In California, many convictions can be “expunged.” (The common term most people use is “expungement,” but it’s not actually an expungement, as will be clear as you read further.)

In most cases, an individual (defendant) convicted of DUI will be eligible to petition the court for this relief. Upon a successful petition, the court permits the defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty and enter a plea of “not guilty,” or on a guilty verdict the court will set aside the guilty verdict. Thereafter, the court dismisses the accusation (complaint) filed against the defendant.

There are several requirements:

  1. 1)  The defendant must have completed probation* or was granted an early termination of probation,
  2. 2)  The defendant must not be facing any pending charges, and
  3. 3)  The defendant must not be on probation or serving any sentence for another


*If the defendant successfully completed probation, meaning there were no probation violations during the term of probation, the petition must be granted by law. If the defendant violated probation at any time during the term of probation, then the granting of the petition is left to the discretion of the court.

Many people believe that an expungement of the conviction means it will be removed from their criminal record. This is not so. When an expungement petition is granted by the court, the defendant’s criminal record will notate that the charge was dismissed, but the charge will still show on the record, with the dismissed notation. The former DUI defendant’s DMV record, which is not the same thing as a criminal record, will still show the DUI, even though the court dismissed the DUI.

In the case of a DUI expungement, the former DUI defendant will still be subject to the 10-year lookback period. Another DUI within that ten-year period will count the expunged DUI as a prior offense. Furthermore, an expungement will not restore your driver’s license if it is under DMV suspension or has been revoked.

Well, as you can see, this is not a true expungement, but there are some advantages.

  1. 1)  You do not have to report it on any employment* or housing application AND
  2. 2)  Even if an employer learns that you have an expunged DUI, the employer may

    not use an expunged conviction in the employer’s hiring decision or any other employment decisions.

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*If you are applying for a job that requires a state or local license, you are still required to report the expunged DUI, if asked. This affects many fields of employment: hairdressers, teachers, doctors, contractors, and so on.

In most cases, the process for expunging a DUI conviction is straightforward. The state or county provides a simple form to fill out. The form is then filed with the court and routinely granted if there were no probation violations. If the defendant did violate probation (examples might include failure to attend DUI classes as ordered, failure to maintain the installed Ignition Interlock Device (IID), failure to attend 12- step programs as ordered), a statement explaining why the petition should be granted must be included on the form. If the violation was not egregious and/or there is a good reason for the violation, the court will likely grant the petition. Only upon the most flagrant of violations (for example, repeated failures to abide by the probation orders) will the court potentially deny the petition. Your DUI defense attorney can assist you in properly completing and filing the petition. It is particularly important to engage the assistance of an attorney if you suffered one or more probation violations during the term of your probation.

Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg welcomes your questions about any DUI matter, whether you were just arrested for DUI or have completed probation and wish to petition for a dismissal and in all stages between. He is available for a free consultation to discuss your matter. You may contact him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at

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