Can a DUI affect your nursing license? As in all my other blogs, this is a general discussion. This is not state specific. Every state has its own rules and regulations as far as when and how to report. So, this will be a general discussion of the things you need to consider that may affect your nursing license if you get a DUI.
Charge vs. Conviction
First, you need to identify whether your board in nursing has a reporting requirement. For instance, here in Arizona, our nurses have to report it when they’re charged, not even when they’re convicted. A charge is when you get a DUI criminal case and a ticket with an arraignment date; that’s considered a charge. Sometimes, they’ll wait to charge you if they’re waiting for a blood test. But when you are charged, it just means when they decided to move forward with whatever the violations were.
A conviction is when you’re guilty, or you sign a plea agreement, or a pretrial diversion program, or at least most boards consider a pretrial diversion program a conviction. Like an end to whatever the criminal conduct was, that isn’t a complete dismissal. For the most part, those need to be reported. Now, when they need to be reported varies from state to state. Some require it upon renewal, and some require it upon conviction; then, as I said before, it’s when they are charged, regardless of whether they’re ultimately convicted. That’s the first thing you need to identify.
When Did Do Nurses Need to Report DUIs?
Alright, when do I need to report it? If I need to report it, then how do I need to report it? For the most part, it needs to be in writing. And I would not submit a long story about all the details like I went out to dinner with Sally and had this many drinks. That is not going to help you. It would help if you stuck to the facts. I was charged with this on this date, and my arraignment date is this; I’ll supplement in the future with more information.
Or I was convicted of this on this date, which is what I’ve done. And leave it at that. You don’t want to give them any more information than you must. And the essential requirement is that you let them put them on notice of what happened criminally. Still, it doesn’t mean you must give every detail about what happened.
Is It Substance Abuse or a Deeper Issue?
Some broad thoughts on substance abuse and DUI: the biggest concern of any board of nursing is that if you get a DUI case, you have a substance abuse issue. The stated purpose of nearly every board of nursing is not to protect the nurses. It’s to protect the public. And so, they don’t want a nurse with substance abuse issues providing patient health care. Now, just because you have one DUI doesn’t mean that you have substance abuse issues, but it could be that you do. Let me say this delicately. I always speak to people with what I would consider chronic drinking problems. And they think it’s terrific. For example, if you have a six-pack or a bottle of wine every night, the board of nursing will consider that a substance abuse problem.
Suppose you just went out, went to dinner, had a few drinks with friends, you occasionally drink socially a couple of times a month. In that case, you don’t drink too much intoxication; that’s just regular alcohol consumption. That’s not a substance abuse problem, but the board will think that no matter what, they will start at this person as an alcoholic and then work their way down. So, suppose it’s just your first-time regular DUI. In that case, you have a relatively low BAC, and most boards of nursing aren’t going to formally discipline a nurse for something like that. If it’s a third DUI case and you had a super extreme BAC level here in Arizona, that’s above 0.2.
What Will Happen if a Nurse Commits Third DUI?
The board is going to be concerned. And what the board would do here is have the nurse undergo a substance abuse evaluation with the psychologist. Then that psychologist would write recommendations to the board. And then, the board would incorporate those recommendations into probation if they thought they had substance abuse issues. It’s implausible that a nurse with a low-level DUI will lose their nursing license. I mean, it’s infrequent.
There must be more underlying things to end up with that result. But, if you have chronic problems, a criminal problem with alcohol or drugs, that could lead to a board decision. We don’t want this person to provide healthcare anymore. Now, they’re almost always going to give the nurse at least the option of going on probation or entering a confidential monitoring program. Most states call it an alternative to discipline or something like that. In a worst-case scenario, at least at the beginning, you’d have the option of doing that.
Confidential Monitoring Program
Where most nurses get in trouble with persistent problems with alcohol, they’re in the confidential monitoring medical programs, have a positive drug screen for alcohol, and get kicked out of that program. They get put on formal disciplinary probation. The same thing happens, then they get their nursing license suspended. And then, if you continue to violate the terms of the probation, it could end up in revocation. If you’ve had one DUI criminal case as a nurse, it will not end your career. It’s most likely not going to prohibit you from getting jobs in the future.
You must be aware of this. You cannot let it happen again, but if you screwed up, I find the best defense for people who have screwed up, and it’s a lower-level thing, is to admit, you know what? I just made the wrong decision. I don’t have a drinking problem if it’s just one night, and I’ve learned from it. These are the things I’ve learned from it. These are the things I’ll do now to prevent it. And then, this is what I will do in the future. And that’s what most boards of nursing want to hear. Is that if there is an identifiable problem, you have learned from it and then incorporated that into your practice and move forward in the future.
Other Blogs of Interest
- Easiest Way For a Nurse to be Suspected of Diverting Narcotics | Drugs & Nurses
- Nursing: What Does It Mean When a Nurse Is Suspended?
- Which is the Most Frequent Reason for Revocation of a Nurse’s License?
Can you be a Nurse with a DUI?
First, let’s talk about what it means to have a DUI. You could’ve been charged with the DUI but never convicted. That’s not going to prevent you from becoming a nurse. I’m just talking about convictions here, meaning you either pled guilty through a plea agreement, went to trial, lost, and were found guilty. That’s what I mean. Or, maybe you reached a pretrial diversion program, which most boards consider a guilty outcome. Now, first, this is just general information. Every state has its own specific rules as far as kind of criminal background.
Thinking of Enrolling or Just Enrolled in a Nursing School?
Background. I never thought about it. Can you get your license? So, delay any significant fear. 99 times out of 100, yes, if you have a DUI in your past, you’ll still be able to get your nursing license. Now, it may be under some conditions. Still, it’s infrequent unless it’s a felony DUI that would prevent you from getting your nursing license like completely. Let’s just kind of break down what a board will look at if you have a past drunk driving incident.
Usually, when you apply state-specific, it’ll say, have you had any convictions regarding substance abuse or alcohol or something like that? A DUI is, yes, considered one of those. And it’s going to say, alright, tell us when it happened, where it happened, give us a short statement about what happened. And then they may even want the nurse to provide them with a criminal record. There are two parts to any record of the police documents and the court documents.
And they’re separate. They are usually not in the same place. You’ll have to request them from both. Once you have all of that, you’ve submitted a statement, then depending upon the length of time that you elapsed since you had the DUI, what your BAC was. Do you have three DUIs versus one? Do you have any other kind of substance abuse-related, some drug charges, possession sales, a lot disorderly conduct, or domestic violence-related incidents involving alcohol?
Is it One DUI or an Underlying Substance Abuse?
If there are any kind of major red flags beyond just I’ve had one regular DUI in my past, what a board will typically do is they’re going to investigate. The investigation will be kind of a review of all of the criminal and court documents. And then they’ll usually ask to speak to the nurse. What happened here? What was going on in your life at the time? Did you have to do any rehabilitation? Did you go into rehab, maybe an IOP? Have you been doing AA? What are your current drinking habits?
Those are the questions they’re going to ask to determine whether you have a problem or not. I mean, the main, well, not the main, the stated purpose of every board of nursing is to protect the public, not the nurse. They’re not there for you. They’re there to protect the public.
Suppose they’re going to license somebody with a criminal background involving a DUI. In that case, they want to ensure that you don’t continue to have substance abuse-related problems that may bleed into the clinical side of providing patient healthcare. Or, if you had issues in the past, you must fix them somehow. As I said before, doing rehab or an IOP or counseling, AA, all those things.
Just because you’ve had one DUI in your past doesn’t mean you need to do all those things. Well, you probably don’t need to go to rehab or AA or do any of those things if you just had one DUI 10 years ago and made a stupid decision. Now, if you’ve had three DUIs and you had a very high, like over 0.2 BAC, at least in Arizona, it’s a super extreme DUI.
Yes, you probably need to do those things to show the board that you have dealt with the issues and that you no longer have those problems. They’re going to ask about all your current drinking habits, so how much do you drink now? When I talk to a nurse and say, okay, you’ve had one DUI, fine. It’s a grand scheme of things. That’s not a big deal, but what are your current drinking habits? And they say I drink a six-pack every night before I go to bed. Okay, but most boards will describe that as someone with a substance abuse problem.
Think of them as the parish organization; anything above regular social drinking will shoot up red flags for them. Now, suppose they think you may have an issue. In that case, some boards will have a nurse get a substance abuse evaluation from a psychologist store. Maybe a substance abuse counselor to get an opinion on whether they have any substance abuse problems. And whether that professional believes they need a monitoring program.
Worst Case Scenario For Nurses Who’ve Had a DUI
That’s usually the worst-case scenario for a nurse with DUI in their background is that the board will essentially force them to go on probation for a period. And they’ll grant the license simultaneously. They’ll say, yes, you can be a nurse, but you’ll be on probation for 12 months and have to do random drug screens, AA, recovery group, and supervision at work. You can’t use your multi-state privilege if your state offers that.
That’s usually the worst-case scenario for a nurse to get denied entirely a license based upon a single DUI in their past is extraordinarily rare. Almost for sure would-be other factors involved beyond just that one incident. So, take a deep breath. If you’ve had one DUI, it doesn’t mean the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean you’re never going to get a nursing license, but there may be some things you’ll have to explain.
Suppose you do have an extensive criminal history. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to contact an attorney in your state who handles the board stuff or maybe devise a plan or to say. All right, do I need to do these things before applying for my license? That would make the most sense. As I said before, I’m only in Arizona, so I can only assist nurses here in Arizona. But this is good general advice for any nurse who’s had a DUI.
What Can Disqualify You From Being a Nurse?
What can disqualify you from being a nurse? I’m only going to talk about applicants, not people already licensed by the state. This video will be a general discussion of, alright, maybe I’m thinking of attending nursing school, or perhaps I’ve completed nursing school. Now, I must apply to a board. What things in my past can disqualify me from being a nurse in the future? Lastly, this is not going to be state-specific. It’s just going to be a general discussion.
The first and probably the most obvious thing is some heinous criminal incidents in your past. Almost none of the boards in any state contain a list of things like, if you’ve done these things, you can’t get a license. No matter what, they’ll have a general guideline. But, any violent crimes, if you were a maybe heavy distributor of drug diversion in some way. For instance, sexual misconduct is brutal to rehabilitate from, or at least in the eyes of the board. And so, having those in your past can be a barrier to getting a license.
Getting a Nursing License After A Crime
It may not feel like it when I talk to nurses who are always concerned about DUIs, marijuana possessions, theft, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and an assault charge, but these are relatively low-level crimes. Because you’ve had those in your past, they generally will not disqualify you from getting a license in the future. Now, if you’ve had 20 assault charges, it’s probably not going to happen for you. Still, if it’s a handful of things from 20 years ago, it will not hinder you from getting your nursing license.
And even in this scenario where the board was very concerned about past behavior, they would almost always offer the nurse a probationary license, meaning they would grant the license. Still, they would simultaneously put them on probation for one to three years. And at the end of that probationary period. Then their license is unencumbered. That’s what happens typically.
I guess the timing of the felony would matter. Some states require a certain period after either the felony. I think the nurse or potential nurse was either convicted of the felony or completed the probationary requirements. I know here in Arizona, someone must have at least three years from the date of termination of probation for a felony to be eligible to reapply or apply for a nursing license.
Nursing Background Check, Criminal Records, and State License
The first things are heinous crimes, and two, high adverse publicity events. Boards of nursing are very concerned about the public image of nurses. And suppose there’s been a past incident with an applicant that negatively impacts the nursing profession. In that case, that board will be much less likely to issue the license. Most of those end up being criminals. Still, it would help if you considered that these are political agencies and the politics of issuing permits to people gives the eye. Either dangerous or incompetent is not something most boards are willing to do.
When the State Revokes Your Nursing License
Lastly, if you’ve had another healthcare license and you’ve been placed on the OIG exclusionary list. So the inspector general’s office has this list where if you’ve had a license revoked, suspended, voluntary surrender, or a certain number of crimes. They can exclude you from billing under Medicare or Medicaid. The boards, for the most part, don’t care about that at all. However, the employers, or at least some employers, will. If they can’t bill for you, they will not employ you. So, you need to think, alright, what happened to put me on that exclusionary list? And then you also need to consider ways of getting off it after a period and jumping through certain hoops. It would be best if you investigated doing that disqualify as well.
Very few things can completely disqualify a nurse from getting a license. Most of the boards want to see if something terrible happened. Have you learned from it? Did you take steps to remediate the behavior in some way? If it was maybe drugs or alcohol, did you go to AA? Did you go to counseling? Did you go to an intensive outpatient treatment program or rehab? Have you made just healthy changes in your lifestyle so that you can deal with stress better? These are the things the boards want to hear. Just because you’ve had one bad thing happen in your past, if you’ve learned from it and incorporated positive things into your life, that’s what the boards want to see.
Nursing License: Do You Have to Report a DUI to a Nursing Board?
Does a nurse need to report a DUI to a board of nursing? First, this is not state-specific. I’m not going to talk about any state’s specific laws regarding criminal reporting for a DUI. This topic is more of what a nurse needs to analyze and determine whether they must report something or not. Then the consequences of not saying something. First, you must decide if the board requires you to write a charge or a conviction. Some states require a nurse to report a criminal charge. Then others only care if the nurse is ultimately convicted. Therefore, they wouldn’t have to report anything dismissed and go to trial.
Arrested or Not, is it a DUI Charge?
So, what is a criminal charge? Let’s say you’re out Saturday night, have a few drinks, get a DUI, the officer hands you a ticket, and there’s an arraignment date. In this case, you’ve been charged with DUI in your initial appearance to enter a plea. In that scenario, if the board required you to report a charge, 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 explicitly charged. In those scenarios, maybe the nurse refused to do a breathalyzer, took the nurse’s blood, and waited on the blood test results to determine whether to charge the nurse. Maybe it didn’t involve alcohol. It was a drug DUI. 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 charged explicitly at that point. At some point, when the blood test results come back, they deem they want to charge the nurse if they’re at the level. The nurse will get a notice from the court that they have been charged. And then, at that point, that’s when they can report it wherever they are on board.
Convictions and the Nursing Board
As far as a conviction goes, I know many states will require the nurse to report a conviction immediately. And then I’ll talk about that in a second, or sometimes they’ll say you’ll need to report any conviction on renewal. So, that’s another thing you need to figure out. If it is a conviction, do you have to notify 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 plea agreement, obviously any result from a trial that’s a guilty verdict. Most will feel the pretrial diversion program is guilty in some respects. For instance, if you’re a nurse who got a DUI and then you sign a pretrial diversion, most boards would consider that reportable.
Consequences: Could Cause You Your Nursing License
What are the consequences of not reporting a DUI? When you initially apply for your license for any board, they will do a criminal background check. Then, if they required a nurse to report any misdemeanors involving substance abuse, many of them do, you didn’t report it. 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. Then that could be grounds to deny the application or give the nurse formal discipline.
That 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. Then determine, alright, does this fit whatever happened to me? Some states will have a period. So, they’ll say, no, we’ll only go back ten years. In contrast, it’s entirely open-ended for others, and you could theoretically have to report something from 30 years ago.
If you are currently licensed and 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 finds out about it soon. Every renewal would be considered another lying to the board. Let’s say you got a DUI, but you didn’t report it. The committee found out ten 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. Then that doesn’t even get into the investigation that will likely follow to determine if that nurse has substance abuse issues or chronic problems with drugs or alcohol.
In Your Defense, DUIs need to be Reported.
So, for the most part, you will 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? For the most part, it’s doubtful that a nurse would lose their license just for a single DUI. Now, if a nurse has had three DUIs, they are on probation. If they get another DUI, they violate whatever consent agreement they’re on, which could lead to the revocation of a license.
But suppose it’s a first-time kind of regular DUI, not a crazy BAC. In that case, it’s implausible that you would lose your nursing license. DUIs, honestly, are probably the most common criminal case that we handle. Domestic violence, theft, 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.
Can You be a Nurse with a Misdemeanor Drug Charge?
Can you be a nurse with a misdemeanor drug charge? This question is not going to be state-specific. I’m just going to give you general tips and things to consider if you apply for your nursing license. I know that many people that read these blogs may also think of going into nursing school and are thinking, alright, well, maybe I can get into medical school. Still, I couldn’t get a license and wasted time and money. So, I will talk more about applicants or even people considering attending nursing school. It is not going to be directed towards currently licensed nurses.
Alright, so you have a past misdemeanor drug charge which could be a possession of a bunch of different drugs, potentially distribution. There are some misdemeanor distribution charges as well. If you’ve been convicted, you’ve gone to trial and lost. Or most likely reached a plea with the prosecutor. Then you had to do community service, fines, drug counseling, treatment, whatever. The board cares about convictions for the most part and not just charges.
It doesn’t mean you’ve ultimately been found guilty if you’re just charged with a crime. Most boards find that the nurse, in their minds, would be convicted. So, if you’ve had one misdemeanor possession of marijuana from 20 years ago, that will not keep you from getting your nursing license, let’s say.
What Do the Nursing Boards Usually Look For in Drug Charges?
When a board looks at the criminal pass of a nurse, they’re going to run two things. They will ask in the application, which changes from state to state. Still, usually, they’ll ask: do you have any felony convictions? And then two, potentially, do you have any misdemeanor charges involving substance abuse? It does vary from state to state. You need to look at the specific language in the application of the condition that you’re looking to apply to and then see what you have to disclose. And then, the board is also going to write a criminal background check. Then anything that pops up in that criminal background check will likely reach out to you. And ask you to summarize what happened and maybe even potentially provide them with the police records or court documents, so keep that in mind.
What Do Disciplinary Boards Care More About Nurses?
Now, in a board’s mind, what they care about is that they’re going to license safe nurses that don’t have drug problems. And the board’s stated mission is to protect the public. They’re not there to protect the nurse, so they will see how many different misdemeanor drug charges or convictions they have. If you’ve had 15 in the last three years, that is a big problem, and you will probably not get your license.
If you had, as I said before, maybe one from 20 years ago, almost no chance you wouldn’t get your license. It’s a sliding scale. It would help to consider how much time had elapsed from when you had your last conviction until when you applied and how many you have. You can also think that if you did have a drug problem at the time, what have you done to fix the problem? if a nurse is addicted to methamphetamine doesn’t mean you won’t get your license.
Still, the board wants to know, alright, if you had addiction issues, what did you do to solve that problem? Did you go to AA or NA, or did you go to counseling? Did you seek treatment, maybe you went into inpatient rehab, or maybe you went into an intensive outpatient treatment program in IOP. Perhaps you’ve made some lifestyle changes, have a different friend group, or got away from an abusive spouse or something like that. There must be a change if there’s just a big cluster of drug problems at a time. There must be some rehabilitation change for the board to feel comfortable with issuing a license.
When Charges Are Frequent and More Than Just a Misdemeanor
Let’s say it’s a recent number of drug charges, and they think this nurse hasn’t done what they need to do. It’s possible they could issue the license and put the nurse on simultaneous probation for drug issues. Most states would include random drug testing, supervision at work, continuing education, a nurse recovery group, counseling, rehab, whatever. I mean, there’s a variety of things they could do. But even if you’ve had a bunch of recent items, but you’re willing to do what it takes to get your license, the board can, as I said before, issue the license but put you on probation. It could be anywhere from 12 to 36 months, sometimes more. And if you were to get through that period, your license would no longer be burdened.
One Caveat About Being Placed on Probationary Practice
Now, one bad thing about being placed on probation is if an alternative to a discipline program is not available for you, in an alternative discipline program in most states. There’s a confidential monitoring program where you can do everything I just listed, but it wouldn’t be public. And it wouldn’t be considered formal discipline. If the board only offers you proper discipline, that will stay in your record, at least in most states.
So, you need to think about, alright, even if I do get a license, if I have this blemish on it forever, is that going to dampen the chances of me possibly getting the job I want to get? I would say no, but it is more difficult to find a job if you have a disciplinary history.
Before Attending a Nursing School, Get an Attorney to Review Your Drug Charges or Drug Conviction
So, in summary, you’re probably fine if you have one or two misdemeanor drug convictions. The closer to the date you apply, the more scrutiny you will get from the board. But overall, every situation is a little bit different. What I would suggest, I’m in Arizona, so I only help nurses with the Arizona board.
Before you even apply to a nursing school, it might make sense to reach out to someone in the state you’re considering using, someone with experience with nursing board issues. And say, hey, have you had a similar scenario in the past? And then what is the likelihood of me getting a license once I apply? No one is going to be able to give you a 100% accurate guess. Still, if someone’s been doing the nursing board for a long time, they can usually give you a precise, decently, I guess, estimation of whether they think you would get licensed or not. And then maybe if there was disciplinary action attached to that or not.
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