How Long Will a California DUI Count as a Prior Conviction?

When it comes to criminal convictions, a person’s “criminal history” can have a huge impact on their sentencing and penalties. So, what about California driving under the influence (DUI) convictions? Do the penalties increase with each subsequent conviction? Typically, yes, but it has to do with the “age” of the previous convictions. After a certain length of time, a previous DUI no longer affects the sentencing and penalties of a subsequent DUI.

DUI convictions stay on a person’s criminal record indefinitely. However, they only stay on a Department of Motor Vehicle’s record for 10 years. After a DUI is 10-years-old, it falls of the DMV record and no longer counts against the driver for insurance purposes.

Now let’s address the issue of DUI convictions counting for the purposes of enhanced penalties with subsequent DUI convictions: While DUIs stay on your criminal record indefinitely (they don’t automatically fall off the way they do with the DMV), they do NOT count against you forever. This is because California DUIs have what is called a “washout or lookback period.”


Like some other states, in California, DUIs wash out after so many years. Meaning, a DUI that has washed out does not count as a prior DUI if the driver is later arrested for a second or third DUI offense. Across the country, DUIs typically wash out after 5 to 10 years. In California, a DUI washes out after 10 years.

Example: Jennifer had two DUI convictions within 15 years. After her second DUI turned 10-years-old, she was re-arrested for DUI for the third time in her life. However, since her second DUI was over 10-years-old, her third DUI would count as her first because the other two “expired” for sentencing purposes.

Some states don’t have a lookback or washout period for DUI convictions, but California does. In those states, all prior DUIs count regardless if they are 2 or 20 years old.

Related: Lookback Period for a California DUI

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