We all know that it is dangerous to drive while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Even so, there may be occasions when we think that we are fine to drive after having a few drinks – only to later realize that we probably should have taken an Uber. In some situations, this may even result in a driving under the influence (DUI) charge.
If you are a doctor, nurse, or another medical professional, a DUI conviction could affect your professional license. Specifically, if you use drugs or alcohol in a way that is considered dangerous to yourself or to others, it could be grounds for disciplinary action from your licensing board. A proactive approach can minimize any potential negative impact of a DUI conviction on your medical license.
At the Law Office of Nicole Irmer, we represent medical professionals facing investigations, disciplinary actions, and other licensing issues. For each case, we develop a comprehensive strategy to determine the best way to address the underlying issue and reduce the likelihood of probation, suspension, or revocation. Reach out today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.
The practice of medicine in California is governed by the Business and Professions Code (BPC). Under these laws, licensing boards have the authority to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct. For example, the BPC specifically states that a conviction for any offense “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a physician and surgeon” constitutes unprofessional conduct.
While a DUI conviction may not seem to be related to the practice of medicine, the Board has determined that it is. The Medical Board of California (MBC) specifically states that even a conviction for a crime that does not appear to be substantially related to the qualifications of a physician – such as reckless driving or DUI – may still be relevant. As such, even a single DUI conviction could result in action against a medical, nursing, dental, or another medical license.
The reason why is straightforward: if a doctor, nurse, chiropractor, dentist, or other medical professional is convicted of driving under the influence, it may indicate that they have a substance abuse issue or at the very least partook in conduct that is unbecoming of a doctor. That is why getting a DUI – even a first-offense misdemeanor charge – will likely result in board action.
Of course, not every DUI charge means that a medical professional has a drug or alcohol problem. It could be something as simple as misjudging how a few drinks at a party affected their ability to drive. The key is to prove to your licensing board that this situation was an aberration – and provide mitigating and rehabilitating evidence to demonstrate why the Board can be assured that it will never happen again.
Generally, if you are convicted of a criminal offense, you will be required to report it to your licensing board. While medical professionals are no longer under an affirmative duty to report convictions on the application for a license, although in some instances it may be wise to do so, you will typically have to report the filing of an indictment or information for a felony offense or a conviction of a misdemeanor offense to your board. Failure to report in accordance with your board’s requirements could lead to a separate disciplinary action.
Self-reporting, even on an application, is an important step, as it allows you to work with your professionally licensed defense attorney to develop a plan for handling the matter. In this situation, the goal is to demonstrate that you do not have a substance abuse issue that affects your ability to hold a medical license. At the same time, you should take action to show that you are addressing any issues that may have led to the DUI conviction.
For example, if you have been charged with or convicted of a DUI, then your attorney may advise you to take courses on substance abuse in the medical profession, how to handle stress, and related classes. At the same time, you can start therapy to show that you are working on any underlying causes that may have contributed to your decision to drink and drive.
These steps can be used to prove mitigating factors: that you made a mistake, but are working to address it. You may also obtain documentation to show abstinence from alcohol, submit to a forensic evaluation, and seek evidence of rehabilitation and excellence in your field. By taking these steps on your own – without being ordered to do so by your licensing board – you may reduce disciplinary action.
Disciplinary action can have a significant negative impact on a licensee. Any formal disciplinary action – including a reprimand – is indefinitely publicly available through the Breeze system. Depending on the severity of the matter, it may even result in a suspension or revocation of your medical license. If you can show that you accept responsibility for what occurred and that you are working to rehabilitate yourself, it increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Of course, it may not be possible to avoid disciplinary action entirely, particularly if you were convicted of a felony DUI or have a history of issues related to substance abuse. Similarly, if you were charged with a DUI involving a high blood alcohol content (BAC) or were involved in an accident, it may result in disciplinary action. Nevertheless, being proactive and working to rehabilitate yourself now – instead of waiting until your licensing board commands you to do so – can help you maintain some level of control over the process. It may also lead to less serious disciplinary action, such as reprimand or probation.
No matter your situation, it is important to develop a strategy to report the conviction and minimize any potential impact on your license. A skilled healthcare license defense attorney with experience in DUI defense and licensing matters can help you with the process.
Being charged with a DUI can be very embarrassing and stressful. If you hold a medical license, the potential consequences may be significantly higher – affecting not just your driver’s license or your auto insurance rates, but your ability to continue working in your chosen profession. Our law firm will advocate for you and work hard to protect your rights.
Based in San Diego, the Law Office of Nicole Irmer represents healthcare professionals throughout California who are dealing with licensing issues, disciplinary actions, and more. With more than 20 years of experience in both DUI defense and professional licensing, Nicole has the knowledge and compassion to help you achieve the best possible outcome. To schedule a consultation, call us at (619) 237-6130 or contact us online.