The Kansas legislature is pushing forward a new law aimed at allowing those convicted of a DUI the opportunity to have their records expunged in five years, as opposed to the current decade that they must currently wait. The original bill would have reduced that time to three years, but such a law would have fallen outside of current federal guidelines. Federal guidelines require that each state have no shorter than a five year “look back” period for considering prior drunk driving convictions as valid priors and for the convictions to remain on the record in general.
The Federal government cannot force States to follow this rule, but they do limit Federal Highway Fund expenditures to such laws being complied with by the states. The same principle applies to the 21 and over drinking age, and the 0.08% blood Alcohol Level limit in general, failure of the states to follow such guidelines makes them ineligible for Federal Highway Fund expenditures.
Still, a five year “look back” period would be five years shorter than most states, including California. According to Sacramento Criminal Attorney Michael Rehm, the most common “look back” period is ten years. The most recent change moved the “look back” period from seven to ten years. The courts have ruled that these changes in the laws shall be applied retroactively. This means that if you were convicted of a DUI when the law said the “look back” period was seven years, you are still bound by the ten year “look back” period. This construction of the law by courts has drawn scrutiny from defense attorney advocacy groups, as well as Constitutional scholars. However, this retroactive reading by the Courts would seem to benefit those convicted under the ten year “look back” period in Kansas, who now face only the five year period if the bill becomes a law.