How long does a DUI stay on your record in California?

April 19, 2018

HOW LONG DOES A DUI STAY ON YOUR RECORDIn California, a DUI will stay on your driving and a criminal record for 10 years. 

The 10 years are counted from an offense date to an offense date and not from conviction date to conviction date.  A prior DUI, when charged by the prosecutor, is deemed a “prior”.  The “priors” or “priorability” is legal terminology for a type of offense that carries a more severe punishment for repeat crimes.

For example, a second DUI arrest within 10 years of the first DUI arrest will be filed as a second DUI and will carry mandatory jail time.  Instead, if there are more than ten years between your first and second DUI cases, the DUI will be only a “first” DUI even when you have another DUI on your record outside of the ten years period.  But even when the DUI is outside of the ten-year period, the prosecutor will see it and consider it in making sentence recommendations.

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Can You Remove DUI From Your Driving Record?

A DUI expungement functions the same as any other California criminal record expungement.  A petition under California Penal Code section 1203.4 is filed with the court and then reviewed by the judge.  If the judge grants the DUI expungement, the person withdraws her plea of guilty or no contest and re-enters a plea of “Not Guilty” and then the case is dismissed.

But if you are convicted of a DUI, you can not remove the DUI from your driving record for 10 years.  The driving record is usually not included in a background check and cannot be seen by your potential employers.

What Alternative Charges Carry Points But Avoid A License Suspension?

A very common alternative to a DUI, called “reckless driving“, will avoid a suspension but will add points to the driving record.  Reckless driving can be of two different types, a “wet reckless” and a “dry reckless“.  A “wet reckless”, is a lesser included offense to the DUI because it involves suspected use of alcohol.  The main difference between a “wet reckless” and a “dry reckless” is the probability of the charge to a DUI.  Simply, a “wet reckless” is priorable to a DUI and a “dry reckless” is not.  A person who has a “wet reckless” conviction and gets arrested for a DUI will be charged with a second offense DUI despite not having any prior DUI convictions.

How Long Will a DUI stay on your criminal record in California?

A DUI is a misdemeanor offense that is considered a crime. All crimes, including DUI cases, will be recorded by the California Department of Justice and will remain on your record forever.  Thus a DUI will be a permanent part of your criminal record.  But, if a DUI is expunged, it will look far better on your criminal record. The reason to get an expungement is to improve the criminal record and to improve your chances of private employment.

Pursuant to California Penal Code 1203.4, expungements are an excellent way to “hide” a conviction because your DUI record will say that “a guilty verdict is withdrawn and a not guilty plea is entered and then the case is dismissed”.  Most people will see expungements as evidence of dismissal and will accept a Penal Code 1203.4 dismissal as proof that the DUI is no longer on your record.  If you were convicted of a felony DUI, then, an expungement will make you eligible to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation which will also become an application for a pardon.  At the same time as expungement, for a felony, you can apply to reduce your felony DUI to a misdemeanor.  The law on this is clear, a reduction for a misdemeanor is a reduction for all purposes.  This is a huge benefit for any who is convicted of a felony DUI.

If you were represented by a DUI Lawyer for your original DUI case, that attorney will usually handle the expungement proceedings as well or you can our office for a free consultation about your case.

Will a DUI Always Show on Your Background Check?

DUI conviction does appear on criminal background checks in most cases. Related charges, such as impaired driving or refusing a breath test, can also show up. However, DUI arrests will not always show up.

The difference between an arrest and a conviction may matter to your future employers. If your DUI case was dismissed in court, your criminal record will note that the charge was dropped and you’ll avoid being labeled as a “criminal.”


Effective January 1 of 2018, a new law in California allows persons arrested but not prosecuted to apply to the courts to seal an arrest.  Prior to this, only a complicated petition for factual innocence could be used to remove the arrest from your record.  Petition for factual innocence is based on California Penal Code section 851.8.  That process required either agreement from the police or a hearing in front of a judge.  Under the new law, an arrested person, whose case was not filed, can apply to seal the arrest under California Penal Code section 851.91.  This is a much-simplified procedure that should result in automatic sealing of the arrest.   Penal Code Section 851.87 even allows the filing of a motion to seal arrest after a pre-filing diversion using the same form.   In California, it can be filed on a judicial counsel form CR-409/410.  A person whose arrest is sealed is however best advised to answer that he was arrested but the case was never filed and subsequently sealed under PC 851.91/92

How many Points will be on Your Driving Record after a DUI?

A DUI conviction in Los Angeles, or anywhere else in California, will add 2 points to your driving record. The points are counted pursuant to California VC 12810(b). These points will remain on your driving record for 5 years.

The Department of Motor Vehicles uses these points to assess how much of a risk you are to other drivers, and insurance companies use them to calculate your insurance rate.

More points will mean a higher insurance premium. Additionally, the points are used by the DMV to determine if you are a negligent operator. A determination that you are a negligent operator may suspend your license and you will need a drunk driving defense attorney to keep it.

Do Alternative Pleas To DUI Avoid points on Driving Record?

Yes, they can.  Los Angeles DUI attorney can help you avoid point count when we are able to negotiate better alternative charges.  For example, a fairly common offense that will be negotiated after a DUI arrest is drunk in public charge, in violation of California Penal Code section 647(f).  Many other penal code sections and some vehicle code sections will not carry points on the DMV record.  A common California Vehicle Code section violation that does not carry points is CVC 12500.  Also, an open alcohol container in violation of Business and Professional Code section 25620 does not carry points, as well as some other alternatives.

How long does a DUI affect your insurance in California?

Even though a DUI may remain on the criminal record for the rest of your life, insurance companies usually pay attention only to your state’s department of motor vehicle (DMV) record. After this 10-year period, the DMV will not count the DUI against you. After the 10 years, your insurance rate should be the same as for a driver who does not have a DUI on his record. 


Recently, California passed a new law that allowed defendants who have mental health conditions to avoid pleading guilty to DUIs.  Under this new law, (PC 1000.36) defendants mental condition had to be a significant factor in the DUI (or other offense).  Mental health diversion can be used to get a dismissal of a felony or misdemeanor.   If you suffer from a mental health condition, please call us, we can help convince the judge to dismiss your DUI.  The court has to approve the diversion and the prosecutor will argue that under California Vehicle Code section 23640, the diversion of PC 1000.36 does not apply to DUI cases.  In the past, prosecutors argued that military diversion under PC 1000.80 did not apply for DUI based on CVC 23640.  However, the legislature clarified that and specifically allowed veterans to get diversion for DUI cases.   The prosecution reliance on CVC 23640 is misplaced.  The legislature specifically lists offenses that do not qualify for relief.  For example, in civil compromise (found in California Penal Code section 1377), the legislature specifically excludes offenses involving certain types of victims (child, elder person, etc) or the type of offense (felony).  There is simply no reason to think that DUI is excluded from mental health diversion because it is not specifically included in PC 1000.36.  In the case of mental health diversion for a DUI, the legislature made it much simpler.   In California Penal Code section 1000.36, the legislature specifically lists in (b)(1)(A) offenses that do not qualify for mental health diversion (DUI is not part of this).  So, if. If you have a DUI in Los Angles and you are suffering from mental health problems – call Los Angeles DUI attorney right away.  We can help you get a diversion for your Los Angeles DUI.

Los Angeles DUI Attorney

For a more detailed analysis of your case and to answer all your questions, please call our office to talk to an Affordable Los Angeles DUI lawyer.



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16 responses to “How long does a DUI stay on your record in California?”

  1. Michael says:

    Got arrest on 11/19/2006 for my second dui. I just got a dui arrest on 10/26/2017 does it count as my first since I past my ten year prior?

    • The DUI convictions are counted from arrest date to arrest date. Because your arrests are more then ten years apart, your DUI will be filed as a first DUI. Please be mindful that many prosecutors will consider “out of period” priors for enhancement purposes, such as increased fines etc. It is always a good idea to talk to an attorney to see if there is anything can be done about your DUI

  2. David says:


    I was arrested for a DUI in 2012, but fought the case and it was dismissed.
    Now years later, I’m having trouble with my background check. The DMV says there is no record of a conviction, but anytime my background is ran this initial arrest shows up and prevents me from opportunities. Can you advise me what I can do to fix this? Thank you

  3. David Janschutz says:

    I got a DUI in California in 84 I move to Illinois in 85 will that still be on my record in California?

  4. David says:

    I got a DUI in California in 84 I move to Illinois in 85 will that still be on my record in California?

  5. Jose rodriguez says:

    Hi i got a dui in mar 30 2006 but got conviction in feb 06 2007 ok didnt do no classes can u get my license

    • Unfortunately Jose you will have to do classes to get your license back unless you live in another state. If that is the case, you can apply for a waiver with the DMV by providing proof that you live outside of California).

  6. Sam says:

    My uncle had a DUI in 2010 and what does he need to do to get his license back?

  7. Alisha says:

    I got a dui in Nevada and live in California now how long will that be on my California driver’s record?

    • DUIs are prioralbe for 10 years (offense date to offense date). This means that if you get arrested in California within 10 years of your Nevada DUI, you can be charged with a prior offense (2nd as described). Points come off after 10 years.

  8. Malcolm McGee says:

    I have dui from 1996, I’ve been incarcerated since 2000, and just released in Nov 2, 2021 and the DMV is telling its still there and that I’m not able to option my driving license what do I do. Thank for your time.

  9. Malcolm McGee says:

    I have a DUI from 1996, what can I do after so many years.