Updated on February 6, 2024
8 min read

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

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 died in crashes where drivers had even lower BAC levels. 10,511 people also died in all drunk-driving accidents. Additionally, men are more likely than women to drive while drunk.

Each state has its laws on DUI (driving under the influence). But, driving while impaired is considered a criminal offense in all 50 states. Federal regulations also exist and cover penalties for DUI convictions that are committed within national properties.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

A DUI conviction is 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 felony DUI conviction remains on your record for ten years in California. Substance-related DUI will stay on record 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 ensures that repeat offenders with prior convictions are handled accordingly.

What is a DUI Conviction?

A DUI conviction is a criminal offense. It usually refers to driving with 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 places, a DWI doesn’t have to involve drugs or alcohol in others.

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Can You Get a DUI Off Your Driving Record?

No. A DUI charge will stay on your driving record per state laws. You cannot request to have them removed. 

As mentioned, 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 some time.

Will a DUI Give You a Permanent Criminal Record?

Yes, a DUI is a criminal offense. It will go on your permanent criminal record if you’re convicted. You can try removing them, but it will be lengthy. Moreover, there's a chance that you won't get approved.

Remember that your criminal record and driving record are not the same. Depending on state laws, a DUI may or may not affect your driving record forever. 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 offense from your public or criminal records through expungement or having your records sealed. It all depends on what your state offers. If granted by your local government, this would clear your history.

Expunging a DUI from Your Criminal Record

A DUI expunged means your DUI will be completely removed from your criminal history.

You’d have to apply and appear in court for a hearing with a DUI lawyer to do this. Then, a judge will decide whether or not to grant you the expungement.

Some states allow expunging a criminal record after completing probation. In other states, you must wait a few years before applying. Hiring a DUI attorney can help you go through this process.

You can also expunge a misdemeanor DUI offense faster than a felony DUI. However, misdemeanor and felony DUIs still count as crimes. So, even if you’re expunged, you’ll 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 charged with DUI the opportunity to live a normal life.

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Consequences of a DUI on Your Record 

Having a DUI criminal record on your driving data-sheet can affect you in the following ways:

Employment

Many employers perform a criminal background check on a potential hire and may not employ someone with a DUI conviction. This is especially true if the case involves children, government work, or company properties/vehicles. You may not also obtain professional licensures to 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. Others even perform a criminal background check on their potential lessee. If you have a DUI conviction, they’re more likely to deny your application.

Auto Insurance Rates

Car insurance companies are wary of customers who might cost them more. So, you may not be eligible for auto insurance if you have a record. Companies also usually charge people with a DUI twice as much as those without a conviction.

How Long Does a DUI Affect Car Insurance Rates?

A DUI will stay on your record for 3 to 5 years in most states. But it can take longer in other jurisdictions. 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. But a DUI conviction will affect your car insurance rates as long as it’s 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. They can suspend a driver's license for 30 days to more than a year. Some also allow limited driving privileges for first-time offenders. 

Fines

People who are facing a DUI will be asked to pay fines. For instance, people with a record in California pay fees of more than $1,400.

Jail time

A DUI conviction may result in 24 hours to a year behind bars on the first offense. Repeat offenders can receive longer jail time for up to 3 years.

Ignition Interlock System

This device disables the car engine if alcohol is detected on your breath. Currently, it’s mandatory in 31 states for people convicted of a DUI.

Other penalties for DUIs

Drivers caught with a high BAC (0.15% or higher) are subject to more severe penalties in 44 states. 

DUI FAQs

What if I Get Multiple DUIs?

If you get multiple DUIs, you’ll likely face license suspension. Many states require repeat offenders to install ignition interlock devices at their expense. This is a breath test connected to a vehicle’s ignition. 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 arrests and convictions. Not all states require reporting, but most do.

Due to the Driver License Compact (DLC), your driving record will likely follow you almost anywhere in the United States. So, it’s safe to assume that your DUI will appear in other states.

How Can I Avoid a DUI Conviction?

You should always plan ahead if you’re going to:

  • Drink
  • Take drugs
  • Use medications that impair you

If you’re impaired and unable to operate a vehicle for any reason safely, don’t attempt to drive. Instead, call for a ride or ask for help.

You can also ask a friend or family member to pick you up. Or, you can hail a taxi or ride-sharing app like Uber to drive you home. Remember that 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. Most importantly, seek help immediately if you or a loved one suffers from an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

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 safely controlling the vehicle.

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 district.

Some areas have a zero-tolerance penalty for any BAC level. Fines and penalties also vary. Your charges may also differ depending on your criminal history.

You may be charged more if you have previous cases of:

  • DUI
  • Reckless driving charges
  • Traffic violations
  • Jail time
  • Infractions
  • Misdemeanors
  • Other red flags on your background check

How to Check Your Driving Record

You can check your driving record online. To do so, find your state's official DMV or Department of Driver's License website, which 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 need 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.

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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