Does a nurse need to report a DUI to a board of nursing? First, this is not state-specific, so I’m not going to talk about any state’s specific laws as far as criminal reporting for a DUI. This is more of what a nurse needs to analyze and determine whether they must report something or not, and then the consequences of not reporting something. First, you need to determine whether the board requires you to report a charge or a conviction. There are some states that require a nurse to report a criminal charge, and then there are others that only care if the nurse is ultimately convicted and therefore, they wouldn’t have to report anything that was either dismissed or they went to trial or something like that.
So, what is a criminal charge? Let’s just say you’re out Saturday night, have a few drinks, get a DUI, the officer hands you a ticket, there’s an arraignment date, which means your initial appearance in front of the court to enter a plea, you’ve been charged with the DUI. In that scenario, and if the board required you to report a charge, then you’d need to submit written notice to the board that you had been charged with the DUI. Now, there are scenarios where a nurse can be pulled over and given a DUI, but not specifically charged. In those scenarios, maybe the nurse refused to do a breathalyzer and they took the nurse’s blood, and they’re waiting on the blood test results to determine whether to charge the nurse or not or maybe it didn’t involve alcohol, it was a drug DUI and they once again got a blood test and were, I guess, testing it to determine whether the nurse was impaired or not, or had a level of impairment in some way.
There are scenarios where you could have been pulled over and even potentially arrested, but not specifically charged at that point. At some point, obviously, when the blood test results come back and if they’re at the level and they deem they want to charge the nurse, then the nurse will get notice from the court that they have been charged. And then at that point, that’s when they can report it to whatever board they’re in. Now, as far as a conviction goes, I know many states will either require the nurse to immediately report a conviction. And then I’ll talk about that in a second, or sometimes they’ll say on renewal, you’ll need to report any conviction.
So, that’s another thing you need to figure out. If it is a conviction, do you have to report it immediately? It’s usually a 10-day window. Or do you have to report it upon renewal? For most states, that’s two years. As far as a conviction goes, most boards consider a conviction any kind of plea agreement, obviously any kind of result from a trial that’s a guilty verdict. Most will consider pretrial diversion program guilty in some respects. For instance, if you’re a nurse that got a DUI and then you sign a pretrial diversion, most boards would consider that reportable in some way. What are the consequences of not reporting a DUI? Well, when you initially apply for your license for any board, they’re going to do criminal background check.
And then if they required a nurse to report any misdemeanors involving substance abuse, which many of them do, and you didn’t report it, and then they do a criminal background check and it pops up, well, they’re going to think that being deceitful and trying to hide your criminal past, and then that could be grounds to either deny the application or give the nurse formal discipline. That’s one thing to think about is you must read the specific wording of the application if you’re going to apply for a license anywhere and then determine, alright, does this fit whatever happened to me? Some states will have a time period. So, they’ll say, no, we’ll only go back 10 years, whereas others it’s completely open-ended, and you could have to report something from 30 years ago, theoretically.
Now, if you are currently licensed and you decide not to report something when you should have, either immediately or upon renewal, that certainly could be grounds for formal disciplinary action if the board was to find out about it at some point in the future. Every renewal would be considered another kind of count of lying to the board. Let’s say you got a DUI, you didn’t report it, the board found out 10 years later, you’ve had five renewals since then, they could say, well, you violated it every two years. So, you had multiple violations beyond just not reporting it. And then that doesn’t even get into the underlying kind of investigation that will likely follow to determine if that nurse has substance abuse issues, habitual problem with drugs or alcohol, and that type of thing.
So, for the most part, absolutely, you’re going to need to report a DUI. It’s going to depend on if you were charged or convicted. Now, are you going to lose your license over a DUI? Well, for the most part, it’s very unlikely that a nurse would lose their license just for a single DUI. Now, if a nurse has had three DUIs, they were on probation, they get another DUI, they violated whatever consent agreement they’re on, obviously, that could certainly lead to the revocation of a license. But if it’s a first-time kind of regular DUI, not a crazy BAC, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that you would lose your nursing license. DUIs honestly are probably the most common criminal issue that we deal with. Domestic violence, theft, and shoplifting, and DUIs are the three most common criminal cases that we deal with for nurses. Kind of lower-level stuff, but there are still things that could concern any board of nursing.
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