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Can I Be an EMT in Oakland if I Have a DUI?

An EMT can be a great introduction to emergency medicine or start you on your path to becoming a firefighter. Emergency medical technicians can provide basic life support and assist paramedics in the field. However, if you had a drunk driving conviction in the past it will likely still be on your criminal record. 

If you are an EMT, a criminal arrest and conviction may mean losing your job. However, you may be able to keep your job or return to emergency medicine if you can avoid a criminal conviction for drunk driving. If you are worried about a DUI and your future as an EMT in Oakland, contact East Bay DUI defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick for advice.

Discipline for EMTs in California After a DUI Arrest

The Emergency Medical Services Authority of California put out guidelines for recommendations for disciplinary orders for EMT-I and Advanced EMTs. Specifically, misuse of alcoholic beverages, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances can result in discipline. The recommended certification actions include: 

  • Maximum Certification Action: Revocation  

  • Recommended Certification Action: Revocation stayed, suspension until successful completion of drug/alcohol detoxification diversion program five (5) years probation with terms and conditions.  

  • Minimum Certification Action: Revocation stayed, three (3) years probation with terms and conditions.  

  • Minimum Conditions of Probation: All standard conditions and abstinence from the use of drugs or alcohol, drug testing, diversion programs, and psychiatric/medical evaluation.

Under California Health and Safety Code 1798.200(c)(9), misuse of alcoholic beverages, narcotics, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances for an EMT is considered a threat to public health and safety. This can apply not only to convictions but also to investigations and arrests involving alcohol or drugs. 

If you have questions about EMT certification where you live in California, you can contact the local Alameda County EMS Agency or Contra Costa County EMS Agency.  

Will My EMT Certificate Be Revoked?

A single DUI arrest or conviction does not necessarily mean your EMT certificate will be revoked but one DUI arrest could result in revocation. There are several factors that will be considered after an alcohol-related arrest or conviction, including: 

  • Nature and severity of the offense
  • Potential harm to the public
  • Prior disciplinary record
  • Number of violations
  • Evidence of rehabilitation
  • Overall criminal record
  • Time passing
  • Aggravating or mitigating factors

One Misdemeanor Alcohol-Related Conviction: 

A single DUI conviction within 5 years of applying may require a doctor's certification that there are no signs of impairment. Impairment is cause for denial. If there is no impairment, the applicant may be able to get probation. However, there is no guarantee of a job after a drunk driving arrest, even if you do get your EMT certificate. 

Two or More Misdemeanor Alcohol-Related Convictions: 

If an applicant or EMT has 2 misdemeanor DUI convictions within 5 years of applying, they will generally have to get a medical and psychiatric evaluation by a certified physician. If there are signs of impairment, the applicant will be denied. If there is no impairment, the EMT applicant may be offered probation with workplace monitoring and random drug testing. 

Three or more alcohol-related convictions within 5 years or a 3rd arrest while on probation will result in revocation. For an applicant, their certification will be denied. To be reinstated, the applicant will have to wait at least 2 years before they can re-apply. 

Getting an EMT Certification or Getting an Ambulance Job

There is a difference between getting a state EMT certification and getting a job as an EMT. Depending on the type of drunk driving offense, you may be able to get an EMT certification. You may have to complete a review or probation but can have an active license, depending on the situation. 

However, getting a job as an ambulance driver, EMT, or ER tech can be a different story. Private employers may not want to take the chance of hiring someone with a recent drunk driving arrest. Ambulance drivers are required to drive sober as part of the job and are driving with patients, family members of patients, or paramedics as passengers. Even if you get your EMT certification, it may be harder to find an ambulance to hire you.

Does an Ambulance Company Do a Background Check Before Hiring EMTs?

Yes, ambulance companies in California will do a criminal background check as part of the hiring process. Depending on your city and county, the ambulance company may have a "ban the box" law that prevents asking about criminal convictions. However, you can still be hired subject to a background check for certain jobs that involve working with certain populations, including medical care and emergency services. 

As part of the background check, depending on the ambulance company, they may check on your criminal and driving history, including: 

Depending on the ambulance company, they may deny applicants with a drunk driving conviction within the past few years. Violent crimes like domestic violence or sex offenses may also be automatic denials for applicants. 

Does a Wet Reckless Count as a DUI for EMT Applications?

A wet reckless has lower penalties than a DUI but it is still considered a prior offense involving alcohol. A wet reckless may be treated like a DUI for EMT applications. If you have questions about how a plea deal will impact your employment options, talk to your DUI defense attorney for advice about your case. 

How Can I Avoid a Conviction for a DUI in California?

You may be able to avoid a drunk driving conviction and get a job as an EMT. There are legal defenses available to drivers in California who are arrested for drunk driving. Some drivers are wrongly arrested and charged based on mistakes made by the police. Your attorney can review your case and any legal defense options, including: 

For drug DUIs involving marijuana, some police officers make an arrest based on the smell of marijuana, even if the driver wasn't using drugs. Some drivers may have been using marijuana but the effects wore off hours before the driver got behind the wheel. Talk to your DUI defense attorney if you were arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana.  

Your best option may be to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney to make sure the arrest does not end in a conviction. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 40 years of California DUI defense experience. Contact East Bay DUI defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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