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How long does a DUI stay on your driving record?

If you get a DUI, you might be wondering how long it will stay on your driving record, how you can find out if a DUI is still on your record, or if it will affect your car insurance rates or employment prospects. Here, we look at the ways that you can find answers to those questions.

The effects of a DUI or DWI on your driving record vary from state to state. This article will give an overview of the types of state laws, how to check your driving record, and what steps to take to get a DUI expunged (erased) from your record.

What’s on your driving record?

Your driving record is a collection of any and all moving violations, including DUI. This includes convictions, collisions, suspensions, revocations, disqualifications, deferred prosecutions, and FTAs (failures to appear in court). Any driving violation goes onto your official record in the state where it was committed, unless a court specifically decides to take that particular violation off your record.

How long will a DUI stay on your driving record?

In almost all states, a DUI will stay on a driving record for a minimum of ten years. State laws vary widely – Tennessee keeps DUIs on driving records for the lifetime of the offender, and Florida will retain it for 75 years. California, however, recently changed its law to expunge DUIs from driving records after 10 years.

How to check your record

There are lots of websites that offer to show you criminal records for a fee. But if you are looking for driving records specifically, it’s usually best (and cheaper) to obtain a copy directly from the state.

In the state of Washington, for example, you can request a copy of your driving record from the state Department of Licensing online or by mail. (There’s a $13 fee.) California has a very simple online system as well, and only charges $2 for an online driving record request. New York doesn't charge for an online record request.

How DUI can affect your insurance rates and employment prospects

It’s important to realize that only certain people and organizations can access certain parts of individual driving records. Laws vary from state to state, but most states will allow potential employers, as well as insurance companies, to see an applicant’s driving record for at least the past three years, often longer.

Auto insurance companies have different policies on DUI convictions. Every insurance company will charge higher rates for a driver with a previous DUI, as they are considered a high-risk driver. Some won’t even insure drivers with a DUI. Check with your own insurance company and ask for a detailed policy on drivers with a DUI.

If a potential employer sees a DUI during a background check, they will probably ask you about it, so it’s best to be honest up front. However, federal laws prohibit employers from denying employment based solely on a past DUI conviction.

However, if a DUI has a practical impact on an applicant’s ability to perform a job (for instance if he or she is prohibited from driving in a certain state), the employer can deny employment. State laws vary, so if you find yourself in a dispute with a potential employer over a past DUI, it is in your best interest to consult a lawyer.

Next steps after a DUI

If you find yourself facing a DUI conviction, the first thing you should do is consult a lawyer. It’s possible to have the DUI expunged (erased) from your driving record, but highly unlikely without the help of competent representation. An attorney will be able to tell you whether it is worth your time (and money) to seek expungement. While seeking an expungement, be sure to follow all probation or driving restrictions.

An expungement allows a driver to deny that the original DUI conviction ever occurred. (You do have to disclose an expunged DUI in very limited circumstances, like when running for public office.) This means that insurance companies cannot charge you more for auto insurance, and employers cannot deny a job application based on a DUI conviction.

In certain cases, a court may reduce a DUI to a lesser charge if there are mitigating circumstances. As with expungement, it’s best to seek legal counsel before petitioning the court for a reduced charge.

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