Firefighters are seen as friendly heroes in the community. Universally respected, firefighters are the first responders who answer distress calls. They swoop in to help, risking life and limb to keep the public safe. Because of a firefighter’s reputation, they tend to be held to a higher standard and expected to steer clear of any criminal activity.
Firefighters face all the normal state and local consequences associated with being arrested on suspension of Driving Under the Influence. In addition, firefighters with criminal records also risk losing their jobs or their aspirations of becoming firefighters.
If you are a firefighter or applying to the fire department and facing DUI charges, you should reach out to an experienced DUI lawyer in Los Angeles as soon as possible. A skilled Los Angeles DUI attorney knows the ins and outs of California DUI laws. They can use multiple DUI strategies to protect your legal rights and offer a strong defense to pull you out of employment jeopardy.
What Can Disqualify Someone from Being a Firefighter?
If a firefighter or a fire department applicant has a DUI, they may be able to keep their job or follow their ambitions, but there are some considerations to keep in mind. When applying to the fire department, it is essential to be honest and disclose the conviction on the application. They should also understand that the department takes DUI convictions seriously, and they are within their rights to deny the job because of the offense.
Typically, there will be court-ordered requirements to complete before an applicant is considered or a working firefighter can get back to work. After the individual finishes these court requirements, the fire department will review and investigate the case to determine whether they are eligible to become or remain a firefighter.
Usually, any condition that impairs a firefighter’s ability to perform their responsibilities or duties may disqualify them from the application process or cause them to lose their jobs. These impairments may mean purposefully altering their physical abilities or engaging in morally irresponsible behavior, such as:
- DUI conviction
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Failing to report an accident
- Drug abuse
- Repeated traffic violations
In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles immediately suspends someone’s license if their blood alcohol level is above the legal limit when they are arrested. Firefighters are expected to be stable and reasonable. Substance abuse impairs their concentration, physical condition, mood, and reliability.
Even minor criminal activities challenge the fire department’s reputation if an applicant has illegal activity on their record. It is worse if the crimes happen while the fire department employs the person. Repeated traffic violations show a lack of concern for the law, judgment, and professionalism.
Other Disqualifying Factors
Some fire departments have various other disqualifying factors, including:
- Conviction for gambling offenses
- Unstable work history or failure to pay debts
- A dishonorable discharge from any branch of the military
- A serious juvenile record
- A pre-existing medical condition
A firefighter or applicant can be disqualified for physical conditions. These may refer to conditions that require treatment, like abuse of alcohol, narcotics, or steroids. Or they can be illnesses out of a person’s control, such as heart disease and diabetes.
A physical fitness test is administered by every fire department to firefighter applicants. Failing these tests or improperly handling the equipment can temporarily disqualify applicants until they can be retaken. These tests may include:
- Lifting a certain amount of weight
- Climbing a significant distance
- Working with a fire hose or other fire-fighting equipment
Steps to Becoming a Firefighter When You Have a DUI
If a firefighter applicant has been arrested for a DUI or already has a conviction, it can be an uphill climb. They are in a sea of thousands of applicants for the same job. They will need to take responsibility and show remorse and what they have done to improve since the arrest.
A few questions should be considered, including:
- How long ago did the conviction occur? Was it less than a year?
- Was it an aggravated DUI? Did it involve an accident, injuries, or an extremely high blood alcohol level?
- Is this a first-time DUI conviction? Are there multiple similar offenses on their criminal record?
A single DUI that occurred more than five years ago, accompanied by completing all court-ordered requirements, gives the applicant the best chance during the application process.
What if You Were Off-Duty at the Time of the Arrest?
If a firefighter commits a DUI, either on or off duty, it may result in a range of outcomes, from a reprimand to the required completion of DUI classes to termination of their employment. These outcomes depend on certain factors, including:
- The severity of the DUI
- The department’s policies
- Union bylaws
- City and state guidelines and policies
A DUI conviction that results in the suspension of their driver’s license can be extra problematic because, without a legal driving license, it becomes impossible to perform your duties as a firefighter. In addition, a firefighter’s tarnished criminal record and reputation only reflect poorly on the department where they are employed. Repeated offenses or an aggravated DUI will probably mean the loss of a job.
If you have a DUI conviction on your record, your best course of action is to admit it honestly to the department and dedicate yourself to fulfilling any programs, classes, or steps. Diligent commitment to self-improvement can salvage your firefighting career.
Get in Touch with a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Today
DUI convictions are a serious offense, leaving a deep mark on a criminal record. It can follow you and severely affect your ability to pass pre-employment background checks. DUI convictions can also impede getting or keeping a job as a firefighter.
When attorneys have time to examine cases, they can explore potential legal approaches and offer stronger defenses. A skilled DUI attorney in Los Angeles can protect your legal rights and find the best possible resolution for your case.
If you are a firefighter or applicant and have been arrested for DUI, you must contact an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer quickly. Acquiring an attorney immediately after the arrest is best, but you should at least have representation before your first court date.