How to Expunge a DUI in Los Angeles, California

In the State of California, DUI is a criminal offense. When it comes to having a criminal record, one moment of poor judgement can have a seriously negative effect on the rest of your life. It can impair your ability to get a job, get into the college or

The law concerning DUI in Los Angeles, California

Under California State law, Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a) and 23152 (b), it is a criminal offense to drive while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs or to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher as determined by grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath or 100 ml of blood.

The law is much stricter for those under the age of 21. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23136 the maximum legal BAC is only 0.01 per cent. This is a civil penalty and incurs an immediate automatic ban on driving for one year. The police do not have to prove that you have been driving under the influence, i.e., driving recklessly. They only have to prove that you have a measurable amount of alcohol in your system. This includes things like mouthwash and cough syrups that contain alcohol.

Penalties for DUI in Los Angeles, California

Determining the penalty for DUI involves both the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the courts. The DMV decide how long to suspend the individual's drivers license. The courts determine what, if any, penalty is just and fair. The general guidelines for first, second, third and subsequent offenses are as follows:

First offense - Misdemeanor

  • Jail - 48 hours mandatory custody; maximum six months in jail
  • Fine - Maximum $1,000 plus court costs. Court costs may be substantially higher than the fine itself.
  • Suspension of drivers license - One year, no concessions for school or work
  • Probation - Either formal probation, meaning reporting periodically to a probation officer; or informal probation, meaning no reporting to a probation officer but adhering to strict terms and conditions.
  • DUI Alcohol School - six weeks minimum, nine months maximum
  • Interlock device - in some cases the court may require the offender to install a device into their car that locks the ignition unless they blow a BAC that is below the allowable limit.

Second offense (within 10 years of a previous conviction) - Misdemeanor

  • Jail - Mandatory minimum four to ten days; maximum six months
  • Fine - Substantial increase in both court costs and fine
  • Suspension of drivers license - Two years, no concession for school or work
  • DUI Alcohol School - Minimum 18 months, maximum 30 months
  • Interlock device - mandatory since July 2010

Third offense (two previous convictions within the past 10 years) - Misdemeanor

  • Jail - Mandatory 120 days, maximum one year
  • Fine - Substantial increase in both court costs and fine
  • Suspension of drivers license - Three years, no concession for school or work
  • DUI Alcohol School - Minimum 18 months, maximum 30 months
  • Interlock device - mandatory since July 2010

Fourth offense (three previous convictions within the past 10 years) Misdemeanor or Felony

  • Jail - Mandatory 180 days (misdemeanor), maximum three years (felony)
  • Fine - Substantial increase in both court costs and fine
  • Suspension of drivers license - Four years, no concession for school or work
  • DUI Alcohol School - Minimum 18 months, maximum 30 months
  • Interlock device - mandatory since July 2010

Long after probation has been served, custodial sentence completed, alcohol school is finished and the driving privileges restored, a criminal record for DUI can have far-reaching consequences. This can mean loss of a job and a failure to be able to get a new one, loss of professional licenses as for real estate, etc., inability to get a job as a police officer, failure to get into the school of one's choice, failure to obtain insurance, barring entry from certain countries (even Canada) and others. The offender may lose their right to vote. Effectively, this amounts to a life sentence of hardship for one moment of stupidity and poor judgement. An expungement of a DUI in Los Angeles, California, can mean restoration of livelihood, credibility and peace of mind.

Expunging a DUI in Los Angeles, California

Definition of Expungement

Expungement of a DUI is the legal process by which an individual can have their criminal record cleared of the offense. Not all states allow a DUI conviction to be expunged. California is one that does. In order to quailfy for having a record expunged, the individual must have completed their term of probation, paid all fines and court costs and not be under investigation for another crime. 

An expungement does not mean that the criminal record is cleared to the extent that the DUI conviction disappears completel. I till still be visible to anyone, including a prospective employer, who is willing to pay for a background check. What it does mean is that  they will not be able to use the conviction against a candidate when deciding whether or not to give them a job.

Eligibility for expunging a DUI in Los Angeles, California

A person is eligible if they were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense and they

  • have successfully completed probation; AND
  • are not currently charged with a criminal offense; AND
  • are not serving probation for a criminal offense; AND
  • are not serving a custodial sentence for a criminal offense

'Successfully completed probation' means that they

  • have completed all terms of the probation (paid all fines and restitution, completed any required counseling, community service, etc.
  • have attended all court appearances, either in person or through their attorney
  • have not commited a new crime while they were on probation

A person is NOT eligible for expungement if

  • they were sent to state prison
  • they failed to successfully complete probation

Procedure for expunging a DUI in Los Angeles, California

The first step in having a DUI expunged is to secure the services of a qualified attorney who is experienced in this aspect of California law. Although an individual is entitled to represent themselves, this is a complicated area and many people who represent themselves are unsuccessful.

The step-by-step process is:

  • Discuss with your attorney whether you are, in fact, eligible for expungement
  • Research both current and past law in this area
  • File the necessary paperwork within the statutory time frame 
    • You must provide the prosecutor with 15 days notice before your hearing to enable them time to review your case and prepare an objection if they so desire
  • Attend the hearing
  • If the judge approves your request, he will set aside your original plea of 'guilty' or 'no contest'. 
  • You submit a plea of 'not guilty'.
  • The judge dismisses your case.

What this procedure will not do is turn back the clock to exactly the way things were before you were pulled over. Your conviction will still be taken into account when determining penalties if you commit a subsequent DUI offense. The best way to keep your record clean is not to offend in the first place. The foregoing is not to be construed as professional, individualized legal advice. As mentioned previously, there may be blocks to your eligibility for expungement. A savvy, qualified DUI expungement attorney will identify these blocks and may be able to help you remove them.

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