Are You A Medical Professional Charged With A DUI? Read This First

It doesn't always seem fair, but a mistake that happens on your own time and has nothing to do with medicine can put your medical license at risk. Whether you're a doctor, physician's assistant, nurse or some other form of medical professional, a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) isn't just embarrassing and expensive. It also endangers the career you've worked so hard to establish.

Is there anything you can do to minimize the fallout and protect your professional license? This is what you need to know.

What Happens Next Depends on Several Factors

License suspension or restriction isn't automatic if you've been charged with a DUI. You do get the benefit of presenting your case to the board in control of your license. The final outcome usually depends on several different things:

  • Whether this is your first offense or you're a repeat offender
  • Whether or not you have a problem with addiction
  • Whether or not this could damage your relationship with your patients
  • Whether or not the board believes there is a need for monitoring or supervision

No two cases are exactly alike -- and it's the totality of the situation that matters the most (not whether it's just your first offense).

For example, the general physician who gets a DUI on her way home from a dinner party after having two glasses of wine and failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign is less likely to face a serious problem with the licensing board than the pain clinic doctor whose blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit when he caused a serious car accident. Even if both incidents are first offenses, the general physician's situation isn't likely to affect her relationship with her patients. On the other hand, the pain clinic's credibility with his patients as someone who should be directing their use of controlled substances may be badly damaged.

How Reporting and Cooperation Affect Your Case

There are some specific steps you need to take after being charged with a DUI to protect yourself. First, let your DUI attorney know that you're concerned about your professional license. That can affect the strategy of your defense.

Second, report the charges promptly. If you wait until you see how your case turns out to comply with your reporting requirements, that may seem deceptive to the licensing board. You need to show that you understand the serious nature of the charges and recognize the greater social responsibility placed on physicians and other medical providers.

Finally, take your DUI attorney's advice about how to proceed. For example, it's usually in everyone's best interests to aggressively fight a DUI charge because there are many routes toward getting evidence thrown out and the charges dismissed. However, a medical professional has to be conscious of how everything may seem to the licensing board. Getting your charges dismissed based on a technicality might be great -- unless the board is likely to see it a failure to accept personal responsibility for your actions. Again, since no two cases are the same, it's wise to get your attorney's perspective early.