What if a nurse drinks a little too much, decides to drive, and ends up being convicted of DUI? Does she lose her nursing license?
If a licensed nurse is charged with a DUI in the state of California, a Los Angeles DUI attorney can explain this unique set of consequences that nurses face and may affect their nursing license in addition to the standard penalties associated with a DUI. An experienced DUI lawyer in Los Angeles can put their skills to work defending your case while protecting your legal rights.
The Ramifications of a DUI Conviction as a Nurse
If a medical professional is convicted of Driving Under the Influence, it can potentially be a life-changing event. Even a misdemeanor conviction may damage a nurse’s credibility and impact their career for years. On top of criminal charges, Registered Nurses (RNs) are investigated by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) for any reported event, both on and off duty.
The BRN investigates and evaluates the facts associated with the DUI, the RN’s history, and any additional evidence to determine if there were unprofessional conduct. If the behavior is found to be unprofessional, the board will impose disciplinary guidelines under the relevant statutes of the Nursing Practice Act (NPA). The investigation examines whether the arrest was an isolated event or if it signals a larger issue that may create a public safety risk.
Common Questions About Disclosing a DUI to the BRN
After an arrest, RNs are often left reeling, overwhelmed, and not sure of their next move. They may ask themselves similar questions, such as:
- Does a misdemeanor DUI arrest need to be reported? A misdemeanor arrest may not need to be reported, but once fingerprinted, the Department of Justice will notify the BRN. It is more favorable if the RN reports the event.
- Does an RN need to inform their employer? That depends on the employment contract and bylaws concerning disclosure. An RN may find support from employers and coworkers, or supervisors can write letters of support.
- Does a DUI conviction need to be reported to the BRN? A plea of guilty or no contest in criminal court needs to be disclosed to the BRN within 30 days. Even if the charge is eventually dismissed, it still requires disclosure.
- Does a single misdemeanor DUI conviction result in a lost nursing license? Results vary, but if an RN proves to the BRN that the DUI does not and will not affect their abilities to practice as an RN, they can potentially retain their license.
- What actions will the BRN take? After an investigation, the BRN may issue conditional probation or sanctions, suspend or revoke your license, or offer an intervention program.
An intervention program requires committing to a cumbersome process but may potentially allow an RN to avoid more damaging discipline. Other nurses, like a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), have licenses with the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (BVNPT). This board requires any LVN arrested to disclose their charges within 30 days.
Factors Influencing a BRN Decision
During a BRN inquest, the level of discipline stipulated by the guidelines is determined by several factors. The elements considered typically include:
- Conditions surrounding the conduct
- The severity of the conduct
- Resulting criminal record
- Time since the offense occurred
- Actions taken since the offense occurred
- How well the licensee does while on criminal probation
- Any relief that has been granted under the petition
Defining Minor and Major Violations of the NPA
Suppose a nurse is convicted of a non-aggravated first-time DUI conviction, meaning no accident occurred or a low blood alcohol content was detected. In that case, it is considered a minor violation by the NPA. These are usually limited to a citation order and a fine.
In the case of a minor violation, no restrictions are placed on the nurse’s license, but it may be listed on their permanent record and can be publicly disclosed on request for up to three years. RNs can object to the citation and appeal it at an administrative hearing.
If the nurse’s blood alcohol content was high, other substances were found, or an accident was involved, the DUI may be considered aggravated. An aggravated DUI conviction is a major violation of the NPA. In these cases, the Boards of Nursing (BON) may forward notice of the conviction to the Attorney General’s Office, which acts as the BON’s attorney. There, the evidence is reviewed, and a formal accusation is prepared.
Your Timeline in Which to Defend Your License
Once an accusation is filed and served, the nurse will be issued a timeframe to assert their rights and file a notice of defense to protect their license. The process may result in an administrative hearing. Several levels of discipline can come from a BON’s accusation, including:
- A Letter of Public Reprimand or a formal warning
- Stayed Revocation with Probation that may have up to 20 stipulations
- Suspension accompanied by rehabilitation or diversion programs
- License revocation
Hire an Experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney
For anyone convicted of driving under the influence in California, it is a serious matter that could use the consultation of a Los Angeles DUI lawyer. A nurse convicted of DUI faces distinct challenges. These challenges not only damage your reputation but can limit your ability to work or perform a job that you may feel is a calling.
Finding a skilled DUI attorney in Los Angeles is essential to presenting a solid defense to the court and the jury. Protecting your legal rights is crucial with so much on the line. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about your options for protecting your nursing license after a DUI.