You can expunge a California DUI conviction as soon as your term of probation expires. Unlike some states, there is no waiting period. However, you must have complied with the terms of your probation, such as paying fines, attending DUI school, and avoiding any new arrests.
Even after expungement, the conviction still counts as a DUI prior and for DMV purposes. If you pick up another DUI within a 10-year window, it will be treated as a second offense, even though the first DUI was expunged.
After the conviction is expunged, it cannot be used against you by employers for
- hiring or
- promotion purposes.
Expungement of criminal records in California is authorized by Penal Code 1203.4 PC.1 Getting one can release you from many of the negative effects of a California DUI conviction. This includes adverse employment consequences.
To help you better understand how to get a drunk or drugged driving conviction expunged, our California DUI lawyers discuss:
- 1. Who is eligible to get a DUI conviction expunged?
- 2. How does a DUI expungement work?
- 3. Will it make it easier for me to find a job?
- 4. Will it help me get back my driver’s license?
- 5. Does an expungement affect the penalties if I get another DUI later?
- 6. Can early termination of probation help me expunge my conviction earlier?
1. Who is eligible to get a DUI conviction expunged?
- you successfully completed probation for the offense, and
- You 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 DUI expungement work?
As soon as you complete probation for a DUI, you may petition the court to expunge the record of conviction. A judge will then review the petition to determine whether you are eligible for an expungement.
If the judge grants the petition, then either:
- You withdraw your plea of guilty or “nolo contendere” (no contest) and re-enter a “not guilty” plea, or
- If you were found guilty after a jury trial or a bench trial, the judge sets aside the verdict.
After that, the judge dismisses the case.2
3. Will it 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.
However an expunged conviction does not have to be disclosed at all. 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 you or
- promote you.
However, an expungement does not affect your obligation to disclose the conviction when applying for
- state licenses or
- teaching credentials.4
A state licensing board may use the conviction against you in deciding whether to grant or renew your license or credential. However, it will probably look more favorably on your application if the drunk or drugged driving conviction has been expunged. (See our page on jobs you can’t get with a DUI).
4. Will it 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
However 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, you are likely to have your 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. You are eligible for an expungement once your probation is terminated. It does not matter whether probation terminates because
- the probation period ends or
- probation was terminated early by the court.
This is a long time to wait to gain the benefits of an expungement. Though 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, you must file a petition for early termination with the court.7 The court has the discretion to grant the petition if:
- You have successfully completed the terms of probation (such as fines, classes or restitution), and
- There are circumstances that justify early termination of probation, such as you 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 you may not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system. Judges generally want to see you bound by this term for as long as possible.
So most judges require you to serve a complete term of probation before granting a PC 1203.4 DUI expungement and dismissing the case.
- Penal Code 1203.4(a) See for example People v. Allen (People v. O’Day (
- California Penal Code 1203.42 PC.
- 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.
- Penal Code 1203.4
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Penal Code 1203.3 PC.