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How will this DWI charge effect my professional license?

This is one of the most common questions we receive during an initial consultation for a DWI/DUI charge. Most people work tirelessly and spend thousands of dollars on education…all to watch it potentially be ruined by one misstep.

IMG 5336 1 - Effect of Professional Licenses, DWI, and Disciplinary Action

DWI Lawyer. Chris Brown Law.

Everyone knows that a DWI conviction has serious consequences, including jail time, fines, driver’s license suspensions, but for some it can cost them their job and/or their professional license.

Why a DWI May Threaten Your Professional License

All licensing boards, state-sponsored or otherwise, view their license as an authoritative matter of public trust. Therefore, they view a DWI as violation of that trust and require action to be taken against offenders. This action can range from a simple reprimand, all the way to losing your license. For this reason, most professional licensing boards require members to disclose when they have been or arrested or merely charged with a criminal offense. In addition, the your employer likely has other venues to find out about such arrests, such as access to your New York State driver’s license.

Which Professional Licenses May Be Jeopardized by DWI?

Almost any professional licensing board may take disciplinary action over a DWI conviction—but especially when public trust is at risk. Examples of credentialed and licensed professionals who may be subject to discipline include:

• Doctors
• Dentists
• Lawyers
• Pharmacists
• Real estate brokers
• Airline pilots
• Teachers
• TSA agents
• Accountants
• Securities brokers
• Locksmiths
• Law enforcement

For our purposes, let’s examine just a few of these professions and how they may be affected based on California law.

Physicians

New York State has what is called an Office of Professional Medical conduct. This Office is entrusted to review and reprimand any medical professional that allegedly violates the law. Medical professionals are held to a very high standard and punishment is always taken in the event of a DWI conviction.

Each case is analyzed separately and distinctly, but a simple DWI conviction will certainly land a medical professional on disciplinary probation, fines, and alcohol treatment. Additional violations or violations with aggravating circumstances can certainly be career ending.

In this specific case, “State Acts Against Physician after DWI”  a well known physician in Rochester, NY was convicted of a second DWI and place on a period of 6 years probation. In this specific case, the Physician is was placed on probationary supervision for six years which including sobriety monitoring and urine screening.

That said, a doctor convicted of DWI doesn’t automatically have his license revoked. Historically, the Medical Board of New York has taken a variety of disciplinary actions depending on the circumstances, ranging from public letters of reprimand to specific restrictions of practice, suspensions or revocation of license.

Nurses

Nurses are held to a similar standard of accountability as doctors in the State of New York.While a conviction for a misdemeanor of DUI or DWI is not necessarily automatic grounds for suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, it can be grounds for revocation or at least a voluntary suspension and participation in their substance abuse program. You must report the conviction to the Office of Professions for them to determine the appropriate sanctions can be imposed as it can be considered serious professional misconduct.

The Office of the Professions (OP) of the State Education Department will have to review the conviction and make a decision. Under New York State Education Law 6509 (5) (a) (1), any violation of law by a licensed nurse constitutes professional misconduct. For a DWI offense you may face penalties such as censure and reprimand, fines (up to $10,000 for each violation), license suspension and/or a probationary term.

If it is a first offense, generally censure and reprimand and substance abuse counseling is the usual sanction. If drugs were involved and not just alcohol, then likely they will insist on a voluntary surrender of your license and participation in the substance abuse program

Lawyers

The New York State Bar has the authority to discipline attorneys for any criminal conviction as it relates to the practice of law, including DWI, which is considered an ethical breach. Pursuant to authority granted by section 90(2) of the New York Judiciary Law, the courts adopt the rules governing professional conduct and the disciplinary process for dealing with violations. Rule 8.4 proscribes lawyer misconduct adversely reflecting on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer, or engaging in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer.

If an attorney has an alcohol-related criminal conviction, such as driving drunk, the attorney is subject to automatic discipline pursuant to section 90(2) of the Judiciary Law.10 Generally, for a first-time misdemeanor or lesser offense conviction (e.g., Driving While Ability Impaired, a traffic infraction), absent any aggravating circumstances (e.g. accident, resisting arrest, prior alcohol related offense, etc.), the attorney is not likely to lose his/her license and the court will either issue a public censure or refer the matter to the disciplinary committee for the imposition of a private sanction. In appropriate cases, the attorney may be referred for monitoring, if he/she is not already working with a lawyer assistance program.

In misdemeanor cases where there are aggravating circumstances, the court may impose a period of suspension. In appropriate cases, monitoring may be ordered or made a condition of reinstatement.

For conviction of a felony, the attorney ceases to be an attorney by operation of law at the moment of plea or verdict. In such cases the disciplinary committee will move to strike the name of the attorney from the rolls, a ministerial act confirming the earlier fact of automatic disbarment.

Real Estate Agents

While a DWI conviction may not be directly related to the responsibilities and functions of a real estate agent, New York State may consider it a breach of trust. The NYS Board of Licensing Services may specifically take disciplinary action against a member if a felony is involved, and agents are required by law to self-report a conviction to the board. Disciplinary actions may include suspending or revoking the real estate license, or possibly denying a renewal application.

If You Are a Licensed Professional Charged with DWI…

If a DWI conviction could result in disciplinary action from your licensing board, your best course of action is to take responsibility as soon as possible. In many cases, you do not need to self-report unless you are actually convicted of a crime, but in nearly all cases you should seek representation from a qualified attorney before filing a report.

If you have been charged with a DWI in New York State call Chris Brown Law today to start discussing your options.