Drunk driving offenses have become much more serious in recent years. There is a social stigma attached to DUIs or DWIs and penalties are increasingly harsh. For Louisiana and Mississippi nurses, getting a DUI can also have a negative impact on their careers. Even though the offense is not job-related, nurses may find their licenses in jeopardy once the DUI is reported to the board of nursing.
According to the Mississippi and Louisiana nursing board’s nursing acts, DUIs must be reported to the board. The main issue is whether the drunk driving arrest is an isolated event or if it indicates a problem with alcohol. My goal, when I represent nurses with DUIs, is to show that the incident was a one time thing and that my client does not have a dependence on alcohol. If the Board considers the nurse to be at risk of an alcohol addiction, it may require evaluation, monitoring for a certain period, and attending a treatment program. There could also be restrictions placed on the nurse’s license. These are of course burdensome conditions that are to be avoided, but the goal is to keep the nurse working.
Depending on several factors, such as whether this is a first DUI, if there are any additional indicators of alcohol addiction, how long ago a previous DUI occurred, if the nurse has sought treatment, and so on – there may be no penalty at all or there could be serious repercussions including the loss of the professional license.
First Drunk Driving Offense
If this is a first DUI and there are no previous issues with controlled substances, you will not likely face anything permanent or severe. There is a chance that the board will require a drug/alcohol evaluation, and depending on the results of that evaluation, there may be additional requirements.
Second or Multiple Offenses
If you have had previous DUIs, then there will need to be a more proactive defense. The board will be concerned that that two or more DUIs indicates an addiction to alcohol. An evaluation, treatment options, and ongoing monitoring are likely. Restrictions on the license and loss of the license altogether are possible. If the DUIs happened in the past and you are looking to apply for a nursing license, then it is best to be prepared. We will want to show that the nurse has sought treatment and no longer has an issue with alcohol.
You Need a Nursing and a Criminal Attorney
I happen to be both a criminal defense attorney and a nurse attorney, so I could handle both issues. But if you have retained a criminal attorney who is not familiar working with nursing boards, you will be better off hiring an experienced nurse attorney to represent your interests in front of the board. When entering pleas and giving statements in criminal court, you will need to think about how your statements could possibly impact your career. This is why a lawyer who is experienced representing nurses is a vital part of your defense team.
Nurses are understandably wary of disclosing DUIs or other alcohol-related problems to their employers or to the board of nursing. However, failure to disclose can compound the problem. An experienced nurse attorney can help you fulfill the reporting requirements for your specific situation. If the DUI violation occurred in another state, you still need to report the incident to the board of nursing in your state. If you have an active license in another state, even if you are not practicing there, you will need to report the DUI to that state also. Pleading no contest or nolo contendre to the charge is still considered a conviction, even if you subsequently enter a diversion program, and the DUI will need to be reported.
Getting even a single DUI can have very real negative consequences for your career as a nurse. It is best to be prudent and prepared as you go through the defense process. Hiring an attorney to help you navigate the criminal courts and BON disciplinary procedures can ease your stress and hopefully preserve your professional license and livelihood.