The penalties for anyone convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in California can be harsh. Consequences of a DUI include possible jail time, DUI school, ignition interlock device restrictions, fines, and increased insurance premiums. Drivers may have their license suspended. However, for some professionals, a drunk driving conviction could also put their professional license at risk.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse for Dentists
According to a survey in the Journal of the American Dental Association, more dentists reported minor opiate use in the prior year compared to physicians. More dentists also reported heavy episodic alcohol use and having more alcohol-abuse problems. Another article found dentists and physicians are more likely to become addicted to alcohol or drugs at some point in their lives compared to the general population.
Dentistry can be a stressful profession and dentist addiction to alcohol or drugs may be connected to work-life stress, financial stress from dental school debt, or family problems caused by long hours at work. With the majority of dentists working as sole proprietors, it may be easy for dentists to hide alcohol problems from others.
Substance Abuse Diversion Programs for Dentists
The Dental Board of California is aware of the risk of alcohol abuse for dentists. The Board offers a diversion program for licensed dentists and dental assistants who are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. The diversion program offers recovery options without loss of the dentist's license to practice.
Dental Board of California Reporting Requirements for Alcohol-Related Offenses
According to the Dental Board of California Disciplinary Guidelines, dentists are to report all misdemeanor and felony arrests and convictions to the Board. Some dentists may try to avoid reporting a drunk driving, especially if the arrest happened in another state. However, most dentists are fingerprinted or have to submit a fingerprint form when renewing their dental license. This allows the California Department of Justice to report any arrests or adverse actions taken after a drunk driving arrest.
Under California Code of Regulations CCR § 1018.05, dentists are required to report to the Board, within 30 days, any of the following:
- The bringing of an indictment or information charging a felony against the licensee.
- The conviction of the licensee, including any verdict of guilty, or pleas of guilty or no contest, of any felony or misdemeanor.
Reporting includes traffic infractions that involve alcohol or controlled substances. Failure to report a conviction or “no contest” plea shall constitute “unprofessional conduct.”
Dental Board Administrative Discipline for a DUI
The Dental Board may have several disciplinary options after a drunk driving arrest and conviction. A minor offense that happened years ago may not be treated as severely, especially when the dentist has taken responsibility or sought out substance abuse treatment. However, the disciplinary actions may be much more serious if the dentist had multiple DUI offenses, hit and run DUI, or was involved in a drunk driving accident causing serious bodily injury. Disciplinary options may include:
- Community service
- Diversion program
- Substance abuse treatment
- Drug or alcohol testing
- Practice monitoring or supervision
- Temporary license suspension
- Permanent license revocation
The dental board has denied dental license applicants in the past for criminal convictions for driving under the influence and wrongful distribution of a controlled substance. The board has also denied oral conscious sedation permits and registered dental assistant applications for DUI offenses.
Disclosures and Patterns of Abuse
A single DUI offense may not be enough to take away a dentist's license to practice. However, even a one-time drunk driving offense could mean the loss of a license, depending on the actions of the dentist. Disclosure is an important factor in disciplinary actions. If the dentist did not self-disclose the criminal history and failed to respond to requests for information, the dental board may decide to deny the application.
A single drunk driving conviction may be more serious if the dental professional exhibited a pattern of substance abuse. Substance abuse warning signs may include both criminal and non-criminal actions, including:
- Drug possession charges
- Suspicion of being impaired at work
- Reports of smelling of alcohol or drugs
- Repeated absences related to substance abuse
- Domestic violence
Legal Representation in Administrative Hearings
If you are called before the Dental Board of California for a disciplinary hearing, you may be able to have an attorney during the administrative hearings. Administrative hearing attorneys who understand California drunk driving laws can provide a strong defense to any serious disciplinary hearings. Your attorney can also advise you on how to approach the hearing, including negotiating disciplinary measures and demonstrating accountability and remorse for your actions.
East Bay DUI Attorney for Dental Professionals
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of DUI experience and understands the consequences involved for professional licenses after a DUI arrest. Representing professionals in Contra Costa and Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local DUI laws, and the local officers and prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.