A conviction for California Vehicle Code 23152 VC driving under the influence (DUI) can carry more than just legal ramifications; it can also profoundly impact your life and career.
In California, a DUI offense can threaten your professional standing and livelihood if you hold a license regulated by a state board. The severity of this impact cannot be overstated, as it can result in the suspension, revocation, or imposition of restrictions on a professional license.
If you have recently been arrested and charged with DUI, it is possible your professional license could be in jeopardy. Depending on your industry, if licensing, certification, or other qualifications are required, a simple arrest could suspend or revoke your right to continue practicing or earning a living.
Some assume that their professional license will not be at risk if not found guilty of a DUI, but sometimes even an arrest for suspicion of DUI is grounds for the licensing Board to take action.
After a DUI arrest, the licensing Board could consider the arrest “unprofessional conduct,” which might be enough to suspend your license until an investigation has been completed. Notably, there are several factors taken into consideration when determining exactly how to move forward, such as the following:
- If you have prior DUI convictions on your record;
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level when arrested;
- If your DUI caused an accident with injuries or property damage;
- If you were under the influence of any other type of controlled substance, such as marijuana or controlled substances;
- If there was a child in the car when arrested for DUI;
- If there was a firearm involved.
Notably, even if you are acquitted, being accused of drunk driving can damage your reputation and career and be passed over for a job promotion.
Why Does State Licensing Boards Care About DUI?
In California, the various state licensing boards exist to ensure that their licensed professionals maintain high standards of conduct in both their professional and personal lives.
These boards have a fundamental obligation to protect the public and uphold the integrity of their respective professions. A criminal conviction of any kind (including DUI) often represents a significant violation of these standards for several reasons:
- A "crime of moral turpitude." DUI is considered a moral violation because choosing to drive impaired puts innocent people at risk.
- Questionable judgment. A DUI, in particular, can raise serious questions about an individual's judgment, reliability, and personal conduct—all critical factors in many licensed professions.
- Concerns about addiction. A DUI conviction may indicate potential risks related to substance abuse (drug addiction), further intensifying concerns about public safety and professional accountability.
If you are convicted of a DUI, the state licensing Board will discover your alleged unprofessional conduct. You will likely face a suspension or revocation with a DUI conviction.
Depending on your career field, on a first-time DUI conviction, the licensing board might be willing to consider rehabilitative measures, such as completing an alcohol or drug treatment program instead of license revocation.
Which Licensed Professions Are Most at Risk from a DUI Conviction?
Every licensing board has specific criteria for how certain criminal convictions might impact a licensee's credibility and performance.
However, most state licensing boards take DUI fairly seriously and often reserve the right to impose disciplinary actions. Licensed professionals that could be at risk for losing their license over a DUI include, but are not limited to:
- Mental health professionals;
- Real estate agents;
- Insurance agents;
- Civil engineers;
Professional Licensing Discipline: Misdemeanors vs. Felonies
While any DUI conviction can result in disciplinary action against one's license, professional licensing boards usually differentiate between misdemeanor and felony DUI convictions. In many cases, licensing boards will opt not to discipline licensees over misdemeanor offenses, especially for first-time offenses and if the licensee self-reports the conviction.
Those convicted of a DUI felony, however, are more likely to face disciplinary action. Sometimes, they may even face a temporary immediate license suspension pending a disciplinary hearing.
How Will Your Licensing Board Becomes Aware of Your DUI?
Professional licensing boards in California may get word of your DUI conviction through one of several means:
- Self-reporting (preferred). Almost all licensing boards have a stipulation that their licensees must honestly self-report any criminal arrests or convictions, and they may impose disciplinary action on those who fail to do so. Being open and honest in self-reporting to the board is the best option for minimizing the damage to your career from a DUI.
- Notified by the courts. In today's digital age, most courts will automatically transmit information about DUI arrests or convictions to respective licensing boards.
- Background checks. When you apply for a professional license, the board will usually run a criminal background check and likely see any criminal convictions, including DUI.
What Factors Are Considered by Licensing Boards Regarding Disciplinary Actions?
A DUI conviction does not automatically mean you will lose your professional license. Your licensing board will consider a wide range of factors when determining whether discipline is appropriate, and they may opt to impose other lesser sanctions besides suspending or revoking your license.
Factors they may consider include, but are not limited to:
- Severity of the Offense: The nature of the DUI conviction can influence the board's decision. A felony DUI is typically viewed more seriously than a misdemeanor.
- Prior Convictions: A first-time arrest or conviction for DUI may be handled with leniency, but having multiple DUI offenses on your record can reflect poorly on your character and suggest a deeper problem.
- Impact on Professional Performance: The board may evaluate whether the DUI conviction impacts your ability to perform your professional duties responsibly and ethically.
- Rehabilitation Efforts: If you sought treatment or counseling for substance abuse after the DUI conviction, it could mitigate the disciplinary action.
- Honesty and Cooperation: The board might consider how upfront you are about the DUI conviction and whether you have cooperated with the board's investigation.
- Time Elapsed Since Conviction: If it has been several years since your DUI with no further arrests, the board is less likely to impose disciplinary action.
What Are the Potential Disciplinary Actions?
The disciplinary steps taken by licensing boards can range from a formal reprimand to placing conditions on a professional license to outright suspension or revocation.
The severity of the action often depends on the nature of the DUI conviction. For instance, a misdemeanor DUI might result in conditional measures, such as mandatory substance abuse counseling. At the same time, a felony conviction is more likely to result in suspension or loss of license.
The California State Licensing Board might have specific requirements you must meet to avoid losing your professional license. One of the best ways to protect your future is by avoiding a DUI conviction. Contact us to review the case details. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, CA.
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- Can You Pass a DUI Field Sobriety Test?
- Can You Challenge DUI Breathalyzer Results?
- California Department of Real Estate (DRE)
- California Board of Vocational Nursing (BVNPT)
- Contractors State License Board (CSLB)
- California Department of Insurance (CDI)
- Board of Chiropractic Examiners
- California Government Code 11503
- California Government Code 11504
- California Government Code 11506
- California Business and Professions Code 480
- California Business and Professions Code 490