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What is a DUI?
A DUI, also known as DWI in certain states, is a criminal charge for drunk driving. DUI stands for “driving under the influence” and refers mainly to the influence of alcohol, but it can also refer to other drugs, such as cannabis or opioids.
DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated” and refers to intoxication from the same set of substances covered in a DUI. Furthermore, anyone operating a motorized vehicle of any kind can be charged for this offense, including the use of motorized watercraft, lawnmowers, and non-motorized bicycles.
The legal driving limit varies depending on where you’re from. Most states have set the legal limit to 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Anything above that is already considered drunk driving.
DUI is a criminal offense in some states, with a few exceptions surrounding circumstances. A DUI conviction will show up as either a misdemeanor or a felony on a criminal record. While a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, some states declare two or more misdemeanors as a felony.
Again, DUI and DWI parameters differ from state to state. Penalties and consequences are also different, depending on which state you are in when you committed this violation.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?
The length of time that a DUI or DWI will stay on your record depends on state laws, but it will most likely stay on for years to life. Even though it will remain on record for this long, it will not technically “come off” of your driving record.
What really happens is that each state sets a specific period after which a prior conviction for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated is not considered if a subsequent case were to occur.
Some states have a “washout period” that could let a DUI record stay for five to fifteen years; some states do not. A DUI conviction will remain in a criminal record forever for states that do not have this washout period.
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Consequences of a DUI on Your Record
Aside from the immediate consequences such as law enforcement issues, fines, and jail time, there are longer-term consequences of having a DUI on your record. These include:
- License suspension
- Restrictions on driving privileges
- Travel restrictions to other countries (including Canada)
- Insurance companies impose higher car insurance rates
- Lengthy probation
- Possibility of court-ordered alcohol education programs
- Possible requirement to complete a formal alcohol or substance use disorder evaluation
- Possible court-ordered substance use disorder treatment
- Criminal record
A first DUI arrest is usually treated as a misdemeanor, but subsequent DUI convictions will likely result in felony charges and are treated as serious criminal offenses.
In some instances, usually due to a prior DUI conviction, this can be charged as a felony offense. The consequences of a felony DUI charge may result in losing the right to vote. However, this varies by state; not all felons lose this right. You may also lose the right to sit on a jury, own a firearm, and a DUI will create difficulties in finding employment.
Does a DUI in One State Show Up in Another State?
In short, yes. If someone is charged with a DUI and convicted outside of their home state, the DUI will follow the individual home. Most states participate in the Driver’s License Compact Nonresident Violator Compact to share information about driving records and history. This is independent of a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) background check.
If someone is charged with a DUI in their home state and then decides to move to another state, their license will still be suspended in their new area of residence. The offender
cannot obtain a new license until the suspension period is satisfied from the state of conviction.
Legal help may be needed in expunging previous DUI criminal convictions. Throughout the United States, numerous law firms and law offices focus solely on DUI laws and fight to avoid DUI convictions.
A DUI defense attorney or DUI lawyer can provide everything from legal advice to criminal defense for new DUI charges. DUI lawyers are also helpful in seeking the expungement of DUI cases.
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How to Get a DUI Off Your Record
In some states, a DUI is considered a criminal offense and not just a mere traffic violation. The conviction stays on a person’s criminal record permanently.
This becomes a problem when applying for jobs because potential employers conduct background checks. Getting a commercial driver’s license and other professional licenses may also be a challenge because you’re required to disclose your criminal history fully.
The good news is, there are some states where a DUI record may be expunged.
Eligibility requirements include:
- Having served all corresponding penalties and successful completion of required probation
- A sentence that did not involve spending time inside a state prison (unlike jail time)
- There are no other criminal charges against you at the moment
When a DUI is expunged, it will no longer be a part of your criminal record.