One of the first questions you may ask yourself when charged with driving under the influence, is âHow long will this incident stay on my DUI arrest records?â
The short answer: you can bet on a bare minimum of 5 years. However, do bear in mind that itâs 10 years in most states; furthermore, in the majority of states, prior DUIs will affect the sentencing of repeat offenders even if they happened 20 years back.
In the following, we examine the matter of DUI âlifespansâ on your driving, insurance, and even criminal records. We take a look at several interesting facts and stats about the legislation on this issue in various states and also reopen the topic of DUI sentences as punishments for misdemeanors.
Image source: Deposit Photos
How long does a DUI stay on your driving record?
5 years may be the minimum, but 10 years is more likely the case. Here are some interesting facts about DUI retention on your records, collected from state laws across the nation:
- Florida has the longest specified DUI retention period in the U.S.: 75 years.
- In states like Tennessee and Alaska, DUIs are retained on record for the rest of your life.
- Though not too many years ago 5 years was the typical retention period before expungement, itâs now 10 years in most states, including California.
- In Vermont, among other states, a first-time DUI offense will forever count on your record and enhance your sentence in the case of a repeat offense.
- Many states, including California, have expunction laws. This means that you can file for expunction of the DUI/DWI in court and, pending the courtâs decision, have the offense removed from your records. It will no longer be visible to potential lenders and/or employers.
Important: Where they are available, expunction laws (also known as non-disclosure or expungement laws) only apply to first offenses, or to DUI incidents that did not get you arrested.
- Itâs just as important to bear in mind that, in other states, such as Georgia and Texas, expunction legislation does not exist. In other words, youâll never be able to remove the DUI/DWI from your record.
The lack of an option for expungement might make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a job operating a vehicle, or to improve your credit score. Legislation on access to an individualâs criminal record also varies widely from one state to another.
Who can access your criminal record and find out about your DUI/DWI?
In short, and depending on where you live, just about anyone. Here are the authorized, certified entities which will usually ask for this type of information:
- Employers and even some volunteer organizations;
- Credit bureaus;
- Schools and other educational organizations;
- Consumer reporting agencies.
Important: In recent years, an increasing number of consumer reporting companies has been buying criminal record information in bulk, and then selling consumer reports regarding the history of private individuals. They, however, are mandated by internal compliance rules which prohibit them to publish information that is older than 7 yearsâso, in this respect, older DUIs will not appear in their findings.
Thinking of emigrating?
All countries around the world are allowed to set out their own admission criteria. You cannot enter Canada, for instance, if you have as much as a single misdemeanor on your criminal record. Similarly, if youâre planning on applying for legal immigrant status, you can get deported if a DUI conviction is revealed in your history.
In some states, anyone can find out!
Some state legislatures enforce transparency and open access procedures, which allow absolutely everyone to ask for another personâs criminal track record. To obtain them, all they usually need to do s pay a fee, or file for the information with their county clerk office.
In other states, access to oneâs criminal history is restricted to authorized entities.
Your health records speak volumes
Even if your past DUI/DWI arrest has fallen off your record, bear in mind that blood draws are on your health records forever. Having had a certain amount of blood drawn in the past can be a good tip-off for a potential employerâthough they may not come right out and ask, they will suspect a previous DUI arrest.
A DUI will definitely affect your car insurance?
Driving while intoxicated will certainly have you paying artificially inflated driverâs insurance policy premiums for years. Hereâs how this works:
- In most states, you have to inform your insurer about your DUI immediately. Thatâs because many state legislatures ask DUI-convicted drivers to take out SR-22 insurance while their license is suspended. This is the only way they get to preserve driving privileges.
- Trying to hide a DUI conviction from your insurer, in the places where this is not explicitly illegal, is not a good idea. Once your provider gets wind of this, they will likely apply a hefty surcharge payable immediately and might also levy this charge retroactively, for the period you tried to conceal the information.
- It typically takes 5 years for your DUI to drop off your insurance record, so itâs a good idea to call your provider a few days ahead of the âanniversaryâ and ask for a premium recalculation.
- In some states, though, it takes longer than 5 years: in Massachusetts itâs a full decade, while in Alaska DUI charges never expire.
Is a DUI a criminal offense?
Yes, according to U.S. law, a DUI is regarded as a criminal offense and can even be elevated to felony status (in most cases and under certain circumstances). Bear in mind, however, that criminal offense legislation varies by state, as it is not covered by federal law.
Most states now enforce two statutory offenses:
- Driving under the influence (DUI). Alternative names include driving while impaired/intoxicated (DWI), operating under the influence (OUI), and operating while intoxicated (OWI). This offense only requires some proof of intoxication, with no mandatory evidence of a BAC over 0.08%.
- The per se offence of driving with a BAC over 0.08%. This offence only requires proof that the accused had a blood alcohol level higher than, or equal to, 0.08%, at the time where they were operating the vehicle.
Defendants can be found guilty of both charges, but only penalized for one. Penalties vary from state to state. In Wisconsin, DUI first offendersâ arrests are addressed as forfeitures.
How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?
Even though misdemeanors, which also include most DUI offenses, are less serious than felonies, they, too, stay on your criminal history forever. In theory, an employer running a background check might come across proof of a prior misdemeanor-related arrest on your record.
In reality, though, if you were arrested for a DUI and prosecuted by your county, this might not show up in a state-level background check.
As far as DUIs are concerned, employersâ attitudes toward their presence on your records is entirely their call. As a general rule of thumb, though, a DUI arrest that occurred 7 years ago might be overlooked; one that happened last year will likely pose some problems.