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What happens if I am in nursing school or medical school and I get a DUI?

It takes years of education, training, and testing to get a job in the medical field. A one-time mistake should not put your future plans in healthcare. The good news is that a single drunk driving arrest in California is generally not enough to end your nursing career. However, multiple drug or alcohol-related incidents could result in consequences that could cost you your healthcare job.

Many professional licenses require mandatory reporting of a drunk driving arrest or conviction. Some nurses, doctors, or other healthcare workers could face discipline from the state board because of a drunk driving conviction in California. However, failure to report a DUI or trying to hide a prior criminal conviction is generally taken much more seriously.

If you are in nursing school or medical school and were arrested for drunk driving in California, talk to an experienced East Bay DUI defense lawyer about how a DUI can affect your medical license. The best result will be to avoid a criminal conviction in the first place so a DUI arrest does not have to affect your future nursing or medical license.

Nursing School and DUIs in California

Becoming a nurse in California requires education, testing, and training. It can take from a year or two up to 8 years or more to become a licensed nurse, depending on the type of licensure. Nurses in training should avoid any potential issues that could make it more difficult to become a licensed nurse.

Unfortunately, accidents happen. Even a couple of drinks over a meal could put a nursing student over the legal limit, even when the individual doesn't feel impaired. Nursing students may feel embarrassed about getting arrested and worry about how it will impact their nursing school and future job prospects.

In most cases, a DUI may not prevent a nursing student from:

  • Completing nursing school training, however, a DUI or alcohol-related offense and probation can prevent a nursing student from doing rounds in a hospital, an integral part of the educational requirements.
  • Being able to take the boards,
  • Applying for a nursing license, or
  • Receiving a nursing license in California.

In addition, a DUI or other criminal record could make applying for and receiving a nursing license more complicated and take longer. This generally requires submitting additional documentation and waiting for a review by the California Board of Registered Nursing.

There is no bright-line rule about whether a misdemeanor DUI conviction will prevent an applicant from getting a nursing license. According to the Board, all prior convictions that are substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a registered nurse are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Do I have to report a DUI conviction to the nursing board in California?

According to the California nursing board, all convictions must be reported, including driving under the influence. Even if a criminal conviction was expunged or the applicant completed a diversion program, all misdemeanor or felony convictions must be reported.

If there is any doubt about whether a conviction or violation must be reported, talk to your DUI defense attorney. Failure to disclose a prior conviction or attempting to hide a criminal conviction can be grounds for refusing a nursing license, even if the conviction itself would not have resulted in denial of license.

If you have been arrested but not yet convicted of a DUI, avoiding a criminal conviction may mean you do not have to report the drunk driving arrest. Talk to your criminal defense lawyer about how to fight DUI charges and avoid a criminal record that will forever be a factor in your future.

Is There a Pattern of Substance Abuse?

While one DUI may not be a reason to deny most nursing licenses, a pattern of substance abuse or problems could cause the nursing board to deny an application. This generally requires multiple criminal charges or other incidents in the workplace. Actions that could indicate the applicant has substance abuse problems could include multiple criminal convictions or drug or alcohol related events, including:

The nursing board may also be able to consider what happened after a substance-related crime to show the applicant has learned from their mistakes and is taking steps to prevent future violations. For example, the board can consider the successful completion of a qualifying drug or alcohol program and avoiding any further run-ins with the law.

Medical School and DUIs in California

Medical school education takes years in the U.S. This includes undergraduate education, med school, and residency before someone is licensed to practice medicine. Anything that puts all that time, money, and effort in jeopardy is a serious threat. Fortunately, a single DUI in California will not generally prevent a med school student from getting licensed.

However, as with nursing students above, it will be up to the state boards to determine if an applicant will be licensed to practice medicine in California. Applicants must report any drunk driving convictions or other criminal convictions. Similarly, licensed physicians in California must report a drunk driving conviction to the California Medical Board.

Addressing any potential red flags related to alcohol or drug use can go a long way in mitigating the harmful impact of a DUI conviction. This can include drug or alcohol treatment, education, and rehabilitation after a criminal conviction. However, the best way to avoid dealing with a DUI conviction is to prevent a conviction in the first place with a strong criminal defense strategy with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.

East Bay DUI Attorney for Nurses and Doctors

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of DUI experience and understands the consequences for nursing and med school students after a DUI arrest. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and driving on the road Representing healthcare workers 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.

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