Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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How Long Will a DUI Stay on My Record?

How Long Will a DUI Stay on My Record in Washington?

After someone is arrested for a DUI in Tacoma, Lakewood, Pierce County, Seattle, or anywhere else in Washington state, one of the first questions they ask our Tacoma DUI attorneys is about how long their DUI will stay on their record.

Surprisingly, this simple question isn’t always easy to answer. That is because there isn’t just one type of record that could report a DUI arrest or conviction. For instance, in Washington, a DUI conviction can appear on your driving record, your criminal record, and an employment background check. In some cases, a DUI conviction can appear on your record for the rest of your life.

Fortunately, we do have good news. Washington is one of a handful of U.S. states with the most protections for residents with a criminal history, and state law puts limits on how long a DUI conviction can appear on certain background checks. Not only that, but Washington employers cannot deny someone a job simply because they have a criminal history, but must instead make individualized determinations that consider the nature of the conviction, whether it relates to the job requirements, and how much time has passed since the incident.

If you have specific questions about how a DUI conviction, arrest, or criminal history would affect your employment or driving prospects in Tacoma or Lakewood, WA, contact the DUI attorneys with The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden for the answers you’re looking for.

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How long will a DUI stay on my driving record?

Even a first DUI offense in Pierce County, WA or the surrounding areas carries serious penalties, including jail time, driver’s license suspension, financial penalties, and the legal fees associated with hiring traffic lawyers. However, the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction can hang over your head for many years to come.

A driving record contains any information related to traffic tickets, collisions, license suspensions, failure to appear in court violations, and traffic-related convictions, including DUI charges. According to the Washington Department of Licensing, alcohol-related convictions will appear on your driving record for life (99 years). However, not just anyone can access your complete driving record, and state law places limits on how long an arrest or conviction can appear on a background check.

If my DUI charges are reduced to a lesser charge like a “wet reckless” or negligent driving, will my driving record reflect the reduced charges?

According to the Department of Licensing, yes. However, “the reduced charge doesn’t affect the suspension period resulting from your arrest. Any license suspension, revocation, or disqualification won’t be reduced or changed even if a court reduces the criminal charge.”

How long will a DUI conviction appear on my criminal record?

Technically, criminal convictions are public records, which means a DUI conviction will be part of your criminal record forever. However, Washington state says that employers may only consider arrests that have occurred in the past 10 years, and most employers are unlikely to go to the courthouse and investigate public records. Additionally, federal law states that a background check cannot include information on DUIs or other arrests that did not result in a conviction after a period of seven years. Plus, Washington state law says that your background check cannot contain convictions older than seven years either (or juvenile convictions for people under the age of 21).

So how long will a DUI conviction stay on my record, in reality?

Employers are free to ask about convictions, but there are rules about how they can use this information in Washington. According to the American Civil Liberty Union’s Guide to Criminal Records and Employment in Washington State, “employers should not ask about convictions unless they are (1) related to the job and (2) occurred within the last 10 years.”

How can I find out what’s on my driving record? Can I find out what’s on my background check?

The best way to find out for sure what is or isn’t on your driving or criminal record is to conduct a background check on yourself. You can request a copy of your driving record from the DOL, and—if an employer denies you a job based on a background check—you are entitled to a copy of that background check.

Can I get a DUI expunged in Washington?

The answer to this question is too complicated to answer. In short, it depends.

If you want help clearing your name, or need more information on how long a DUI arrest or conviction will stay on your record, it is important to find experienced DUI attorneys to answer your specific questions.

For more information about how a DUI arrest can impact your life and how you should react, please contact The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden today.