There is no federal law that automatically precludes you from securing a government position because of a DUI conviction. But a DUI/DWI on your criminal record can make it more difficult for you to get a job with the federal government depending on:
the nature of the position you are applying for,
the severity of the DUI charge,
the timeframe of your criminal conviction, and
steps you have taken to rehabilitate yourself after the incident.
For example, you will probably not land a government job that involves any kind of driving if you:
were convicted of multiple DUIs,
have not received counseling or completed a DUI school, and
have done nothing to try to get a restricted driver’s license (such as installing an ignition interlock device).
Note that unless you get a DUI conviction expunged or sealed, it will typically remain on your criminal record for the rest of your life. One result is that the federal government will likely learn about the conviction during the hiring process via a criminal background check.
1. Does a DUI bar you from federal employment?
Not necessarily. There is no general rule or law that says you cannot get a federal job because of a DUI conviction. This is true for both a:
will likely learn of a DUI conviction when performing a background investigation, and
can consider the DUI when making a final decision on a job application.
In considering a DUI, government agencies often look at the nature of the job you are applying for and the facts of your case.
For example, if you have to obtain a security clearance in working for a federal agency, the agency will look at all of the facts of the DUI to see if you can even gain clearance. If you cannot, the agency will likely deny your application.2
On the other hand, you will likely not have problems with getting a federal job if you:
received only a first-time DUI,
complied with all of the penalties and requirements for the DUI (such as performing community service hours), and
have an otherwise clean record.
2. How long does a DUI stay on your record?
A DUI will generally remain on your criminal history for good. This means that whenever you apply for a new job, a background check will likely disclose that you were arrested or convicted for drunk driving.
But the good news is that you can try to get the conviction removed from your record by either:
an expungement, or
having a record of the conviction sealed.
3. How does an expungement work?
An expungement is the process where a court orders that a conviction be erased from your criminal record.3
Note that different states handle the expungement of records differently. For example:
some states prohibit the release of your criminal records upon an expungement, while
other states actually destroy your criminal files.4
No matter how a state approaches the process though, it results in a great benefit. That is, if asked about criminal history on a job application or in an interview, you do not have to disclose an expunged conviction.
In general, eligibility for a DUI expungement requires that you:
not be charged with or serving a sentence for a criminal offense at the time you file for an expungement.5
4. What about a records seal?
Some states offer record seals as opposed to expungements.
The main difference is that while an expungement may result in the physical destruction of a record, a sealed record is not destroyed.6
But a sealed record is still generally not allowed for people to see for most purposes.
This means a sealed record is similar to an expungement in so far that you can lawfully deny ever having received a criminal conviction, even under oath.
In general, the eligibility requirements for a record seal are close to those for an expungement.
Note that most DUI offenders will face misdemeanor charges. However, a DUI can lead to felony convictions if you have multiple DUI convictions on your criminal history or your DUI caused a serious physical injury or death. See, for example, California Penal Code 191.5 PC.
Note that the main federal law governing security clearances is 50 U.S. Code 3341.
Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition – “Expungement of record.”
See, for example, Florida Statutes 943.0585 (2022).
See, for example, Washington Revised Code 9.94A.640(1).
See, for example, Nevada Revised Statutes 179.247.
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