A DUI conviction can subject you to serious consequences. Based on the case facts, you may face a jail term, court fines plus penalty assessments, probation, which may entail paying victim restitution and enrolling in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) / Narcotics Anonymous (NA) classes, and other severe repercussions.

These are only criminal penalties. A DUI charge or conviction can also have professional consequences. It can adversely impact your professional license, especially if you are a doctor or surgeon in California. How DUI can impact your medical license depends on various factors, as this blog discusses.

How Driving Under The Influence Affects Your Medical License

Most California medical professionals do not know that a DUI incident, even if it did not happen anywhere near a hospital, patient, or medical setting, could result in disciplinary action, affecting their license.

According to the state's BPC (Business and Professions Code) 2236, a conviction of any crime substantially related to the practice of medicine (the duties, functions, or qualifications of a surgeon or physician) constitutes professional misconduct and can result in disciplinary action. DUI is categorized as one of those crimes.

The law regulating what conduct warrants disciplinary measures by the MBC (Medical Board of California) is broad and lists much more behavior than medical professionals think. That said, even though driving while drunk or high may not come across as a crime associated with the practice of medicine, the law has established that it is. That is because if a medical practitioner is found guilty of driving while intoxicated, it may show they are dealing with an alcohol or drug abuse problem or participated in unbecoming conduct for a doctor.

Most medical professionals are surprised to find out that a drunk driving incident they suffered while leaving a social gathering or party that had no connection with treating patients is substantially related to the practice of medicine and has subjected their medical license to discipline by the MBC. Even your first-ever drunk driving case may lead to disciplinary action based on the circumstances surrounding the conviction and the case in general.

Failure to Report Your DUI Conviction to the MBC Can Be Detrimental to Your License

If you hold a medical license and are found guilty of an offense, including DUI, you must comply with essential criminal conviction reporting requirements to avoid worsening your license situation. According to BPC 802.1, a California doctor is under the obligation to report the following to the MBC within thirty days of their happening:

  • Their conviction, including any plea of no contest or guilty or guilty verdict of any misdemeanor or felony.
  • The filing of information or an indictment for a felony charge against them.

Whereas medical practitioners are no longer under any affirmative obligation to report criminal convictions on their license application paperwork (though in some cases, doing so may be a wise decision), you will generally need to escalate the above information to the board.

The MBC provides a link to the necessary reporting forms on their website, and you must ensure you report your conviction plus background facts correctly. Failing to comply with the reporting requirements or providing incorrect information may subject your license to more sanctions.

You want to consult an attorney before reporting the necessary information to the MBC because the board could use any details you provide against you in disciplinary proceedings. A lawyer can assist you in understanding your legal obligations and rights and developing a strategy for reporting the required information to the board. They can also advise you on what details to disclose and how to present them to the board in a manner most favorable to your case.

Additionally, an attorney can help you negotiate with the D.A. to lower the penalties or charges. You might not have to report your conviction record to the board if your criminal charges are dismissed or reduced.

All in all, self-reporting, whether on your application or otherwise, is critical since you will have ample time to work closely with your lawyer to devise a plan for addressing the case.

Note that reporting your DUI conviction does not mean it will automatically affect your license. The board will first review your case to determine whether or not to take action.

What The Board Looks For

While the MBC is analyzing your DUI conviction and deciding whether it warrants disciplinary action against your license, it considers various key factors that vary from one case to another. Some of these factors include:

  • Whether you have a previous conviction for DUI.
  • If you have a past DUI record, the amount of time that has elapsed since the past DUI incident.
  • Your blood alcohol concentration was at the time of the DUI (the situation will be much worse if the BAC is higher).
  • Whether the DUI caused property damage.
  • Whether anyone was hurt.
  • Whether you are exhibiting accountability and remorse and are taking action to fix your mistake, such as joining DUI School and undergoing substance abuse treatment,
  • Whether you have faced any past disciplinary action by the board.
  • Whether you are complying with all the terms and conditions of your criminal probation sentence.

These are only some examples of the common considerations of the board. The criminal court's reduction of the penalty level due to a plea negotiation or plea deal with the district attorney does not change anything regarding the MBC's decision to impose disciplinary action against your license.

The board can overlook the plea and conduct its independent investigation before deciding what sanctions to impose. Even if the court acquits you at a criminal trial, it does not automatically guarantee your license will not be subject to disciplinary measures by the MBC since the board follows its independent process.

Mitigating Circumstances That Can Help Your License Survive Disciplinary Action

It is possible for your license to survive the ramifications of your DUI case, but you want to handle the matter carefully. Have an expert lawyer represent you in both medical and criminal proceedings. Do not try to navigate either issue by yourself.

To win and save your license, you can prove various mitigating factors that can convince the board. These include:

  • The DUI incident happened only once and has not developed into a habit on your part.
  • You have no drug or alcohol abuse problem. In this case, the objective is to prove you have no substance abuse problem that impacts your capability to practice medicine.
  • Your conviction or sentence will not inhibit your capacity to work effectively.
  • You are handling any problems that might have resulted in the drunk driving conviction. For example, your lawyer can advise you to enroll in courses about stress management, alcohol and drug abuse for medical professionals, et cetera, if the criminal court has convicted or charged you with DUI. Similarly, you could start therapy sessions to prove you are addressing any underlying reasons that might have influenced your intoxicated driving decision.

All these actions can apply to proving mitigating circumstances—that you committed a mistake, though you are doing everything possible to rectify it.

You can also acquire documentation to prove alcohol abstinence, undergo a forensic assessment, and provide evidence of rehab and prowess in your work. Additionally, you can undergo alcohol or drug testing by an expert to prove to the board that you have no ongoing problem. Taking all these steps yourself without the board ordering you to take them may result in lenient disciplinary action or no action altogether.

Board-imposed disciplinary action may significantly negatively affect you. A formal discipline, like a reprimand, is indefinitely publicly accessible via the California BreEze system. Based on how severe the case is, it might even lead to a revocation or suspension of your professional license. If you successfully prove that you take responsibility for whatever happened and are doing everything to rehab yourself, it raises the odds of a favorable outcome.

Note that it might be impossible to prevent disciplinary action altogether, especially if the criminal court found you guilty of a felony drunk-driving offense or you possess a record of alcohol or drug abuse. Likely, if the criminal court has accused you of DUI with a higher BAC or DUI causing an accident, you may face disciplinary action. However, being proactive and putting in efforts for rehabilitation now rather than waiting until the board orders you to can assist you in having control of the situation to some extent. It might also result in less severe disciplinary action, like probation or reprimand.

Regardless of your situation, you want to devise a plan to report your conviction and mitigate any possible effect on your professional license. A medical license defense lawyer experienced in licensing matters and drunk driving defense can assist you with navigating the process.

Drunk Driving Disciplinary Measures by the Board

If the board decides to discipline you for your drunk-driving case, there are various actions it can take. They include the following:

  • Administrative interview and investigation—this disciplinary measure involves the board investigator or inspector contacting you for interrogation and potentially setting up an investigative interview. Do not talk to the investigator or inspector in your case without consulting a lawyer first.
  • Filing an ISO (Interim Suspension Order)—an ALJ (administrative law judge) of the hearing panel might issue an ISO. An ISO filing is a severe action that allows the MBC to immediately bar you from practicing in your field until it reaches an outcome regarding its disciplinary action. ISOs are often only issued in cases where the ALJ believes the doctor has violated or will violate the Medical Practice Act or is incapable of practicing safely because of their physical or mental condition.
  • Citation filing against you—this is like infraction filing in criminal court cases. It is the least severe of disciplinary actions, which you can still appeal. Your lawyer can assist you in appealing. Generally, a citation includes fines.
  • The Board files an accusation against you—an accusation describes all the charges against you. It is the start of a legal process to attempt to revoke or suspend your license formally, and it necessitates a quick response to prevent a revocation by default for failure to file a response to the accusation on time. If the MBC has filed an accusation against you, call your lawyer immediately to protect your rights and career since time is essential in this case. Should you miss the deadline to ask for a hearing in response to the accusation, call your attorney, as they may be capable of preventing the board from revoking your license by default.
  • Investigate subpoena—this kind of subpoena may necessitate the submission of various records or documents or your attendance at the investigative interview.
  • Public letter of reprimand—the letter will become part of your online record for some time. Once this letter is issued, your license may remain on probation. During the probationary period, you will be ordered to enroll in specialized classes or undergo training related to your DUI.
  • Closing the file without taking action—this is the best possible outcome.

There are more actions the MBC can impose, but those mentioned above are the most common. If you are accused of driving under the influence of drugs or abuse, do not talk to the MBC directly. Instead, immediately call your lawyer to defend your rights and help you navigate the complicated process. Having professional counsel when faced with an investigation or discipline by the board is critical since yours is an adversarial issue requiring you to protect your medical license aggressively.

How a Lawyer Can Help You

If you are facing a DUI case, an attorney can help you keep your license by doing the following:

  • Evaluating your case—the attorney will analyze the elements of your DUI charges, including the facts of your arrest, the evidence against you, and any past disciplinary actions or prior convictions.
  • Mounting a solid defense strategy—depending on their assessment of your case, the attorney will create a compelling defense strategy that aims to reduce the effect of the charges on your professional license.
  • Negotiating with the D.A.—if possible, your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution to lower the penalties or charges. This can assist you in avoiding a conviction, which is a significant aspect of a license review.
  • Representing you in administrative proceedings—if your license is under the board's review, your attorney can represent you in the administrative hearings and proceedings, including preparing and submitting evidence to support your case and negotiating with the board to minimize the sanctions.
  • Appealing any unsatisfactory decision—if the board revokes or suspends your medical license, your attorney can appeal its decision on your behalf. This can entail presenting evidence and arguments to the board to reverse the decision.

DUI and MBC Defense Strategies

Several strategies are available to assist you in dealing with your drunk- or drugged-driving charges. But when your medical license is on the line, your defense strategy must consider further aspects.

Generally, it is best to pursue a charge reduction or dismissal where the allegations or charges could be considered substantially connected with the medical practice. Doing this may mandate you to submit various arguments, including that an unlawful search and seizure occurred, the police did not have probable cause to arrest you for DUI, or the D.A. has not demonstrated all the elements making up the offense you have been accused of.

If you have already been convicted of DUI, you may pursue a conviction record expungement in criminal court. If the court grants your petition to expunge, it means your record of a DUI conviction will be removed from public records and will no longer appear as a criminal conviction.

Generally, this is only possible if you have a drunk- or drugged-driving misdemeanor conviction. But that does not relieve you from your duty to report that conviction to the MBC. Nonetheless, an expungement might significantly assist in how the MBC examines your case.

And if you have one felony drunk- or drugged-driving conviction, you might successfully request the court to lower it to a misdemeanor violation. A court will more likely consider this petition if you have complied with all your sentence or probation requirements, for example, paid all fees and fines, done community service, and have not had any subsequent violations. Whereas this cannot avert an investigation by the board, it can assist you in presenting a more favorable response and picture to the medical board.

You want to hire a defense lawyer who is conversant with DUI laws and is also familiar with the state's professional license matters. Doctors usually have intricate defense requirements in these cases that should be planned with utmost care to obtain a favorable result in the criminal court case and the subsequent proceedings by the board.

Find a Professional License Defense Attorney for Healthcare Licenses Near Me

A DUI charge or conviction for a medical professional does not always mean disciplinary action. But if you see this possibility in your case, contact a professional license defense attorney experienced in healthcare licenses as early as possible for legal advice. A proactive approach can minimize any potential adverse effect of your DUI case on your license.

At The Legal Guardian, we represent medical professionals facing investigations and interviews, administrative proceedings, disciplinary actions, and other licensing matters in Long Beach, CA. We generate a detailed strategy for every case to establish the ideal way to handle the underlying problem and minimize the odds of revocation, suspension, or probation. Call us today at 866-448-6811 to set up a confidential consultation with one of our expert attorneys.