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Updated on July 21, 2021

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

Consequences of Driving Under the Influence

Drinking under the influence is dangerous to both yourself and others. Drunk driving can lead to serious injuries and even death. 

In fact, about one-third of all crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. Every single day about 28 people in the United States lose their lives in car crashes that occur due to drunk driving. That means one person dies every 52 minutes.

In 2019, these numbers have, fortunately, plummeted to the lowest percentage since 1982 (when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started reporting drunk-driving deaths). But 10,142 people still died preventable deaths that year.

The federal legal driving limit in the United States is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. This means .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood. In 2018, 1,878 people were still killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had even lower alcohol levels. There were 10,511 people killed in all drunk-driving crashes.

The federal legal driving limit in the United States is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. This means .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood. In 2018, 1,878 people were still killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had even lower alcohol levels. There were 10,511 people killed in all drunk-driving crashes.

Over the last decade, from 2009 to 2018, more than 10,000 people died every year in drunk-driving crashes. Men are more likely than women to drive while drunk, but both are guilty of it.

It’s important to note that buzzed driving is still considered drunk driving. Even if you don’t feel drunk, you may still be too impaired to drive. No matter what, you are putting yourself at risk of an accident or DUI. You are also a danger to others driving on the road around you. 

You should always plan ahead if you are going to drink alcohol or are taking drugs or other medications that can impair your driving abilities. Call a friend or family member to pick you up if you cannot drive. Hail a taxi or use a ride-sharing app like Uber to transport you instead.

Each state has its own DUI (driving under the influence) laws, but driving while impaired is a crime in all 50 states. Federal DUI laws also exist.

What is a DUI Conviction?

A DUI conviction is a criminal offense for driving while having a blood alcohol concentration that’s above the legal limit. It literally means driving under the influence.

Depending on the state, a DUI may be similar to or the same as a DWI. A DWI stands for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired.

A DUI also applies to those who drive while under the influence of drugs or other medications. In some states, a DWI may apply to anyone who is driving while impaired in any way. This may include falling asleep at the wheel or not being safely in control of the vehicle.

What constitutes as 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 other states.

Similarly, the 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. But some states have a zero-tolerance penalty for any BAC level. And the fines and fees will vary. 

Your charges may also vary depending on your criminal history. For example, if you have had other DUI cases or prior convictions, you may be charged more than if it were your first DUI offense. In addition to a prior DUI, reckless driving charges, traffic violations, jail time, infractions, and any kind of misdemeanor that may come up on your background check can affect your charges.

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How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Driving Record?

How long a DUI stays on your record depends on the state. It typically takes about three to five years to clear, but it can take much longer in some states. 

If you have a DUI on your driving record, this can affect you in a few ways. For example, you may not be eligible for auto insurance, or you may have exceptionally high fees. 

Will a DUI Give You a Permanent Criminal Record?

A DUI is a criminal conviction in most states. So it will go on your criminal record.

If you have a DUI on your criminal record, this can take a toll on your day-to-day life. For example, you may have trouble landing a job or applying for loans.

You can try to clear a DUI from your criminal record through the process of expungement. This would clear your record if granted.

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.

While some states may allow you to expunge your record after completing probation, others may not. In some states, you will have to wait a few years before you can apply.

Hiring a DUI attorney can help you go through this process. You may be able to get a free consultation before seeking legal advice about your DUI arrest or conviction.

It’s important to note that your criminal record and driving record are not the same. A DUI will not affect your driving record forever, but it can be on your criminal record for life.

Can You Get a DUI Off Your Driving Record?

While you can try to expunge your DUI from your criminal record, you will have to put in the time for it to be removed from your driving record. Law enforcement takes DUIs seriously because they are so deadly. 

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What if I Get Multiple DUIs?

If you get multiple DUIs, you will likely face license suspension. Many states also require offenders to install ignition interlock devices at their expense. This divide 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 (usually .02 g/dL).

How Long Does a DUI Affect Car Insurance Rates?

In most states, a DUI will stay attached to your driver’s license for about three to five years. But in other states, it can take longer. In California, for example, it’ll stay on your driving record for ten years. After that, it’ll just fall off like any other traffic violation.

A DUI will affect your car insurance rates. Many providers do not issue insurance to people with DUIs. 

Does a DUI in One State Show Up in Another State?

Whether or not your DUI shows up in other states depends on the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle 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, yes, your DUI will show up in other states.

Again, if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should not get behind the wheel of a car or any vehicle. If you are impaired and unable to safely operate a vehicle for any reason, do not try. Call for a ride or ask for help.

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 next steps.

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Resources

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“Driver License Compact FAQ.” PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services, www.dmv.pa.gov/Pages/FAQ%20Pages/Driver-License-Compact-FAQ.aspx

“Drunk Driving.” NHTSA, 4 Mar. 2021, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving

“DUI & Insurance - How Long DUI Stays on Record.” Progressive, www.progressive.com/answers/dui-and-insurance/

“DUI Legislation.” PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services, www.dmv.pa.gov/Information-Centers/Laws-Regulations/Pages/DUI-Legislation.aspx

Hg.org, www.hg.org/legal-articles/what-is-the-difference-between-dui-and-dwi-31118

John McCurley, Attorney. “DUI Expungement: Getting a DUI Off Your Criminal Record.” Dui.drivinglaws.org, Nolo, 28 Jan. 2021, dui.drivinglaws.org/remove-dui-from-criminal-record.htm.

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