Being a firefighter is a coveted job in California. There are great benefits, job protections, and the public supports firefighters. However, one simple mistake can put your career at risk. Certain criminal convictions can result in termination. Other problems with the law can lead to sanctions. If you are a firefighter arrested for drunk driving in the East Bay, talk to an experienced DUI attorney about your legal rights.
A drunk driving arrest doesn't necessarily mean you will lose your job as a firefighter. What might happen will depend on the individual circumstances in your case. If you can avoid a conviction and win your case, you have a better chance of avoiding sanctions and penalties. You should talk to someone who has successfully represented firefighters and first responders facing a DUI in Oakland and the East Bay.
Criminal and Administrative Defense for Firefighter DUIs
For most people, a DUI will only mean dealing with the criminal charges and the DMV. However, for certain professionals, they may also need an attorney to help with administrative proceedings. A firefighter may face an administrative investigation and possible sanctions related to a criminal drunk driving arrest.
Can I Be a Firefighter With a DUI on My Record?
You can still apply for a firefighter job in California with a DUI on your record. However, it may be an additional hurdle in an otherwise competitive market. Factors that can increase your chances after a DUI include:
- Being honest about your record
- Seeking substance abuse counseling
- Evidence of rehabilitation
- The time between the DUI and applying
A DUI is not an automatic bar to certification as a firefighter but it can make getting a job more difficult. Multiple DUIs can make things even more difficult. If you were arrested for a DUI and are concerned about how it could impact your future, talk to an experienced California DUI defense lawyer to fight the charges and avoid a mark on your criminal record.
What Happens After a Firefighter is Arrested for Drunk Driving
After a drunk driving arrest, a firefighter may be treated like other suspects. They will generally be arrested, have their license taken away, and go through booking in jail. Part of this process may include a mug shot, fingerprinting, and submitting a chemical breath or blood test.
The arraignment is a hearing where the judge reads the charges against you and you answer guilty, not guilty, or no contest. For most 1st-time DUI arrests, the suspect will be released on their own reconnaissance (without having to post bail). Defendants will be given a notice of their next hearing date.
After the arrest, drivers are given a temporary license but the license is only good for 30 days. One of the first things you should do after an arrest is talk to a local DUI attorney who can request a DMV hearing so your license won't be immediately suspended. You only have 10 days after the arrest to request an administrative per se hearing. Your attorney can request the hearing and represent you to fight to keep your driving privileges.
What the Fire Station Does After a DUI Arrest
What happens after a firefighter is arrested for a DUI may depend on the individual situation, position of the firefighter, department policies, city or county policies, and union bylaws.
For example, the Rules and Regulations of the Oakland Fire Department include, "any sworn member or non-sworn employee charged with a criminal offense is required to report this to his/ her immediate supervisor upon returning to duty. Sworn members or non-sworn employees convicted of a felony may be subject to dismissal."
What Are Firefighters' Rights After a Drunk Driving Arrest
As a firefighter, you have rights under state and federal law and protections under the Firefighter Bill of Rights. It is important for you to understand your rights when you have the right to legal representation. Under California and federal law, you have the right to an attorney to represent you when facing criminal charges, including driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs.
Firefighter Bill of Rights
You also have the right to representation under the Firefighter Bill of Rights. If you are accused of violating policies because of a drunk driving arrest, the fire department may conduct an administrative investigation. You have the right to notice of the investigation and the right to seek legal representation.
Sanctions and Punitive Actions
In some cases, a firefighter may be put on temporary leave pending an investigation for a drunk driving accident. In addition to any criminal penalties, firefighters may be subject to punitive actions by the fire department or public agency. Punishments can include:
- Reduction in salary
- Written reprimand
If you do face punitive actions, you generally have the opportunity for an administrative appeal. If you want to appeal your suspension or demotion, talk to your attorney about filing an appeal.
How a Lawyer Can Help Firefighters Fight a DUI
You can avoid many of the consequences of a drunk driving arrest if you can avoid a criminal conviction. There are many ways your attorney can fight criminal drunk driving charges in California. There are several legal defenses, including police misconduct, unlawful search or seizure, inaccurate chemical testing, or medical reasons why you appeared to "fail" a field sobriety test.
Lynn Gorelick has more than 40 years of East Bay DUI defense experience and understands how much is at stake for firefighters and first responders after a drunk driving arrest. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success in avoiding a criminal conviction. If you are a firefighter facing DUI charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick.