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Moving Forward From a Criminal Past: Expungement of a Felony DUI Conviction

At the age of twenty-one, drinking became an all too familiar ritual for him. He was clearly inebriated, yet he grabbed a hold of the steering wheel while his friend entered the passenger side of his car. Now, at age forty, he tries to forget that night, despite the descriptive police report detailing the freeway collision with another vehicle, permanently injuring the other motorist and the passenger in his own car. With a felony DUI conviction on his record, he has since then never committed the same offense or any other crime. He has married, raised two sons, maintained stable employment, owns a home, and has faithfully paid his taxes. He also volunteers his time performing charitable work both at his local church, and at various high schools informing kids about the dangers of drinking and driving. A respectable member of society, he now would like to obtain a real estate license to become a realtor. The Department of Real Estate’s criteria for licensure, however, is expungement of an applicant’s criminal conviction. He not only wants to advance his career, but he also wants to set aside his criminal conviction from public record so it may not be accessible to potential employers who perform a background check.

Pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1203.4, most criminal convictions can be cleared from the records of law-abiding citizens, unless it is a traffic or sex-related crime. An expungement is a legal process by which a guilty plea, “no contest” plea or a finding of guilt by a judge or jury is set aside and the case is dismissed. Expungements only apply to most misdemeanors and some felonies that may be reduced to misdemeanors. For example, drunk driving can have felony status when the driving results in an injury to another party. Where there is “bodily injury” or “substantial bodily harm,” the charge in most states will be what is commonly referred to as “felony drunk driving.” California’s felony drunk driving statute states,

Any person who, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, or under the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and any drug, drives a vehicle and when so doing does any act forbidden by law or neglects any duty imposed by law in the driving of such vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than himself, is guilty of a felony. [California Vehicle Code Section 23153.]

If you were given probation for your felony DUI and you successfully completed the DUI probation, and have shown good moral character, you may be eligible to get the felony DUI reduced to a misdemeanor and then expunged from your criminal record. It must be noted that if you get another DUI conviction within 10 years of a DUI, it will be considered a second offense-despite the first DUI having been expunged.

The expungement procedure involves the filing of a petition with the court of conviction. The petition is then sent to the district attorney and the probation department for review. The probation department then submits a report to the court and the matter is set for a hearing. Once the expungement and/or the motion to reduce is granted, the felony is reduced to a misdemeanor, and the conviction is not sealed or destroyed, but is set-aside, a plea of not-guilty entered and the case dismissed.

It is important to obtain a criminal expungement because a criminal record can inhibit you from obtaining employment opportunities, seeking credit, renting an apartment, voting, and obtaining certain professional licenses (nursing, realtor, medical, etc.) At the Law Offices of Vincent W. Davis & Associates, our attorneys will determine if you are eligible for criminal expungement and if applicable, file a motion with the applicable court to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor. We will then assist you in filing the petition requesting the court to reverse a guilty plea or set aside a guilty verdict. Once the court grants the petition, your criminal record will be cleared and original charges dismissed.

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