A DUI can haunt you for years or even for life if it remains as a permanent part of your police record. And even just an arrest for a DUI, where you were never convicted of any offense, can also make it a challenge to get a good job, get approved for college enrollment, obtain a professional license in California, or otherwise meet goals to improve your life.
Record Sealing is a means by which a DUI arrest that did not result in a conviction can often be sealed, and ultimately, destroyed. In the vast majority of cases, DUI record sealing will prevent a past DUI from coming up in an employer-run background check.
At the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel, we have deep experience in helping our clients to put a past DUI behind them so it won't be an obstacle in their life going forward.
To learn more about DUI record sealing, expungement, and other related matters in Los Angeles and throughout California, contact the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel 24/7 for a free legal consultation, by calling 818-582-2350!
What Exactly Is "Record Sealing" Under California Law?
There are a number of different processes by which a DUI incident can be put behind you under California law. Record sealing is only one of them and applies in specific situations - where you were arrested for a DUI but never convicted of one.
If you want to deal with a past DUI conviction, you would need to follow the expungement or "record clearing" process instead [see more on record clearing on this website under the service page entitled Record Clearing.]
Also, in many instances, you can get a Certificate of Detention instead of sealing an arrest record - a certificate of detention is a statement from the "arresting" agency that, in fact, you were not "arrested" but only "detained" by police. This type of certificate can often help you get approved for a professional license in California.
Finally, a certificate or rehabilitation or even a governor's pardon (in rarer instances) are also possible paths to pursue.
But arrest record sealing is one of the most common and more easily achievable ways to "erase" a DUI arrest from the public view.
In fact, in 2017, record sealing was made a right rather than a privilege in certain situations, including:
- For those arrested but never charged - IF the statute of limitations has expired for that offense. The statute is usually one year from the arrest date for a DUI (if a misdemeanor), but it can be 2 years or more for very aggravated DUI offenses.
- You were arrested and charged, but the case was then dismissed - and dismissed in such a way that re-filing against you would be illegal.
- You were arrested an charged, but then acquitted in a jury trial.
- You were convicted of a DUI, but that decision was overturned by a court of appeals.
- You completed a diversion or
However, if you have 2 or more DUI conviction or 5 or more DUI arrests in a three-year period, it is said to constitute a "pattern" and you then cannot get your DUI record sealed as a matter of right - though, it may still be possible to get is sealed by arguing to the court it's in the "interest of justice" to seal it.
Those with a "pattern" can argue use evidence of lack of any other previous or subsequent criminal arrests/convictions, mitigating circumstances in regard to the arrest, testimony of the defendant's good character in general, or demonstration of undue hardship caused by the DUI arrest record, in the pursuit of getting a DUI arrest record sealed "in the interest of justice."
Otherwise, one would need to produce evidence to secure a "factual finding of innocence" in regard to the DUI incident.
What Arrest Record Sealing Can and Cannot Do
Once your petition for record sealing is granted, the record of your arrest will no longer be in the public domain. That means there will be very few ways that anyone can ever legally look at it. It won't come up on employer's background checks and you don't have to say "yes" if asked if you were ever arrested for a DUI in California.
However, there are a couple situations in which you have to admit the arrest:
- If applying for a state-issued professional license. (This is why seeking a certificate of detention may be the way to go if your concern is simply getting approved for a professional license.)
- If applying for a law enforcement or other public position or if applying for a state lotto worker job.
Also, getting a DUI arrest record sealed cannot restore firearm rights or the right to run for public office. Nor can it restore a suspended license. And an arrest for DUI can still be used as evidence in a future trial if you're again arrested (and charged) for DUI.
How Do I Petition for "Factual Innocence?"
If you don't qualify for getting your arrest record sealed as a matter of right, then the next path to pursue is to seek a certificate of factual innocence.
A petition for factual innocence (PFI) can potentially be granted by the court for any arrest that did not lead to a conviction. If a PFI is granted, then the presiding judge will issue a court order to have both arrest and prosecution records for the relevant DUI case sealed for three years - and then, they will be destroyed.
The arrest will be treated as if it had never happened. Literally all fingerprints, photos, and paper records related to the incident - and even the petition for factual innocence paperwork itself - will all be sealed and destroyed in 3 years.
Also, the arresting agency or court will issue a positive statement of factual innocence to you, letting you know your arrest record has been sealed. This statement says you are found innocent and is stronger than even an acquittal, which only says the prosecution couldn't meet the burden of proof for a conviction.
A petition of factual innocence requires a high burden of proof, and the burden is on the petitioner to meet this burden. It must be shown that "no reasonable cause" exists to think that the petitioner was truly guilty of the DUI offense.
The PFI Process
First of all, you have to petition for each individual arrest record you want sealed. So if you have multiple DUI arrests (that did not lead to a conviction) on your record, a separate petition has to be filed - each at the appropriate court, within specific time frames, and with complete and accurate information that fills out the forms as required by law.
Any mistake could hazard failing to get the PFI approved, or at least lead to significant delay. In general, you have to file no earlier than 2 years after the arrest and no later than 3 years and 60 days, due to complex regulations and the fact that law enforcement agencies seldom respond to petitions - and you have to generally petition the arresting agency first.
When you consider the high burden of proof needed, the constricted time frame, and the detailed requirements of the paperwork, it's clear that a good attorney experienced in handling DUI arrest record sealing is essential to ensure the best possible outcome to the process.
However, note that a judge has the discretion to accept a petition even after the 3 year, 60 day mark - but it's not guaranteed.
The court will consider all manner of evidence, even evidence suppressed in any DUI trial that may have occurred and evidence not normally looked at in a jury trial. That's because the burden of proof for a declaration of factual innocence is so high. But once the petitioner meets that burden, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution - if they contest the petition to seal the arrest. They would have to show that good reason existed to believe the defendant guilty at the time of the arrest.
How Long Does It Take?
In general, it takes around 3 months to go through the entire process of getting a DUI arrest record sealed. However, the complexity of the case, rules of local county governments, and how cooperative the arresting agency and presiding judge are, can all affect the duration.
Sometimes, it could take up to a year to get an arrest record sealed, while completing the process in less than 3 months is also possible.
Ross H. Sobel has extensive experience in minimizing the wait for DUI record-clearing.
Contact Us Today for Help!
At the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel, we can help you through the DUI arrest record sealing process step by step. We have helped numerous others in L.A., Southern California, and beyond seal their DUI record, and we can do the same for you!