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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

Drunk driving charges can impact a person's life for a very long time- especially if they have a criminal record following them around. If the driver is fortunate enough to be facing only DUI/DWI charges and has not caused an accident involving someone else, their primary concern might be how long it stays on their criminal record.

Having a DUI or DWI conviction is life-changing, and getting rid of it is not easy. A Fort Worth DWI lawyer may be able to help. Otherwise, the following rules apply.

Key Takeaways

  • In most states, a DWI conviction never entirely leaves a person's criminal record in normal circumstances, although it does become invalid after some time. Some states keep the charge on your record forever.

  • Texas is one of the toughest states for drunk driving charges. Without extenuating circumstances, a DWI conviction stays with a driver for life.

  • If a DUI/DWI comes with other criminal charges, it is much harder to have it removed or overturned.

  • The best way to fight a DWI or DUI conviction is with an aggressive defense lawyer as early in the process as possible.

What Is a DUI/DWI Conviction?

What Is a DUI/DWI Conviction?

It is important to note that some states differentiate between a DUI and DWI, and other states do not. In Texas, the terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different under the law.

DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

A DUI conviction means Driving Under the influence. It could mean alcohol or drugs- even prescription drugs. The main difference is that a DUI conviction can be given to someone with a much lower level of alcohol in their system, making it easier to be charged with but ultimately a less serious offense. There's a way to find out what the high BAC for a DUI is.

Another key difference for the state of Texas is that a DUI charge is only ever given to minors. If somebody is caught driving with alcohol in their system when they are over 18, it is automatically a DWI charge.

DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)

A DWI offense is more serious in Texas and most other states. In the states that do not differentiate between the two, the term DWI is considered stronger. It means Driving While Intoxicated and refers predominantly to alcohol.

There is usually a higher threshold for a DWI charge, but it also carries harsher consequences.

How Long Does a DWI/DUI Conviction Stay on Your Criminal Record?

How long drunk driving convictions stay on your criminal record depends on the state. Each has its own laws surrounding DUIs and DWIs and how a person can "get rid" of it. It is worth noting that in most cases, the charge never fully leaves the record, but it no longer counts towards future offenses.

That said, there are areas where even one charge at 21 years old remains active for the rest of a person's life. Texas is amongst these states.

To provide a better overall idea, here is an overview of the average time a DWI/DUI stays on the record in the USA.

On Average

The average length of time for a USA drunk driving record to remain is around seven to 12 years. Half of the states fall within this bracket. Washington and New York are just above average, with 15 years apiece.

Lowest Time

No US state has a mandatory length of fewer than five years. The 10 states with the lowest mandatory period are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, and Rhode Island.

Longest Time

There are 11 states (including Texas) where a DUI/DWI stays on a person's criminal record for life. Alaska, Illinois, Ohio, Idaho, Maine, Indiana, Kansas, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont are also on the list.

Florida also has a 75-year law, so it is essentially a life-long record. The next highest is in New Mexico, with 55 years.

Can You Get DUI Convictions Expunged?

DWI convictions cannot be expunged in Texas. Some states allow them based on certain circumstances. A DUI conviction in Texas only applies to minors, so it is possible to have it sealed upon appeal after the offender's 18 birthday. Again, conditions apply.

A DWI arrest, however, can sometimes be cleared. If no formal charge is given, there are grounds to appeal that the events be sealed.

Getting a DUI or DWI arrest or charge sealed is complicated, with several states (including Texas) making it close to impossible. Here are the possible circumstances when getting a DWI expunged could become possible.

Case Dismissal

If a person has been arrested for a high bac for a DUI or DWI offense but the case is ultimately dismissed, they can appeal for the arrest to be sealed. Usually, dismissal happens because of a lack of evidence, and with the help of a Fort Worth DWI lawyer, there is a good chance the record can stay clear.

A charged driver can also achieve a dismissal through deferred adjudication, meaning they plead guilty or no contest to the charges and complete certain requirements imposed by the judge. Deferred adjudication is usually only applicable to a person's first offense.

Not Guilty Verdict

If the case does go to trial, but the driver is found not guilty thanks to a strong defense team, the driving record stays clean, and the arrest does not show in the person's criminal history. It is far easier to move on from a DWI conviction if never officially charged, so it is essential to have the best lawyer right from the start.

Straight Probation

In Texas, straight probation is when a person pleads guilty and must spend a set time on probation and is usually incarcerated. Upon completion, the sentence is suspended.

Charged As a Minor

As previously stated, a person charged as a minor can appeal for their record to be sealed once they turn 18- as long as they have not offended repeatedly.

Because the conviction for minors is usually the lesser charge of DUI, there is a better chance for a one-time offender who committed the crime while they were you to have it expunged.

A Successful Appeal

If the convicted party successfully appeals the charge, their criminal record is sealed or expunged. To achieve this after a DWI in Texas is difficult, as judges are not in the habit of going easy on drunk drivers. It is imperative to have an advanced legal team leading the case.

How Can a DUI/DWI Defense Lawyer Help?

Anyone facing DWI charges should contact an experienced and talented attorney to work on their case. In most of the country, it is difficult to get around a drunk driving charge of any kind since that type of reckless driving can endanger innocent lives.

Attorneys with experience in these cases can pursue the best possible outcome for the circumstances and use all avenues to either get a case dismissed, secure a penalty that allows for the charges to be dropped, or fight for an appeal.

How Do DUI/DWI Convictions Affect a Person?

How Do DUI/DWI Convictions Affect a Person?

It should come as no surprise that these convictions can seriously disrupt a person's way of living long-term. There is a stigma surrounding drunk driving and those who have a record for it- even if it was one offense early in life.

The consequences can follow a person for a very long time.

License Suspension or Removal

Depending on the state, a DUI affects the ability to legally drive. The driver's license may be temporarily revoked. They could even have it removed permanently if the person is convicted twice or more and somebody gets injured in the process.

There are different points systems from state to state, but everywhere applies some variation of a penalty on the license.

Employment Difficulties

Having a DWI stay on the record forever can make it very difficult to find gainful employment. Any criminal conviction makes it harder to find work in the USA. There is a certain feeling that comes with reckless driving and the endangerment of others on the road.

Increased Car Insurance Rates

Car insurance companies massively inflate their rates once somebody has a DWI conviction. The cost of insuring a car can become astronomically high- prohibitively so for some people.

Criminal Penalties

Punishment for this type of crime includes fines, community supervision, community service, rehabilitation, and a possible jail sentence.

Do You Want the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Texas on Your Case? Call Sparks Law Firm Today for a Free Consultation

Contact Sparks Law Firm now for a free consultation to discuss your situation and make a plan of action. Our free DWI case evaluation includes advice on the likely outcome, the best course of action to pursue, and a walk-through of the proposed attack.

Our attorneys are the best and brightest in Texas criminal defense law and have years of experience working with DUI and DWI cases. Do not leave your entire future in fate's hands: speak to our experts today and let us help you find a way through.


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