiums to justify their high-risk insurance policy. If the DUI charge is recurrent or particularly serious, your insurance company may cancel the policy outright. It becomes even more serious if you have prior convictions.
Then insurance companies may decline to insure you. Those who are interested may demand exorbitant rates.
— Future Charges
For your first DUI conviction, you may get your driver’s license suspended or some driving privileges withdrawn. Then, if you commit subsequent DUI or other traffic misdemeanors, fines or jail time that may last a few months will be added to the license suspension. It gets worse if the traffic misdemeanor results in a serious criminal charge.
Several institutions may be skeptical about approving your application. For instance, colleges conduct background checks, and a DUI conviction can factor into their decision to offer you a place.
Some countries like Canada may be reluctant to let you into their territory after multiple DUI convictions.
In some cases, a DUI conviction may even affect your ability to qualify for a home loan.
How To Remove A DUI From Your Record
The two major methods for removing a DUI from your record are expungement and sealing.
Expungement involves completely removing the DUI charge or conviction from your criminal record (RAP sheet) as if it weren’t there in the first place. With this, your criminal history becomes free of drunk driving or DUI charges.
Sealing entails getting the record permanently hidden from the public.
The laws surrounding expungement or sealing differ across states. In some states, both expungement and sealing are used interchangeably, while in others, they mean different things. Mississippi and Texas are the only states that don’t allow expungement or sealing.
The terms for getting an expungement vary widely across states, but there are a few common conditions. Across all states, DUI cases are determined by a judge. It is best to seek legal advice from an attorney.
— Check Your State Laws
State laws on expungement change frequently. Thus, the conditions under which states like California would allow an expungement today may differ from what they were three years ago. So, check to confirm the currently prevailing rules.
Before filing a request for expungement, you should schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney to get preliminary legal advice.
— Find An Expungement Attorney
It would be exceedingly difficult to go about expungement or sealing without a defense attorney overseeing the case. Your lawyer will help you navigate the complex legal subtexts of state driving laws.
Legal advice can be costly, but it doesn’t always have to be. You can start with a free consultation with a non-profit. This free consultation should help you determine how much help you need.
— Avoid Repeat Offenses
Your quest to get an expungement may be rendered completely void if you commit any other misdemeanor, or even worse, a felony. The court granting the expungement must be convinced that you deserve it, and racking up any other criminal charges will weaken your case.
It isn’t only traffic violations that you need to avoid. Other kinds of misdemeanors or felonies can get the court to deny your request.
— Undergo Probation And Follow The Rules
After most traffic-related criminal convictions, there is often a probationary period during which you must avoid traffic issues and fulfill other obligations. Ensure to follow these probationary rules, as they will count when the court considers your expungement application.
— File The Motion For Expungement Early
There is often a window of time during which you can file for an expungement. Missing it makes subsequent attempts significantly difficult. So hire a criminal defense attorney to get to work as soon as possible.
The Bottom Line
A DUI charge can adversely affect you in several ways, causing reverberating effects in your life. You want to be able to drive around freely, get a job without any issues, and get your college or loan application granted if you meet the requirements. The best way for this to happen is to avoid a DUI charge in the first place. Nonetheless, if you’ve already been charged or received a criminal conviction, there are still remedies to salvage the situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you find out if you have a DUI on your record?
The government may not alert you when you have a DUI conviction or charge on your record. You may not be aware of the criminal charge for years, so long as you don’t encounter events that will warrant bringing up your driving or criminal records.
So, checking to see if you may have prior convictions is always advised. This will enable you to take steps to fix your record much sooner.
To know if you have a DUI on your driving record, request a copy from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state. There is the option to walk in and obtain it in some states.
However, a driving record is different from a criminal record, and the impact of a DUI on either of them is different.
To find out if you have a DUI on your criminal record, request a criminal background check from your local police department. You only need to pay a fee. You may even request a federal criminal record from the FBI.
What is the punishment for a felony DUI?
Most DUI charges are misdemeanors, which are milder than felonies. A felony is a more serious criminal offense and attracts significantly tougher forms of punishment.
The point at which a DUI conviction amounts to a felony differs across states. In some places, a second or third DUI offense will earn you a felony charge, while in Missouri, it is your fourth misdemeanor that translates to a felony.
However, even a first-time offender may get charged with felony DUI if the first offense was outrageous and involved a great deal of intention or negligence.
The punishment differs in each state, but these are the more common sanctions:
Fines are the most common and often run into thousands. Nonetheless, state laws usually cap them. For instance, the maximum is $10,000 in Missouri.
- Jail time
This can be an option if the person’s offense is excessive. However, the standard is a few months up to a year. However, one can get up to three years.
- Community Service
Courts often levy this in addition to fines or jail time. Thus, you may need to do some community service after a 1-year jail term or after paying the fines.
Can you get a DUI expunged from your record?
Many states don’t allow the removal of DUIs from your record. However, some states make allowances. Generally, two methods for removing the DUI from your record are expungement and sealing.
Expungement means completely removing the DUI charge from the record. However, sealing entails hiding the record permanently from the public.
Some states refer to expungement and sealing as the same, while others differentiate the terms.
Here are some general tips for expunging or sealing your record:
- Know your state laws. State laws change quite frequently, so you should know what laws currently apply.
- DUI cases are generally complex and costly, so a free consultation with a non-profit in this space can greatly help. This will offer you the necessary initial legal advice to approach your case.
- Get a DUI lawyer to work you through the legal complexities of an expungement. Ensure you carefully search for the right DUI attorney or law firm.
- Avoid committing a repeat misdemeanor, as the court may find you unworthy of an expungement.
- Observe your probation and adhere strictly to the rules.
- File the expungement motion as fast as possible.
How many points does a DUI add to your license?
Some states run a points system when recording and dealing with traffic misdemeanors. Any traffic misdemeanor you commit carries certain points on your driving record. The higher your points, the more criminal offenses you have committed. This may lead to a license suspension or revocation.
A DUI criminal conviction is one of the most serious traffic offenses and can result in getting several points on your driving record.
However, how many points a person gets for a DUI charge will depend on the state where the person is charged, as different systems apply across state lines.
For instance, in California, a DUI can get you 2 points, while Maryland authorities have stipulated 12 points for the same misdemeanor. Just as the point frameworks differ across states, so do the steps to remove them from your driving record. Nonetheless, it’s best to avoid further misdemeanors, abide by traffic laws, and follow the terms of your probation. Finally, note that not all states operate on a point system.