Can a Professional License Be Affected by a DUI in California?

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Many professional licenses can be affected by a driving under the influence (DUI) charge in the state of California, sometimes resulting in license suspension or revocation. An individual accused of committing a DUI should check the California Business and Professions Code section that concerns their particular license. They should then determine how to disclose a DUI arrest and/or DUI conviction to the appropriate licensing board or entity. The individual can hire an attorney to help them through this process.

Should a DUI Attorney Be Retained?

Only a DUI attorney with experience in disclosing a DUI to the appropriate licensing board is a good candidate. The defense attorney needs to know the ins and outs of the California Business and Professions Code and applicable administrative laws regarding the individual’s professional license. Many DUI attorneys are only familiar with how to provide a criminal defense to an individual accused of a DUI in criminal court.

As an example, the Medical Board of California provides that a conviction for a single DUI can affect a medical professional's license to practice medicine. Yet the Board also states that no two situations are the same. There is no one answer as to the disciplinary action a physician convicted of a DUI could face.

One thing the Board states clearly is that the physician must report a criminal conviction. If they do not, the failure to report is treated as a public offense. The law carries the penalty of a fine not to exceed $5,000.

What About a DUI Arrest in California?

A DUI arrest that does not result in a conviction, and therefore no criminal record, may not need to be reported, depending on the licensing board. The California Board of Registered Nursing provides only an arrest resulting in a DUI conviction must be reported. A professional who is arrested for a DUI and expects to have the case dropped should consult their DUI attorney about what conditions trigger a requirement to report. The conditions may vary among professions.

Do Out-of-State DUIs Count?

A DUI conviction for an out-of-state DUI/DWI must be reported to a California licensing entity, but circumstances determine whether it will treat the offense as severely as it would a California DUI. Some states have DUI/DWI laws that define DUI differently than California does. For example, California Vehicle Code Section 23152 states it is unlawful for a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater to drive a vehicle. Arizona Revised Statutes Section 28-1381 provides it is unlawful for a person to drive if they are under the influence of “intoxicating liquor” and the person is impaired to the slightest degree.

The language “to the slightest degree” could be substantially less than 0.08 percent BAC. An Arizona DUI that involved impairment to the slightest degree might not concern a licensing entity as much as a California DUI that involved a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater.

DUIs and Credentials and Security Clearances

An individual may be required to provide information about a DUI arrest or investigation when applying for or renewing a credential, their professional licensing or security clearance. For example, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing asks in its application for credential authorizing public school service whether the candidate is the subject of any inquiry or investigation by any law enforcement agency or any licensing in California or any other state, and whether any criminal charges are currently pending against the candidate. This means the candidate must state whether they are currently being investigated for a DUI. They must also disclose if they were arrested for a DUI recently, and whether the prosecutor is considering filing a case against them.

The individual would likely not have to disclose that they were arrested for a first DUI three years ago, and that the prosecutor never filed charges. This is because the statute of limitations for a first DUI charged as a misdemeanor is one year, according to California Penal Code Section 802(a), Penal Code Section 19, and Vehicle Code Section 23536. Since the prosecutor did not file a DUI charge against the individual within a year from the date of the individual’s arrest, the time for the prosecutor to bring charges has run out.

Disclosure requirements and circumstances vary greatly. If the individual was charged with a first time DUI, but the incident involved a death or a hit-and-run incident, the prosecutor might charge the DUI as a felony. A felony has a longer statute of limitations than a misdemeanor. Since each case is unique, an individual with questions should consult an attorney for legal advice.