Post-Conviction Relief - California DUI Law and Legal Information
California drivers convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) believe that once an offense is on a driver's record, nothing can be done. However, some convictions can be removed from an individual's criminal record through a process known as post-conviction relief. A California criminal defense attorney with experience obtaining post-conviction relief will review a driver's record to determine whether it can be cleared.
Whether relief is an option depends on the conviction and the punishment received. In California, criminal offenses are categorized in one of three ways:
- Felonies, which are punishable by a year or more in state prison;
- Misdemeanors, which are punishable by up to a year in county jail;
- and "Wobblers" - offenses that can be charged either way, but are typically pursued as felonies;
If the driver is still on probation for the California DUI offense, post-conviction relief is generally not an option. However, an experienced California criminal defense lawyer skilled in post-conviction relief will petition the court to end probation early so that a convicted DUI driver can explore available avenues of legal relief.
Before the process of post-conviction relief can begin, the court must establish that the discharge of probation is warranted by the driver's good conduct and reform, and that the interests of justice would be served by early termination. The driver's attorney must request a modification of probation to the court in which the original conviction took place. All fines and restitution must be paid in full before the court will consider granting early termination of probation.
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Once a driver's probation has been terminated, the criminal defense attorney can request that the court reduce certain felonies to misdemeanors. The only felonies eligible for reduction are "wobblers". If the court approves the request, the conviction will be treated as a misdemeanor in nearly all respects. However, the original charge will still count as a felony in any subsequent criminal action, meaning that if the individual is arrested for a similar crime in the future, the punishment for the second crime will be greater. In addition, individuals whose felonies are reduced to misdemeanors are still restricted in their rights to possess firearms, because federal gun statutes supersede state laws.
State of California also allows the expungement of both misdemeanors and felonies. Expungement is only an option for certain convictions, and the availability depends on whether the original crime was committed by a juvenile or an adult; whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or a felony; whether probation was granted; and whether a term in state prison was mandated.
Clearing criminal records can open doors to employment, professional licenses, and housing, and help to resolve past issues. A California criminal defense attorney skilled at obtaining post-conviction relief can review each individual conviction to establish whether reduction to a misdemeanor or expungement is possible.