Driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs, and related driving offenses are crimes punishable by considerable consequences. While penalties can vary from license suspensions to time behind bars and from case to case, nearly all DWI allegations put potentially harmful employment repercussions on the table – sometimes in profound and permanent ways.
At Thiessen Law Firm, our Houston DWI attorneys know DWI charges put you on the line. Having fought for clients facing all types of DWI-related crimes – from a first-time misdemeanor to serious felonies like intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter in Houston– we’re well aware clients often have concerns about how their charges or possible convictions threaten their professional future and employment options.
4 Ways A DWI Can Impact Your Work & Employment Future
While we encourage individuals facing criminal allegations to speak with our award-winning attorneys during a personalized case review, there are some general employment-related issues which can accompany a DWI. Some of the most notable have to do with the following:
1. Arrests / Convictions
It should be noted that there are distinct differences between an arrest / criminal charge and a conviction. In most cases, being arrested for a DWI won’t typically impact your work. That’s because arrests and criminal charges are allegations, and because the government has the burden of proving its claims beyond a reasonable doubt. If they aren’t able to do so, or you’re able to present a compelling defense with the help of experienced DWI attorneys, whatever impact your arrest may have will usually be limited to any publicity or reputational harm the initial arrest may have created.
Under the law, people who aren’t convicted after being arrested or charged with a crime did not commit that crime, and individuals seeking employment don’t typically have to disclose DWI / DUI arrests which did not result in some type of conviction (with some exceptions). An actual conviction, however, could very well spell trouble when it comes to one’s employment.
Although whether you face risks of being fired for a DWI will depend on your job and the unique conditions or agreements of your profession and employer-employee relationship, there are certainly some risks for termination, and some important considerations. For example:
- At-will employment – Texas is an “employment at-will” state, which means that absent an employment contract, employees in Texas can be fired for cause or for no particular reason at all. While laws regarding discrimination mean workers can’t be fired based on their race, age, disability, religious preference, or nationality (or arrests alone in many cases), there aren’t many other protections available to at-will employees.
- Employment contracts – In Texas, there are no statutory protections shielding workers against termination for criminal convictions. There are, however, certain protections which may exist if you have an employment contract. A lawyer can help review your agreement and determine if you have certain rights in such situations, or if you face risks of being fired.
- Incarceration / time away from work – Even when an employer may not view your conviction as particularly troublesome or something which warrants termination, having to miss work to comply with the terms of your conviction can. That includes community service ordered by the court, restrictive probation terms, or having to serve a jail or prison sentence. You may have an employer who’s willing to work with you on this, or you may face termination from an employer that may not have any available positions when you’re ultimately released from custody.
3. Specific Careers / Professional Licenses
There are certainly careers where any criminal conviction, as well convictions for crimes involving what’s known as “moral turpitude,” pose greater potential for unfavorable consequences. That’s true for sensitive or tightly regulated jobs where workers are required to meet certain requirements, maintain professional licenses, or be in good ethical standing. Examples include:
- Lawyers, who can face disciplinary actions concerning their admission to the Bar and ability to practice law (i.e. suspensions or disbarment).
- Doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals or suppliers for whom convictions can result in certain repercussions, including exclusion from certain health programs (i.e. Medicare or Medicaid), billing privilege revocations, adverse medical licensure actions (suspensions or revocations), dismissal from a practice or certain line of employment, and more.
- Licensed professionals subject to standards from a licensing authority which implicates DWI as grounds for potential or mandatory disciplinary action.
- Professional drivers and workers who must drive as part of their employment, including truck drivers, delivery drivers, and others who hold commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs), as well as outside sales where traveling is necessary.
- Public employees / government workers, including those in sensitive positions, driving positions, and more.
- Professions that work with children, including teachers or day care providers.
While any conviction can “look bad” and hinder employment opportunities, those which happen to workers subject to specific terms and employment conditions concerning criminal conduct can result in adverse consequences. As such, professionals in these and other fields “sensitive” to crime should be focused on ways to shield themselves from potentially harmful and possibly permanent repercussions.
That may mean pursuing a dismissal or not guilty verdict when possible, or exploring the potential for favorable resolutions which still preserve a person’s professional future. Reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor or pleading guilty to a lesser offense, for example, could mean the difference between a temporary disciplinary license suspension and a permanent bar or sanction.
4. Prospects & Employability
You don’t have to be a licensed professional or a worker employed in a sensitive line of work to face potential employment blowback when you’re convicted for DWI. Nearly anyone can face the scourge of public sentiment and scrutiny when it comes to applying for jobs with a criminal record.
- Risks for employers – It’s an unfortunate truth that in competitive workforces, those with DWI convictions may represent greater “risks” to employers. An employer, HR professional, or anyone who’s hiring has cause to think twice when they see a conviction, or to rescind offers / terminate recently hired employees if they failed to disclose a conviction as required by law.
- Questions of character – Prospective employers may view someone with a criminal record to be of “questionable character”. That’s a risk even if you’re not, and no matter whether you may have learned your lesson or become a better person. At the end of the day, what’s on paper may be enough to limit opportunities, or your ability to explain yourself and prove your worth.
- Limited opportunities – While there are many jobs where a DWI conviction may not create any restrictions or potential risks, there are numerous professions where it can. Even for positions where such convictions or conduct are not necessarily prohibitive to employment, a DWI can still mean fewer options if you want to change career paths or find a new job.
Protecting Your Rights & Future
If your career, employment, and professional future are top concerns in your DWI case, experienced defense attorneys like those at Thiessen Law Firm can work with you to evaluate your situation, the potential consequences you face, and what available options you have for enacting a strategy with those concerns in mind. Though every case is different, these strategies may focus on:
- Beating charges entirely to avoid any type of criminal conviction.
- Reducing felony charges to misdemeanors so as to prevent termination or disciplinary action as required by employers, professional licensing boards, or certain government programs.
- Reducing penalties so court-ordered punishment / probation does not interfere with your ability to work and retain your job (i.e. avoiding jail / prison time, reducing community service, or seeking alternative sentencing options such as work-release programs or home confinement).
- Seeking charges or reductions of allegations so final resolutions do not implicate adverse employment consequences, or which prevent more severe / permanent disciplinary acts (i.e. allowing you to serve a professional suspension rather than being permanently barred).
- Protecting one’s driving privileges and ability to work positions where driving is required (i.e. avoiding driver’s license suspensions).
- Challenging certain facts of a case (such as BAC level and DWI blood tests) to provide individuals with more opportunity to seal a conviction at a later time.
Arrested for DWI? Call (713) 864-9000 for a FREE Consultation
DWI charges create exposure to life-altering repercussions, not only in terms of your freedom, financial health, and any restrictions of your rights, but also when it comes to your professional career, licensure standing, and ability to find employment in the future. To learn more about these potential risks, ways to address them effectively in your case, and how Thiessen Law Firm can fight on your behalf in any DWI-related matter in Houston or the surrounding areas of Texas, get in touch with our team today.
Call (713) 864-9000 or contact us online. Consults are free and confidential, and we’re available 24/7.