How to Expunge a California DUI

“Expungement” of a DUI conviction is an after-the-fact dismissal of the case. In essence, it is a "do-over" that erases the conviction for most purposes.

Expungements of criminal records in California is authorized by Penal Code 1203.4 PC.1 And getting one can release someone from many of the negative effects of a California DUI conviction -- including adverse employment consequences.

To help you better understand how to get a drunk or drugged driving conviction expunged, our California DUI defense lawyers discuss, below:

man spreading arms, with his eyes closed, in a sign of relief
Expunging a California DUI conviction under Penal Code 1203.4 can help with job opportunities.

1. Who is eligible to get a DUI conviction expunged in California?

Expungement is available to anyone convicted of either a California misdemeanor or a California felony provided that:

  1. The person successfully completed probation for the offense, and 
  2. The person either:
  • Did not serve time for the offense in state prison, or
  • Served time in state prison, but would have served it in county jail following the implementation of "realignment" under Proposition 47.2

Most California driving under the influence convictions will meet these requirements. 

2. How does a California DUI expungement work?

As soon as someone completes probation for a DUI, he or she may petition the court to expunge the record of conviction. A judge will then review the petition to determine whether that person is eligible for an expungement.

If the judge grants the petition, then either:

After that, the judge dismisses the case.2

3. Will an expungement make it easier for me to find a job?

One of the major benefits of expunging a California DUI conviction is an easier time securing employment. Once a drunk or drugged driving conviction has been expunged, a prospective employer may no longer use it as a basis for negative employment consequences.

As it is, California's "ban the box" law prohibits employers from asking about arrests or convictions on job applications or otherwise before a conditional offer of employment has been made.3

But an expunged conviction does not have to be disclosed at all. And if the employer somehow finds out, it may not legally use an expunged conviction as a basis when making employment decisions such as whether to retain or promote the employee.

However, an expungement does not affect your obligation to disclose the conviction when applying for state licenses or teaching credentials.4

And a state licensing board may use the conviction against you in deciding whether to grant or renew your license or credential--though it will probably look more favorably on your application if the drunk or drugged driving conviction has been expunged.

4. Will relief under PC 1203.4 help me get back my driver's license?

A PC 1203.4 expungement of a DUI will NOT overturn a driver's license suspension or revocation.5

But in most cases, probation lasts longer than the period of mandatory driver's license suspension for a DUI. (For example, for a first-time DUI, someone is likely to have his or her license suspended for six months and be sentenced to probation for three to five years.) 

In rare cases, however, a license suspension may extend beyond probation (for instance if the license is permanently revoked). In such a case, an expungement will still not restore lost driving privileges.

5. Does an expungement affect the penalties if I get another DUI later?

Driving under the influence is a "priorable" offense in California. This means that DUI penalties increase with each conviction accumulated within a ten-year window.

And an expunged drunk or drugged conviction is still priorable just as if it had not been expunged.6

Example: Lena is convicted of Vehicle Code 23152(b), driving with a BAC of .08% or higher. It is her first drunk driving offense. She is sentenced to and successfully completes probation. Her California drunk driving lawyer then gets her conviction expunged. But a few years later Lena is convicted of DUI of drugs ("DUID"). Even though her prior conviction was expunged, Lena is still subject to the penalties for a second-time DUI.

6. Can early termination of probation help me expunge my conviction earlier?

Yes -- assuming the court is willing to grant early termination of probation. People are eligible for an expungement once their probation is terminated. It does not matter whether probation terminates because the probation period ends or probation was terminated early by the court. 

Misdemeanor ("summary") probation for a drunk/drugged driving conviction typically lasts three years (but can be as many as five). Felony ("formal") probation in California is equally long.

This is a long time to wait to gain the benefits of an expungement. But California law offers a process for getting probation for driving under the influence terminated early -- for example, after 18 months.

How do I get an early termination of DUI probation in California?

To get an early termination of DUI probation, the person who is on probation must file a petition for early termination with the court.7 The court has the discretion to grant the petition if:

  • The defendant has successfully completed the terms of probation (such as fines, classes or restitution), and
  • There are circumstances that justify early termination of probation, such as the person needing to:
    • Secure gainful employment,
    • Advance at work, or
    • Travel for work or to visit sick family members.

In reality, however, many judges are reluctant to grant early termination of probation in a drunk or drugged driving case. One of the terms of probation for a driving under the influence offense is that the person may not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in his/her system. Judges generally want to see the defendant bound by this term for as long as possible.

So most judges require the defendant to serve a complete term of probation before granting a PC 1203.4 DUI expungement and dismissing the case.

Need to expunge a DUI conviction? Call us for help . . . 

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Call us for help

If you are interested in expunging a California DUI conviction we invite you to contact us for a free consultation in office or by phone.

Call us at 855-LAW-FIRM (855-529-3476) or complete the form on this page to discuss your case in confidence with an experienced California DUI defense attorney in your area.

We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

We may also be able to help if you were convicted of DUI in Nevada. For more information, please see our article on how to seal Nevada DUI records.


Legal References:

  1. Penal Code 1203.4(a) PC: "In any case in which a defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation, or has been discharged prior to the termination of the period of probation, or in any other case in which a court, in its discretion and the interests of justice, determines that a defendant should be granted the relief available under this section, the defendant shall, at any time after the termination of the period of probation, if he or she is not then serving a sentence for any offense, on probation for any offense, or charged with the commission of any offense, be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; or, if he or she has been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and, in either case, the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant and except as noted below, he or she shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted, except as provided in Section 13555 of the Vehicle Code."
  2. California Penal Code 1203.42 PC.
  3. AB 1008, California's new "ban the box" legislation, took effect on January 1, 2018. The law prohibits employers from inquiring into an applicant's criminal history before the employer has made a conditional offer of employment. After making an offer of employment, an employer cannot deny the applicant because of a conviction without making an individualized assessment. See California Government Code section 12952.

  4. Penal Code 1203.4 PC: "...The order shall state, and the probationer shall be informed, that the order does not relieve him or her of the obligation to disclose the conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery."
  5. Vehicle Code 13555 PC: "A termination of probation and dismissal of charges pursuant to Section 1203.4 or a dismissal of charges pursuant to Section 1203.4a of the Penal Code does not affect any revocation or suspension of the privilege of the person convicted to drive a motor vehicle under this chapter. Such person's prior conviction shall be considered a conviction for the purpose of revoking or suspending or otherwise limiting such privilege on the ground of two or more convictions."
  6. Penal Code 1203.4 PC: "...However, in any subsequent prosecution of the defendant for any other offense, the prior conviction may be pleaded and proved and shall have the same effect as if probation had not been granted or the accusation or information dismissed."  
  7. Penal Code 1203.3 PC.

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