Expungements of DUI Convictions in California
Cleaning up your criminal record is an important way to move on with your life. Criminal convictions can lead to being denied employment, an apartment, a professional license, security clearance, or the ability to work with children. The resulting loss of money and opportunity can be embarrassing and hamper the ability to support yourself.
What an Expungement Can Do for Your Criminal Record.
An expungement in California is a legal procedure where, if granted, the court allows you to withdraw a plea of guilty (or “no contest”) and enter a plea of “not guilty.” The judge will then dismiss the charges. If you were convicted following a trial, then the judge will “set aside” the guilty verdict and dismiss the charges.
Once an expungement is granted, the court notifies the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) electronically who will amend your criminal history accordingly. The California DOJ does not completely erase the conviction from its records though. The criminal record on file with the DOJ will still state the case number, the charges for which you were convicted, and that a guilty (or no contest) plea was entered, or a conviction following a trial and the date of conviction. But the record will be amended to state that the plea was withdrawn (or the verdict set aside), and the charges were “dismissed pursuant to Penal Code § 1203.4” and the date the expungement was granted. So there is still some information that can be obtained by persons who can access the California DOJ records. Fortunately, with limited exceptions, prospective employers don’t have access to those California DOJ records and cannot ask you to provide them.
Once an expungement is granted, with a few exceptions noted below, you can deny the conviction when asked by a prospective employer if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Note also that, under California Labor Code § 432.7, again with few exceptions, it is against the law for a potential employer in California to even ask about dismissed convictions, and arrests that did not lead to a conviction.
What are the Requirements for a DUI Expungement?
It is important to note first that expungements of DUI charges have different requirements than expungements of non-DUI charges, which are described here. Namely, DUI expungements require a judge to exercise discretion “in the interests of justice” in deciding whether to grant the request. In other words, the law requires good cause or a good reason in the eyes of the judge. Besides DUI charges, good cause is also required for expungements of a few other specific Vehicle Code convictions, including, “wet reckless” (reckless driving involving alcohol or drugs), “dry” reckless (reckless driving not involving alcohol or drugs), hit-and-run driving, evading, speed contest, driving with a suspended license, and vehicular manslaughter.
Good cause justifying the expungement can consist of evidence of a failed background check that caused you a lost job, job offer or apartment rental. Other good reasons include your desire for a professional license or admission to a school. Evidence of these reasons can be presented to the court either in the expungement motion paperwork or during the hearing on the motion. Such evidence can include witness testimony, declarations, reports, e-mails or even pictures. Also of value is evidence of your rehabilitation or good character, such as a copy of your resume, diploma, degrees, awards, certificates and character reference letters.
In addition to showing good cause, additional requirements to get a DUI expungement include that you cannot currently be serving a sentence, on probation or charged with a criminal offense, and you must not have served time in state prison for the conviction, though time in county jail is acceptable.
Limitations to What an Expungement Can Do
While the law governing expungements in California, Penal Code § 1203.4, says that if granted, the person shall be “released from all penalties and disabilities resulting,” there are exceptions. Such limitations to an expungement include:
- Expunged convictions are still “priorable,” meaning a prosecutor and DMV can still use the expunged conviction to enhance penalties or punishments for crimes committed later.
- The expunged conviction must still be disclosed in any “application for licensure by a state or local agency.” This means that if you apply for some sort of employment license, you may be required to acknowledge the expunged conviction in any direct question on an application for the license.
- If the conviction made you ineligible to own a firearm (such as a felony DUI), the expungement would not allow you to own a firearm again.
- Under the laws of the United States, the federal government does not acknowledge expungements from the State of California. The federal government will still consider California expunged criminal convictions to be valid, whether in federal criminal court, federal employment applications, or federal background checks and security clearances.
- You would have to acknowledge the expunged conviction when running for public office, contracting with the California State Lottery Commission, and in applications to be a peace officer.
The process of an expungement, from determining your eligibility, available relief, and just getting into court, is daunting and confusing. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. The Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, is here to help you. We have 20 years of experience helping people like you expunge their criminal records in California and getting their lives back on track. Call now and speak directly to Christopher McCann.