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How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

7 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

The short answer to this question is FOREVER. Like much of your criminal history, a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction stays on your record until and unless it is expunged by court order if that is even possible.

This means that anyone with a few dollars and internet access can see the mistake that you made in the past, which can prove to be a major obstacle in many aspects of your life. 

With a simple background check, employers, landlords, and others can base their decisions on bad choices you made in the past, even though you may have turned your life around. What's more, they will only see the negative side of things. 

You should never plead guilty to a DUI before consulting with a qualified criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the criminal penalties and other consequences that you will face if convicted. Let Unbundled Legal Help put you in touch with an attorney in your area who can advise you.

What is Driving Under the Influence (DUI)? 

Driving Under the influence refers to operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher in all 50 states in the U.S., whether or not your driving is actually impaired.

For example, if the police pull you over for having expired tags, and the officer smells the odor of alcohol, they can test your BAC with a breathalyzer. If your BAC is 0.08% or greater, you will then be arrested for DUI, even if you show no signs of impairment, simply because you are at (or over) the legal limit.

Note too in most states a minor can receive a DUI for having a BAC of 0.01% or greater because it is illegal to drink alcohol if you are under 21. 

Under What Circumstances Can I Be Charged with DUI? 

Most people believe they must be driving on a city street or roadway to be charged with a DUI. That’s not always true. You can also be charged with a DUI in the driveway of your home, a parking lot, and even when you are not driving at all.

Many people fail to understand that, along with referring to being intoxicated by alcohol, “under the influence” also refers to being intoxicated by drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and other controlled substances. You can even be charged with DUI for being under the influence of a drug that your doctor prescribed, so long as an officer feels that your ability to drive safely is impaired.

In some states, you can be charged with an offense calledActual Physical Control (APC), even when you were not actually driving. An APC typically carries the same penalties as a DUI, but is charged in cases where an intoxicated person enjoys “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle, but was not actually driving the vehicle.

For instance, while you may believe it’s ok to simply sit in your vehicle with the keys in your pocket, while you wait until you are sober enough to drive or for someone to come pick you up, if the police find you in this situation, you can be charged with APC, and face the same consequences as a DUI charge.

The Consequences of a DUI Conviction

In a DUI conviction, the judge will impose some type of sanction, which may include jail time. And the Secretary of State may impose a sanction, which may include a suspension of your driver’s license. But what you may not understand are all the other collateral consequences that a DUI conviction entails. 

For example, if you hold a professional license, you will likely need to report a DUI conviction to the state licensing agency, and they will almost certainly take some type of action, which could include suspension or revocation of your professional license. A DUI conviction can also prevent you from gaining entry into certain countries, such as Canada for example. 

It is also important to understand that a drunk driving conviction can have an impact, not only on your auto insurance, but also on your life insurance, making it difficult or impossible to obtain the type of life insurance you need to protect yourself and your family. In the event of a divorce, a DUI conviction can have an impact on how child custody and visitation are allocated and arranged. 

It is important that before you plead guilty to a DUI charge, you discuss all the consequences, including all of the various collateral consequences, with a qualified criminal defense attorney. They can help you understand exactly what you will be facing after conviction. 

Why Hire an Attorney To Fight a DUI Charge Instead of Pleading Guilty?

There are a variety of other reasons why you should always hire an attorney to fight a DUI charge, instead of pleading guilty. Most importantly, the right attorney may be able to negotiate a better resolution of your case. 

If you wish to resolve your DUI case through a plea bargain, your attorney may be able to negotiate terms that are better than those initially offered by the prosecutor. There may be room to negotiate a reduction in the charges against you. But, if you simply take the prosecutor’s first offer, without allowing an experienced attorney to advocate on your behalf, you will rarely get the best deal possible. 

Secondly, the police may have stopped you without cause, made errors when administering the breathalyzer or chemical blood test, or done something else that a skilled criminal defense attorney can identify and use to get your DUI charges thrown out, or at least reduced to a non-criminal offense, thereby avoiding a criminal conviction. 

You will never know if you do not allow an experienced attorney to examine the police report and other evidence to determine if there are ways to resolve the charge, besides pleading guilty and having a DUI conviction on your record. 

How Much Does a DUI Attorney Cost? 

The cost to hire a good DUI attorney to defend your DUI charge will depend on many factors, most importantly: 

  1. How much experience the attorney has handling DUI cases
  2. The complexity of your case

An experienced DUI defense attorney will charge more because they have the knowledge, the background, and the expertise to resolve your case with the best possible outcome. Also, if your case is complex, with several complicating factors, multiple collateral consequences, or multiple defenses that need to be investigated, the cost of hiring the right attorney to fight a DUI conviction will be higher. 

An attorney who is less experienced or who is less established may have lower fees but may be required to take on a large caseload to cover their monthly expenses. After all, practicing law is a business. But, because of that, the lawyer may not be able to give your case the time and attention it needs or may have no idea what it takes to get the best possible result in your case.

What To Look For in a DUI Lawyer

When choosing a criminal defense attorney for your DUI case, consider more than simply how much the attorney charges. Your decision should also be based on many other things, such as where the lawyer is located and how many cases they have handled in that area. 

You want a lawyer with experience practicing DUI law in the jurisdiction where your case is located, and who has relationships with the local prosecutors and courts. You should expect to pay higher fees for such an attorney.

Save Money by Hiring an Unbundled DUI Lawyer

Fees for misdemeanor representation in DUI cases can range from $2000 to $10,000. For felony representation, the fees can be anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 and more, depending on the complexity of the felony, whether or not you have prior convictions for DUI, and how significant and severe the penalties for your particular DUI can be. 

On the other hand, for cases that qualify, the fees for customized, unbundled legal representation from our network of DUI attorneys can be as low as $500-$1500. For more complex DUI cases, or DUI cases for which unbundled legal services are simply not a good fit, you can still hire one of our knowledgeable and experienced DUI lawyers for comprehensive legal representation. 

The only sure way to avoid a DUI conviction on your background check is to avoid being convicted in the first place. Let Unbundled Legal Help put you in touch with a DUI lawyer in your area.

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