How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Washington State?

Washington state has some of the strictest rules regarding DUI arrests and convictions. A DUI may stay on your record indefinitely in Washington State. If you have been arrested for a DUI, there may be other options available to avoid a conviction. 

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Criminal Record in Washington? 

Under Washington State law, a DUI will stay on your criminal record permanently. This means that a DUI conviction cannot be expunged, vacated, or sealed. 

Expunging a criminal record is a process of deleting the arrest record if the incident did not result in a conviction. Some criminal convictions are eligible to be vacated. Vacating a conviction involves petitioning the court to dismiss the charges after complying with certain court-ordered conditions. Sealing a criminal record consists of deleting or destroying all documentation, exhibits, and other information pertaining to the case. 

Unfortunately, Washington has some of the strictest DUI laws. All criminal records involving alcohol will appear on your criminal record for the rest of your life.  

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Driving Record? 

DUI convictions will stay on your driving record permanently, as well. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense. In addition to the criminal penalties of jail time and steep fines, your license will be suspended. 

According to the Washington State Department of Licensing, a DUI conviction will remain on your driving record indefinitely. Even without a conviction, a DUI charge will appear on your driving record. 

Can I Get a DUI Expunged in Washington?

Washington has very strict laws regarding criminal records. Very few criminal convictions are eligible to be expunged. However, the state does not allow for alcohol-related criminal convictions to be expunged, including DUIs and Physical Control.

In some cases, a King County DUI attorney will negotiate a reduced DUI charge. If a plea agreement was reached, you may be able to expunge the reduced charges. The following are charges an experienced DUI defense lawyer may be able to negotiate on your behalf.

Negligent Driving in the First Degree

Negligent Driving in the First Degree is a misdemeanor under Washington State law. While it is less serious than a DUI, a conviction still has harsh penalties attached. 

A Negligent Driving in the First Degree conviction is punishable by:

  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

There are numerous benefits of reducing a DUI charge to a Negligent Driving charge. First, a negligent driving conviction does not carry the same stigma as a DUI charge. Second, unlike a conviction for driving under the influence, there is no mandatory minimum jail sentence. Third, a Negligent Driving in the First Degree conviction is eligible to be expunged after meeting certain qualifications. 

Reckless Driving Charge

One step down from Negligent Driving in the First Degree is Reckless Driving. The legal definition of reckless driving applies to persons who act without any regard for the safety of others. 

Having a DUI reduced to a Reckless Driving Charge is difficult to obtain. Generally, DUIs are prosecuted harshly. A reckless driving charge has fewer penalties. At the most, a conviction can lead to:

  • Up to 364 days in prison
  • $5,000 in fines

In addition, as long as you do not have any other alcohol or drug-related convictions, a Reckless Driving conviction is eligible to be expunged after a certain period of time. 

How Will a DUI Conviction Impact My Life?

A DUI conviction will seriously impact your reputation and career indefinitely. The immediate consequences of a DUI conviction can involve the following:

  • Steep fines and driver’s license reinstatement fees
  • Mandatory jail time
  • Mandatory participation in a drunk driving education program at your cost
  • Court-mandated community services

In some cases, jail time can be substituted with house arrest or an inpatient drug and alcohol recovery program at the judge’s discretion. Still, the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction can be significant.

Suspended Driver’s License

After a DUI conviction, your driver’s license may be suspended for up to 2 years. This can make it extremely difficult to get to and from work. If you have a CDL license or driving is a requirement for your occupation, you may lose your position. 

Public transportation is available in most major cities. However, in many other areas of Washington, public transportation can be challenging or non-existent. Running errands, picking up children from daycare and playdates, or simply attending social events with friends becomes nearly impossible. Driving is essential.  When you lose that freedom, even a short trip to the grocery store can become a dreaded occasion. 

Criminal Conviction on a Background Check

Background checks have become a major tool used by employers, financial institutions, and housing institutions. When a DUI conviction shows up on a background check, it will be classified as a gross misdemeanor or felony. You may be denied a house or apartment application. Occupations ranging from management positions to entry-level will not hire a candidate with a criminal conviction on their record. In addition, many colleges and universities will turn down applicants with DUI records. 

Employment Prospects and Career Advancement 

A DUI conviction can lead to an inability to find gainful employment. Many higher positions in a company will not promote or hire someone with a criminal record. Even numerous entry-level positions prefer to hire applicants with a clean record.

In addition, your current employment can be affected. Aside from losing any position that requires the ability to drive, your employment will likely be affected by court dates, community service hours, and treatment programs. In addition, very few employers are willing to hold your position while you are in jail or under house arrest. 

High Insurance Premiums

Auto insurance companies charge astronomical premiums for those with a DUI conviction on their record. Insurance companies consider these drivers a high-risk, often doubling or tripling your yearly premium for several years. In extreme cases, an insurance company may terminate your coverage. 

Professional Relationships

A DUI arrest, much less a conviction, has a very distinct stigma. Your professional relationships may be jeopardized. 

A DUI arrest is typically publicized in the paper and on the news. Clients, partners, contractors, and other professionals may feel they cannot continue to do business with someone with a criminal record. Your career and reputation can be permanently affected. If you have your own business, a DUI can cost you your clients and many contracts, putting your livelihood at risk. 

How Long Will a DUI Conviction Show up on a Background Check in Washington State? 

A DUI conviction will show up on a background check forever. However, Washington does have certain provisions that help protect people from discrimination.

For example, employers are prohibited from denying a job applicant due to a DUI conviction unless the charge directly relates to the position being offered. In addition, if the conviction is more than 10 years old, an employer is cannot use the information in the consideration process. 


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