Can A DWI Affect Your Medical License?
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Can A DWI Affect Your Medical License?

Medical Defense

Around the globe, medical professionals are held to the highest professional and ethical standards by the other members of their own profession. That’s the reason why medical licensing boards are established – to enforce those standards. That’s also why, if you are a doctor or a nurse in the state of Texas – or if you hold another professional medical license – you must avoid a conviction for driving while intoxicated. A DWI arrest – by itself – is not necessarily a career-ending event for a medical professional, but a DWI conviction is a genuine threat to your license, your career, and your reputation – if it’s not dealt with properly and immediately.

Generally speaking, after the arrest of a doctor or a nurse for driving while intoxicated in the state of Texas, the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Board of Nursing will conduct their own investigations. The Texas Medical Board and the Texas Board of Nursing will determine if, along with the DWI arrest, a doctor or a nurse also engaged in any unprofessional conduct, endangered a patient’s life, suffers from a drug or alcohol addiction, or is in any way impaired from performing doctoring or nursing duties. A licensing board will then decide if the doctor or nurse should be disciplined or if the medical license should be restricted, suspended, or revoked.

Employers in the state of Texas have the right to terminate employees at will, so medical professionals in Texas – including doctors and nurses – should understand that even if you are not disciplined or penalized by your licensing board regarding a DWI charge, an employer may still choose to discipline or terminate an employee after an arrest or conviction for driving while intoxicated.

WHY IS “TRANSPARENCY” IMPORTANT?

Medical professionals in Texas also need to understand that they must report not only convictions for DWI but also arrests. It doesn’t matter if the prosecutor subsequently drops the charge. Doctors and nurses who are worried about reporting a DWI arrest should know that the licensing boards do not launch an investigation every time that a doctor or a nurse is arrested. However, medical professionals must be honest and “transparent.” Also understand that if a DWI charge is dropped, a licensing board will typically follow a prosecutor’s lead and take no further action. Still, an arrest must be self-reported to your licensing board.

Before making that report – and this is vital – a medical professional facing a DWI charge in Texas must obtain the advice and services of an experienced Dallas medical license defense attorney before taking any other step. The right defense attorney can help you deal with your licensing board and with the courts to help protect your future as a medical professional in the state of Texas. Do not submit any report until you have discussed with your attorney an effective defense strategy to protect your career as a medical professional. Your attorney will help you handle the disciplinary process with the goal of achieving a favorable outcome.

If you are charged with driving under the influence, make no statement to the police unless your attorney is present. Simply – and politely – insist on your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present during any interrogation. Similarly, make no statement to any of your coworkers, colleagues, or to any licensing board without first obtaining an attorney’s advice and recommendations. There’s no need to share your story with colleagues, and you’ll want to collaborate with your attorney before submitting any documents or offering any testimony to a licensing board.

WHAT EVIDENCE WILL A LICENSING BOARD WANT TO SEE IN A DWI CASE?

After a DWI arrest in Texas, and after a consultation with an experienced Dallas medical license defense attorney, a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional may offer the licensing board letters of support from friends, colleagues, and supervisors, along with a personal statement explaining precisely what happened. Medical professionals might also consider submitting to a medical examination to show the licensing board that there is no addiction or substance abuse problem and that the DWI incident was an isolated event, unlikely to happen again.

Most first-time DWI offenders in the state of Texas are charged with a Class B misdemeanor, but even a first offender can be charged with felony DWI if a minor under 15 years old was in the vehicle at the time of the arrest or if another person was injured or killed as a result of driving under the influence. Repeat offenders, however, are much more likely to face a felony charge for driving while intoxicated.

If you are convicted in Texas of a first-offense misdemeanor DWI, jail time could range from 3 days to 180 days, but in most cases, the sentence for a first DWI offense will be probation. Typically, after a Texas DWI conviction, the court will order the offender to complete a DWI education program and a rehab evaluation. Convicted first offenders may also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $2,000 and to perform a number of hours of community service.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER DWI PENALTIES IN TEXAS?

Also in Texas, a convicted first-time DWI offender may expect a driver’s license suspension lasting from 90 to 365 days, and convicted offenders may also expect to pay higher auto insurance premiums. Texas drivers who are convicted of a first DWI offense also are typically ordered – on top of the other penalties – to pay a $1,000 annual fee for three years as part of the Driver Responsibility Program with the Texas Department of Transportation. Failure to pay this fee can result in a driver’s license revocation.

A medical professional in Texas must do everything possible to avoid being charged with driving while intoxicated. If you plan to drive, don’t drink, and if you plan to drink, arrange for your transportation ahead of time. If you are arrested for DWI, despite your precautions, be polite to the officers, but say nothing to incriminate yourself. Even the best Texas lawyer needs some time to prepare an adequate defense on your behalf, so if you are a medical professional and you are charged with driving while intoxicated, you really must contact an experienced medical license defense attorney as quickly as possible.

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