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How long is the look-back period for a DUI?

While a DUI conviction, whether it is a first or subsequent offense, will never leave your criminal record in the United States, certain areas have different look-back periods when it comes to a DUI charge. A look-back period is essentially the maximum amount of time between offenses that can legally result in an aggregate charge. The law is designed to identify habitual offenders and punish them accordingly.

What's the average look-back period for a DUI?
The Look-back period for a DUI varies between states, but the minimum amount of time in the United States, in Alabama, Colorado, Florida and some other states, is five years. In Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico and Vermont, there is no look-back period for DUI, and charges aggregate even if offenses are separated by several decades.

The average look-back period is 10 years. Some states, like Ohio, have somewhat complicated look-back laws, and though officially, there is a six year look back period for DUI in the state, several misdemeanors accumulated over a 20 year period can effect the applicability of the six year window.

How is a look-back period determined?
In most cases, the clock begins ticking on a look-back period on the date of your arrest, not the start of your trial or at your conviction. Once you have exceeded the look-back period in the state in which you received your first DUI, any subsequent charge will not count as a second offense.

It's important to note that while charges may not mount if you've exceeded the look-back period, a DUI will remain on your record. A DUI is not automatically removed from your criminal record after 10 years. There are typical expungement processes you can follow to have a DUI removed from your public record, and the rules governing these practices, again, vary between states.

What's the effect of a look-back period?
If you are arrested for a second DUI during the look-back period following your first DUI, you may be charged with a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. A felony charge is more likely to include jail time, and is a much more serious charge. In many states, the felony charge for a second offense DUI is at the discretion of the prosecution, and a third offense almost always results in a felony charge.