Michigan DUI - How Long Will it Stay on my Record?

August 12, 2011

Within my Practice as a DUI and Criminal Lawyer, I am often asked by someone facing a DUI how long it will stay on their Record, or if the can come back later and have it Expunged.

The bad news is that a DUI will stay on a person's Record forever, and it can NEVER "come off."

eraser1x.jpgA DUI, technically called an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) is both a Criminal and Traffic Offense. A conviction for a DUI goes on both a person's Driving Record, and their Criminal Record.

Beyond that, a DUI falls under a whole different set of Laws related to a Court's obligation to report certain, specified Offenses to the Secretary of State. Part of those Laws is a provision that Criminal Traffic Offenses CANNOT be Expunged, ever. And this applies equally to any Criminal Traffic Offense, not just DUI's.

Moreover, the Law forbids the Court from taking a DUI "under advisement," or otherwise "deferring" it. This is often the answer I have to give someone who asks about the possibility of having the charge somehow deferred for a given period of time, and if they do everything they're supposed to do, having the whole thing dismissed, or reduced to a non-alcohol-related Offense.

In short, it cannot be done, except in those cases where there is a critical and substantial defect in the evidence. And those situations are few and far between.

Under Michigan Law, as revised a few years ago, any combination of 3 alcohol-related Traffic Offenses within a person's lifetime can result in a Felony charge. This changed the old law, which held that a person need to have 3 alcohol-related Traffic Offenses within 10 years in order for that 3rd Offense to be charged as a Felony. This means a person who had a DUI 32 years ago, and then another 27 years ago, and who is now charged with an alcohol-related Traffic Offense (usually OWI) can be charged with a Felony.

The State reasons, and you really can't disagree, that if DUI's could be expunged, a person could avoid being charged with a 2nd or even 3d (Felony) Offense until they picked up their 3rd or 4th charge, respectively. It's a kind of Free Pass for DUI's that no politician is ever likely to back.

That said, I agree with those who point out that it seems rather unfair that a person can come back to Court 5 years after they're convicted of a very serious crime, like Delivery of Heroin, or Aggravated Assault, or Home Invasion, or even a whole host of Sex Crimes, and have it taken off their Record, while a person who got caught, on one occasion in their lives, after having had a few too many drinks, and is otherwise a hard-working, tax-paying and law-abiding member of society, is left without a remedy. That doesn't seem right.

But, as the saying goes, it is what it is. I wouldn't hold out much hope that DUI's will someday be "Expungable."

If there's any good news here, it's that most people will survive a DUI without much, if any, damage. Except for those who hold a CDL Endorsement, a 1st Offense DUI is not the end of the world. Contrary to the way things might feel at the moment a person is facing such a charge, it will not ruin their life.

But it will not go away, either. In that sense, getting a DUI is more like being branded as opposed to tattooed. There is no way to erase it.