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Oct 30, 2020

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in California?

One night you were driving, minding your own business, when a cop suddenly pulled you over. The cop administered a breathalyzer test and made you walk in a straight line to prove that you were not intoxicated. Now, you’re worried that you’re going to charged with a DUI in California.

You’re wondering: What does this mean? How long will it stay on my record? Will I have to pay a fine? Or even worse, will I have to go to jail?

By knowing the facts about DUIs in California, as well as how long they’ll stay on your record, you can figure out how to fight the possible charges with the help of experienced Oakland DUI lawyer Elliot Silver at Silver Law Firm.

What Is a DUI?

DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” This means that someone was driving while on alcohol and/or drugs, including ones prescribed to them or recreational drugs, and putting others in danger.

In California, you can drive after drinking a very small amount of alcohol. The blood alcohol content limit is 0.08% BAC, which equals about one 12 oz. beer, one 1.5 oz. shot of distilled spirits, or one 5 oz. glass of wine over a one-hour period. If you’re under 21, the limit is 0.05%, and if you’re a commercial driver and operating a commercial vehicle at the time, the limit is 0.04%.

You can measure your BAC 15 minutes after consuming the alcohol. Keep in mind that while the limit is 0.08%, some people are more sensitive to alcohol and could become intoxicated after just a few sips. Whenever you plan on drinking, it’s always a safe bet to call a designated driver or get an Uber to avoid any dangerous situations.

Additionally, driving while on prescription drugs is not illegal per se. But if the drugs impair your driving, then you could get a DUI. For instance, you wouldn’t want to take Dramamine or a sleeping pill and then go out driving. This could be incredibly dangerous.

If a recreational drug like marijuana is legal in your state, then again, you could only be charged if it had a negative effect on your ability to drive.

How Do Cops Test for a DUI?

If an officer saw you swerving or driving recklessly, then they may pull you over and ask you for your name, registration, driver’s license, and car insurance information. They might smell alcohol your breath and then want you to do a field sobriety test, such as the walk-and-turn, where you take nine steps, touching your heel-to-toe, in a straight line. Then you have turn on one foot and do the same thing, but in the opposite direction. You may also have to do the one-leg stand test, where you stand with one foot about 6 inches off the ground and count numbers out loud for 30 seconds. You could be asked to take a breathalyzer test and/or a chemical test using your blood or urine.

The cops have recording devices on them, so anything you say or do will be on camera. It’s important to treat the officers with respectful and stay calm. You should do what they ask as long as it won’t hurt your case. For instance, you should avoid making any statement without consulting your lawyer first.

You don’t have to take a breathalyzer, blood, urine, or field sobriety test, though it is advisable. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer, blood, or urine test after you’ve been arrested for a DUI, then it could lead to harsh penalties. For your first refusal to test, you could spend an additional 48 hours in jail or get your driver’s license suspended for a year. For the second refusal, you could spend an additional 96 hours in jail and face a two-year suspension of your driver’s license. For a third offense, you could face an additional 10 days in jail and a three-year suspension of your driver’s license.

If you’re confused about what to do, at any time, you can request to call your Oakland DUI lawyer to see whether or not you should take a test. If you do end up taking it, don’t worry – often, these tests are inaccurate and a skilled DUI lawyer may be able to determine a credible defense for you.

What Happens If You’re Arrested for a DUI?

You may have gotten arrested for a DUI, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be charged with a DUI. The prosecutor in your case will determine whether or not to charge you. And then, even if you are charged, the charges could be dismissed or dropped later on.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in California?

A DUI stays on your record for 10 years starting from the day you were arrested in California. If you’re convicted of a DUI, then it could permanently go on your criminal record. Police officers and the California DMV are able to see that a DUI is on your record, so you could go to jail, have to pay fines, have your license suspended, and get points on your license. Your car insurance company is also able to see your DMV record, and could end up increasing your car insurance premium because you have points on your license.

What Happens If You’re Charged With a DUI?

If you’re charged with a DUI, then a number of things could happen. Most DUI cases result in misdemeanor charges, but if you are repeatedly charged with DUIs, then you could face worse consequences.

In terms of misdemeanors, for your first DUI conviction, you may be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail, have to pay fines up to $1,000, and have your license suspended for six months.

For your second DUI conviction in California, you may be sentenced to at least 96 hours in jail or a year at most, have to pay fines up to $1,000, and have your license suspended for two years.

If this is your third DUI conviction, you may have to spend a minimum of 120 days in jail and a maximum of one year in jail. You may have to pay fines up to $1,800 and have your license suspended for three years.

You could face felony charges if your impaired driving led to the death or serious injury of another person, you’ve gotten three or more DUI convictions in a 10-year period, or you were convicted of a felony DUI in the past.

If you are convicted of a DUI felony, you may have to pay $5,000 in fines, serve 16 months to 16 years in a state prison, have your driver’s license suspended for five years, and have to go to DUI school for 30 months.

In terms of driving, California utilizes a points system to record risky driving. Everyone starts out with 0 points, but you’ll get points added if you are convicted of a DUI. DUIs will get you the highest number of points; every conviction will lead to two points going on your license. And these points will stay on your driving record for 13 years.

Your license will get suspended if you get four or more points in 12 months, six or more points in 24 months, or eight or more points in 36 months.

How to Fight a DUI Charge

Just because you’re pulled over and charged with a DUI, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Instead, you can fight the charge with the help of a DUI lawyer in Oakland.

Your DUI lawyer will inform you about the different ways that you can fight your DUI charge. They will walk through what happened with you when you were pulled over and ask you questions like:

  • Did you admit to drinking or doing drugs?
  • Did you take a field sobriety test?
  • Did you take a urine or blood test?
  • Did you take a breathalyzer test?
  • Why did the cop say they pulled you over in the first place?
  • Was there any other reason why it seemed like you were driving while impaired?

It’s important to write down exactly what happened immediately after you’re pulled over and out of police custody so that a lawyer can come up with your defense. There are a number of scenarios that could have occurred.

For instance, maybe you weren’t feeling well or you were tired while driving, which caused you to have bloodshot eyes and swerve a little bit on the road.

Maybe English is your second language, and you didn’t understand the directions the officers were telling you when you were given the field sobriety test.

Perhaps you did go out to a bar that night, but at one point you walked away from your drink and someone spiked it, causing you to become much more impaired than you normally would from one drink.

You may have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), acid reflux, or heartburn, and when you were pulled over, you were experiencing the symptoms. All three of them can cause you to have mouth alcohol, so if you took a breathalyzer test, your BAC could be high… even if you didn’t touch alcohol that day.

Breathalyzer tests can reveal other false positives due to contamination of the device or the time the test is administered. If you’re on a low-carb diet or you have hypoglycemia, you could also get a false positive.

An Oakland DUI lawyer could also look into what happened with the evidence for the case against you and see if the cop mishandled any of it. If the cop didn’t let you know what could happen if you refused to take the breathalyzer test, that could work in your favor as well. Law enforcement officers are required to give you clear information on what happens if you don’t take the test.

How to Get a DUI Expunged From Your Record

A DUI conviction will be on your driving record and criminal record. Whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, you will have to report it to future employers or when you’re applying for a professional license.

Though a DUI conviction will usually stay on your criminal record permanently, you could have it expunged, or taken off your record, for a few reasons. You may qualify if you completed the requirements of your probation, your probation period is over, you are not on probation for another crime, or you aren’t facing other criminal charges.

Whether or not your expungement goes through will depend entirely on what the judge decides. The prosecutor has the option to oppose the expungement, and there could be a hearing to see if your expungement should be granted to you – usually, it will be.

If the expungement is successful, then the court is going to withdraw the guilty/no contest finding, and then enter a not guilty plea. Then, your case will be dismissed. If your DUI is expunged, it could still be used against you if you get another DUI, and could be used for aggravating the penalties of a new DUI conviction if it occurs within a 10-year timeframe.

Calling on a DUI Lawyer in Oakland for Help

If you are facing a DUI conviction and you’re worried about how long the DUI will stay on your record in California, then Silver Law Firm is here for you. DUI lawyer Elliot Silver has over 25 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer in Oakland and has helped many clients fight their DUI charges and convictions, as well as assisted with expungements so they could move on with their life.

Ready to reach out? Then contact Silver Law Firm today to schedule a free and confidential consultation. You can email us at, fill out the form on our website, or call us anytime at (510) 995-0000.

We look forward to hearing from you and helping you with your DUI case in California.

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