Nurse Arrested for a California DUI?
You May Have More to Worry About Than a Fine and Jail Time
Being arrested and convicted of driving under the influence in California can have devastating consequences. Furthermore, DUI convictions could impact your career if you have a professional license. The first step in protecting your nursing license is to contact an experienced Southern California DUI attorney for a free consultation. A DUI defense lawyer can present a solid defense to the DUI charges to help you avoid damaging your nursing career.
What Happens if A Nurse Gets A DUI In California?
A DUI can be a life-changing event; but the stakes are even higher for licensed professionals such as nurses. First, California Registered Nurses face the same DUI penalties as other individuals, including minimum jail time. They can be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving with a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) above the legal limit under California Vehicle Code §23152.
However, in addition to a DMV hearing, jail time, and criminal charges, a registered nurse (“RN”) faces investigation and disciplinary action by the California Board of Registered Nursing (“BRN”).
What Are My Affirmative Disclosure Requirements?
Affirmative disclosure requirements state that a registered nurse must report criminal convictions to the licensing board within 30 days of the date of the court action. The requirement applies whether the nurse pleads guilty to DUI charges, enters a plea of no contest, or is found guilty after a DUI trial. Nurses must also report DUI expungements to the BRN.
Nurses must also report any criminal convictions when they renew their RN license. Being convicted of a crime could result in a longer process when renewing your nursing license, so you should allow for extra time to receive a license renewal. You should also disclose whether your driver’s license was suspended or revoked because of the DUI arrest or conviction.
Do I Have to Report a DUI to the BRN?
A DUI is a criminal charge, even though the law is codified in the California Vehicle Code. The California Vehicle Code specifically states that it is “unlawful” for a person to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Therefore, the affirmative disclosure requirements would apply because you have been arrested for a crime.
RNs should understand that the drunk driving arrest is reported to the Nursing Board by the Department of Justice. The BNR looks unfavorably on nurses who do not self-report immediately. In many cases, a nurse may get into more trouble because of a failure to disclose or report a DUI. First-time DUI offenses might not be as damaging as trying to hide that you were arrested for driving under the influence.
How Does a DUI Affect Your Nursing License?
The BRN investigates all instances of behavior by RNs that could endanger the safety of other people, including instances of drinking and driving. The effect on your RN license depends on several factors, including the facts and circumstances of the DUI case. A conviction for felony DUI or DUI with aggravating factors could lead to a suspension or revocation of your nursing license in addition to substantial jail time.
How Does the Nursing Board Handle a DUI Conviction?
It depends on the charges. You are not required to report a misdemeanor DUI arrest, but the Justice Department generally notifies the BRN after your arrest. The BRN investigates the severity of the charges to decide whether it should take disciplinary action against your nurse’s license.
During the investigation, the Board of Registered Nursing determines whether discipline is required and the type of discipline by the regulations in the Nurse Practice Act (“NPA”). Even if the DUI occurred when a registered nurse was not on duty, the BRN considers a drunk driving conviction unprofessional conduct.
The law gives the BRN the authority to discipline a nurse for unprofessional conduct, including revoking or suspending the RN license. The Board considers the facts and circumstances surrounding the DUI and the nurse’s history to determine the appropriate disciplinary action.
How Can My License Be Affected?
Your license could be suspended or revoked for a DUI conviction. However, misdemeanor first-time DUI convictions with no aggravating factors generally will not result in losing your nursing license. However, failing to report the drunk driving conviction could result in harsher penalties than if you had reported the criminal charges and faced the consequence head-on with the help of a Southern California DUI attorney.
Factors to Consider When Defending a DUI Against the BRN
The Disciplinary Guidelines outline the criteria that the BRN considers before imposing any discipline for DUI convictions. The factors include:
- The severity and nature of the nurse’s conduct;
- The nurse’s criminal record and history;
- The actions taken since the DUI offense and the time period of those actions;
- How the nurse performed on criminal probation; and
- Whether the nurse has been granted a DUI expungement under California Penal Code 1203.4.
A first-time misdemeanor for impaired-driving convictions for a nurse typically results in a citation and a fine. However, the BRN does not place any restrictions on the nursing license. It is important to note that the citation can become a part of the nurse’s permanent record for three years, which the BNR may disclose to the public upon request.
Protect Your Nursing License
You can object to a citation or disciplinary action regarding your nurse’s license. You have the right to an administrative hearing. If convicted of DUI as a nurse, seek legal advice regarding your options for protecting your nursing license. Experienced DUI Attorneys such as the attorneys at the Law Offices of Taylor and Taylor can help to advocate for your rights.
Can You Be a Nurse with a DUI in California?
Yes, you can be a nurse with a DUI on your record in California.
However, suppose you have a prior DUI conviction, and you are convicted of a second DUI. In that case, the Nursing Board may suspend or revoke your nurse’s license because your conduct establishes a pattern of unprofessional behavior with a second DUI conviction. In addition, repeat DUI offenders could indicate a substance abuse problem.
What Are the Punishments for DUI in California?
The penalties for a nurse convicted of drunk driving in California may include:
- Suspended driver’s license;
- Jail time;
- Fines and assessments;
- DUI school;
- Three to five years of DUI probation;
- Community service;
- Installation of an ignition interlock device; and
- Attendance at DUI programs, including MADDs Victim Impact Panel and the Hospital and Morgue Program.
DUIs count as prior offenses in California. The penalties become more severe if you are convicted of DUI again within ten years. Each subsequent conviction increases the penalties and mandatory jail time. A fourth DUI is a felony DUI charge. Aggravating circumstances can also result in a felony conviction and enhanced sentences.
In addition to the criminal penalties, a nurse also faces an administrative license suspension (“ALS”) from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Do You Go to Jail for DUI in California?
In many California counties, judges do not sentence first-time non-aggravated misdemeanor DUIs to jail time. However, there are instances in which you must serve mandatory jail time. Additionally, sentencing requirements and guidelines may differ from county to county. A California DUI defense attorney can develop a defense strategy to help you avoid jail time for a drunk driving conviction.
Vigorous Defense Against DUI Charges Can Be Crucial to Your Career
A nurse accused of drunk driving should contact a DUI attorney immediately to discuss their defense options. Depending on the facts of your case, potential DUI defenses include:
- The police officers lacked probable cause for an arrest;
- You were not driving the vehicle;
- Your BAC level does not indicate impairment;
- Rising alcohol levels or residual mouth alcohol caused the high BAC level;
- You have a health condition that caused a falsely high BAC level;
- Mistakes and errors during the collection, testing, and storing of blood samples caused an inaccurate chemical test result (i.e., violations of Title 17 regulations);
- You were arrested at an illegal DUI checkpoint;
- Environmental factors negatively impacted the results of field sobriety tests (FSTs) or chemical tests; and
- The prosecution failed to prove alcohol or drugs impaired your driving ability.
The sooner a DUI attorney begins investigating your case, the better prepared you are to defend yourself in court. Waiting to hire a lawyer for a DUI case could put you at a disadvantage in court.
You Have 10 Days to Protect Your License
After a DUI arrest in California, the police officer gives you a Notice of Suspension. The notice allows you to drive for 30 days. However, it also informs you that you have 10 days to request a DMV hearing, or the DMV automatically suspends your driver’s license.
A DMV administrative license suspension (“ALS”) hearing is separate from a criminal proceeding. The DMV can suspend your driving privileges after a DUI arrest if your BAC exceeds the legal limit or you refuse to take a chemical test. The ALS stands regardless of the outcome of your criminal case.
The Types of Discipline the BRN May Impose
Potential consequences for a nurse convicted of DUI include:
- Letter of Public Reprimand – A formal written warning that remains in place for three years but does not restrict your license;
- Probation – The BRN may impose probation that includes specific requirements, such as random drug and/or alcohol testing. The probation typically lasts for two years; and
- License Suspension or Revocation – The Nursing Board may suspend or revoke an RN license for serious cases. You might be required to enter a diversion or rehabilitation program before the Nursing Board considers an application for reinstatement of your nurse’s license.
Nurses arrested for DUI need a vigorous and aggressive DUI defense. You should immediately contact a Los Angeles DUI lawyer to discuss options for fighting drunk driving charges.
Seven Most Frequently Asked Questions from California Nurses with A Recent DUI Arrest
As a nurse, we realize you have many questions about a DUI arrest and conviction. Below are seven common questions our attorneys receive from nurses after a DUI arrest.
1. I Am an RN Who Just Got Arrested for a DUI. What Should I Do to Best Protect My California Register Nursing License?
The best step you can take is to contact a California DUI defense lawyer. A DUI lawyer understands the consequences of a conviction for a nurse. Therefore, a lawyer can provide an aggressive defense to the criminal DUI charges to give you the best chance of winning your DUI case to protect your nurse’s license.
2. I Am an RN Who Just Got Arrested For a DUI. When Do I Need to Tell The BRN? When Do I Need to Tell My Employer?
You do not have to tell your employer or anyone else about a DUI arrest, including the BRN. However, you must notify the BRN if you are convicted or plead guilty or no contest to a DUI charge. You should also be aware that the Justice Department notifies the BRN of the DUI arrest.
3. How Should I Tell the BRN About the DUI?
Because properly and timely disclosing a DUI conviction can help reduce the chance of losing your nurse’s license, it is wise to consult a California DUI Attorney about when and how to tell the BRN about being convicted of a DUI.
4. I Am an RN Who Just Got Arrested for a DUI. When Does the BRN Find Out About It? Does the BRN Notify My Employer About the DUI?
The BRN usually receives the notification of a nurse’s arrest within hours to a day after the arrest. The Department of Justice notifies the BRN of the arrest after officers fingerprint you at the jail. Your employer will not likely find out about the DUI unless the BRN makes a formal accusation, or your employer conducts random licensing audits.
5. I Am an RN Who Just Got Arrested For a DUI. When Does the BRN Contact Me?
You may receive a notification of the BRN’s Diversion Program within a few weeks of your arrest. You should seek legal counsel before accepting any offers of a Rehabilitation or Diversion Program. You might receive notice of a citation and a fine or a formal accusation. In some cases, a BRN investigator may contact you. Because the BRN already knows about the DUI arrest, you must follow the mandatory reporting requirements for criminal convictions.
6. I Am an RN Who Just Got Arrested For a DUI, And I Received a Letter from the BRN Diversion Program. Do I Have to Reply? What Should I Do?
Diversion is voluntary. Therefore, you should only reply if you want to enter the Diversion Program. However, you should seek legal counsel before responding because the Diversion Program may or may not be the best way to handle a DUI with the California Board of Registered Nursing.
7. I Am an RN Who Just Got Arrested For a DUI. What Are the Time Frames That I Can Expect Moving Forward?
Your California DUI defense lawyer will direct the criminal case. If possible, hire a DUI attorney who understands the BRN and RN licenses. Upon conviction, you must notify the BRN. However, while the criminal case is pending, you have time to build your case to respond to the BRN if it files a formal accusation.
Get Help from a California DUI Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you want to protect your nursing license and avoid the harshest probation requirements imposed by the BRN, contact a California DUI attorney for a free consultation.
Talk To A DUI Defense Attorney
As mentioned above, an experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.
Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our recent article about whether or not a DUI charge could lead to termination of employment, and other related articles on our blog, which is updated regularly!