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Does a DUI Conviction Stay on My Record Forever?

If convicted of a DUI-DWI offense, does a DUI conviction stay on my record forever? Will my arrest and the record of either my conviction or acquittal follow me forever? Like a lot of answers in the law, this depends on your state’s laws.

In several states, including California and Texas, you can seek to have a drunk driving conviction removed from your state record by filing a specific set of documents and paying a filing fee. In others (New York, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia), removing a drugged driving conviction (or even a record of your acquittal) is not possible except under extraordinary circumstances. Georgia, for example, has no “expungement” law whatsoever. Ask your DWI attorney about the applicable law in your jurisdiction.

Some States Will Remove a DUI Conviction

Some states have a specific mechanism, either by statute or by case law, to clear your criminal or traffic violation record. If you are found not guilty, a different process may apply. If you are convicted of certain criminal offenses, these records can be cleared from the state’s records in many jurisdictions by another legal process after a specified period of time passes. Also, most states require that you get into no further legal trouble.

If your conviction of a state law has violated your civil rights, then a federal district court likely has the power to expunge your criminal records. These last two options are very, very rare for a DUI-DWI conviction. Moreover, remedies such as these are more likely to happen in felony cases involving issues such as a wrongful conviction based upon defective forensic evidence (i.e., your DNA could not be compared to crime scene evidence in a 1985 robbery conviction).

Even if some process exists to clear your record, the chance always exists that not all references to your impaired driving arrest, accusation, trial, conviction, and acquittal cannot be removed from all possible databases. The federal government almost NEVER totally clears all records and computer notations to your criminal arrest record.

Should I Tell a Future Employer About My DUI Arrest Even if I Wasn’t Convicted?

If you apply for a job with a high-level security clearance in the future, or merely answer background questions on a job application, it is usually best to inform your potential employer about your prior circumstances rather than to chance them finding the record of your conviction. Deception on a job application is usually considered to be worse than the old record of having made a mistake in your past.

Clearly, the best report you can make to a prospective employer is that you were merely accused of DUI-DWI, but found NOT GUILTY. Hence, the value of having a top-notch DUI-DWI defense specialist is of paramount importance.

Some states have no statutory process to remove the record of your conviction from your criminal record, no matter what the circumstances. Case law in these states consistently rejects removal of a criminal record for a DUI-DWI conviction. A good DUI-DWI attorney will know the options available to you where you have been charged and convicted, and can help you in whatever process is available.  But do not expect your attorney to be able to correct a matter that is totally beyond his or her control.