How Long Does a DUI/DWI Stay On Your Record?
In This Article
The federal legal driving limit in the United States is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. This means 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood.
In 2018, 1,878 people were killed in crashes where drivers had even lower BAC levels. 10,511 people died in all drunk-driving accidents. Men are more likely than women to drive while drunk, but both are guilty of it.
Buzzed driving (driving after having a few drinks) is still considered drunk driving. Even if you are not intoxicated, you may still be too impaired to drive. You are putting yourself, others, and other motorists at risk of an accident.
Each state has its own laws on DUI (driving under the influence). But driving while impaired is considered a criminal offense in all 50 states.
Federal laws also exist and cover penalties for DUIs that are committed within federal properties.
Is a DUI the same as a DWI?
It depends on the state. In some states, a DUI is the same as a DWI.
- DUI stands for driving under the influence
- DWI stands for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired
In some states, a DWI may apply to anyone driving while impaired in any way. This may include falling asleep at the wheel or not being safely in control of the vehicle.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?
DUIs are kept on public records and by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). How long a DUI stays on your record depends on the state.
It typically takes about 3 to 5 years for public records to clear. But it can take much longer in some states.
For example, a DUI charge remains on your record for 10 years in California.
Substance-related DUI will stay on record forever in states like Washington, Florida, and Maine. These include driving while drunk or under the influence of controlled substances.
The state’s DMV keeps permanent driving records of DUI charges. This is to make sure that repeat offenders are punished accordingly.
What is a DUI Conviction?
A DUI conviction is a criminal offense. It usually refers to driving while having a BAC above the legal limit of 0.08%.
You can also receive a DUI conviction if you drive under the influence of drugs or other medications that cause impairment.
What constitutes a DUI or a DWI varies by state. While they may be synonymous in some states, a DWI doesn’t have to involve drugs or alcohol in others.
Alcohol-Impaired Driving Laws by State
Criminal charges for a DUI conviction will vary by state. Blowing a 0.08 BAC into a breathalyzer warrants a DUI charge in every state.
Some states have a zero-tolerance penalty for any BAC level. Fines and penalties will vary. Your charges may also vary depending on your criminal history.
You may be charged more if you have previous:
- Reckless driving charges
- Traffic violations
- Jail time
- Other red flags on your background check
How to Check Your Driving Record
You can check your driving record online. Just find the official DMV or Department of Driver's License website for your state. It should end in a .gov (e.g., https://dmv.ca.gov).
On the website, search for the driving record page. Under it, go to the "Records" or "Documents" tab. You may be asked to pay a small fee of $10 to get a hard copy of your driving record.
Alternatively, you can visit your local DMV to request a copy of your driving record. As soon as you get it, check that all listed dates and incidents are accurate.
Can You Get a DUI Off Your Driving Record?
No. A DUI charge will stay on your driving record as per state laws. You cannot request to have them removed.
As mentioned earlier, your state’s DMV will retain these records to check for prior DUI charges. However, in many states, a DUI can drop off a person’s public record after time.
Will a DUI Give You a Permanent Criminal Record?
Yes, A DUI is a criminal offense. If you’re convicted of a DUI, it will go on your criminal record. Criminal records are permanent.
You can try to remove them, but it will be a lengthy process. Plus, there's a chance that you won't get approved.
Your criminal record and driving record are not the same. A DUI may or may not affect your driving record forever, depending on your state laws. But it can be on your criminal record for life.
Can I Have a DUI Expunged or Have My Records Sealed?
Maybe. You can try to clear a DUI from your public or criminal records through expungement or having your records sealed.
It depends on what is offered by your state. Either way, this would clear your record if granted by your local government.
Expunging a DUI from Your Criminal Record
Expungement means that your DUI will be completely removed from your criminal history.
To do this, you’d have to apply and appear in court for a hearing with a DUI lawyer. The judge will decide whether or not to grant you the expungement.
Some states allow you to expunge your criminal record after completing probation. In other states, you will have to wait a few years before applying. Hiring a DUI attorney can help you go through this process.
A misdemeanor DUI can be expunged faster than a felony DUI.
Even if you are expunged, misdemeanor and felony DUIs still count as crimes. So you will incur more severe penalties after the first offense.
Sealing Your Criminal Record
Sealing hides your criminal record from the public. This prevents employers, property owners, and landlords from seeing your DUI. It gives people who have been charged with DUI the opportunity to live a normal life.
Consequences of a DUI on Your Record
Having a DUI conviction on your driving record can affect you in the following ways:
Many employers perform background checks on potential hires. People with a DUI conviction may not be hired for jobs. Especially if they involve children, government work, or driving company vehicles.
You may not be able to obtain professional licensures that can help them advance your career.
Renting or Buying a Home
Most landlords and property owners ask potential tenants and buyers about their criminal history and credit information.
If you have a DUI conviction, they are more likely to deny your application.
Auto Insurance Rates
Car insurance companies are wary of customers who might cost them more. So if you have a DUI criminal record, you might not be eligible for auto insurance.
Companies usually charge people with a DUI twice as much as those without a DUI conviction.
How Long Does a DUI Affect Car Insurance Rates?
In most states, a DUI will stay on your record for about 3 to 5 years. But it can take longer in other states.
In California, for example, it’ll stay on your driving record for 10 years. After that, it’ll just fall off like any other traffic violation.
A DUI will affect your car insurance rates for as long as it is on your driving records.
DUI and Legal Consequences
The legal consequences of DUIs will vary based on state laws.
Some of the most common penalties issued by law enforcement are:
Driver's license suspension
48 out of 51 states issue an administrative license suspension (ALS) for the first offense. The driver's license can be suspended for 30 days to a year or longer.
Some states allow limited driving privileges for first-time offenders. For example, they can drive to and from work without getting into trouble with the law.
People who are facing a DUI will be asked to pay fines. For example, people with a record in California pay fines upwards of $1,400.
A DUI conviction may result in between 24 hours up to a year behind bars on the first offense. Repeat offenders can receive longer jail time that can last up to 3 years.
Ignition Interlock System
This device disables the car engine if alcohol is detected in your breath. Currently, it is mandatory in 31 states for people convicted of a DUI.
Other penalties for DUIs
Drivers who are caught with a high BAC (0.15% or higher) are subject to more severe penalties in 44 states.
What if I Get Multiple DUIs?
If you get multiple DUIs, you will likely face license suspension.
Many states require repeat offenders to install ignition interlock devices at their expense. This is a breath test connected to your vehicle’s ignition. So it won’t turn on if you don’t pass the test, which is pre-set at a low limit.
Does a DUI in One State Show Up in Another State?
It depends on the state’s DMV policies on reporting DUI convictions and arrests. Not all states require reporting, but most do.
Due to the Driver License Compact (DLC), your driving record is likely to follow you almost anywhere in the United States. So, it’s safe to assume that your DUI will show up in other states.
How Can I Avoid a DUI Conviction to Begin With?
You should always plan ahead if you are going to:
- Take drugs
- Use medications that impair you
If you are impaired and unable to safely operate a vehicle for any reason, do not attempt to drive. Instead, call for a ride or ask for help.
Ask a friend or family member to pick you up. You can hail a taxi or use a ride-sharing app like Uber to drive you home. Risking your life and the lives of others on the road is never worth it.
If you have already gotten a DUI, talk to a DUI defense attorney about the next steps. If you or a loved one is suffering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), reach out for help.
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
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- “Drunk Driving.” NHTSA, 4 Mar. 2021.
- “DUI & Insurance - How Long DUI Stays on Record.” Progressive.
- “DUI Legislation.” PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services.
- “What is the Difference Between DUI and DWI?” HG Legal Resources.
- John McCurley, Attorney. “DUI Expungement: Getting a DUI Off Your Criminal Record.” Dui.drivinglaws.org, Nolo, 28 Jan. 2021.