Yes, a DUI charge or conviction could lead to the suspension or revocation of a nurse’s license depending on the facts of the case. Though a DUI is typically a misdemeanor, a DUI conviction can carry harsh criminal and civil penalties that can permanently alter a person’s life. Having an experienced criminal attorney who is also familiar with the possible professional consequences of conviction can make all the difference in the outcome of both the legal and professional proceedings.
What Are DUIs in Nebraska?
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs—or DUI for short—is a Class W misdemeanor in Nebraska so long as no one is injured or killed as a result of the impaired driving. Any person who is in control of a motor vehicle while either under the influence of alcohol or another drug (typically, but not always, with a BAC of .08%) can be charged with and convicted of a DUI.
A DUI conviction can carry a term of imprisonment from seven days up to a year and fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 depending on prior DUI convictions and possible aggravating factors. Conviction can carry other legal penalties including probation, mandatory drug or alcohol treatment, and limitations or revocation of a person’s driving privileges. Licensed professionals in Nebraska may face additional civil and professional penalties. Depending on the circumstances, a creative and proactive attorney can prevent a moment of carelessness from permanently changing the trajectory of an accused person’s personal and professional life.
What Is the Difference Between a DUI Charge and a Conviction?
A DUI charge represents the official beginning of the criminal case. Even after getting arrested or cited, the accused—or the “defendant” — is still legally innocent. The defendant is not convicted until they are found guilty either as the result of a trial or by the defendant submitting a plea of “guilty” or “no contest.”
The time between a DUI charge and conviction is a vitally important investigation period that can last months. Everything a defendant says and does during this period has the potential to impact the outcome of their criminal and civil cases. During this time, it can be easy for a defendant to accidentally jeopardize the outcome in one case while trying to improve their chances in the other.
It is very important for nurses charged with any crime—especially a DUI—to work with a defense attorney who knows how to navigate the criminal and professional procedures. Such an attorney can help nurses charged with a misdemeanor work through the charges in a way that gives them the best chance at minimizing both criminal and professional penalties.
What Does a DUI Conviction Mean for a Nurse’s Career?
The career consequences of a DUI can sometimes be even more serious and impactful that the criminal ones. Nebraska takes public safety and healthcare professional ethics very seriously. Because nurses work closely with some of society’s most vulnerable, they are expected to maintain a high level of professionalism by being “of good character” to obtain and keep nursing licenses. Because public trust is so necessary for the profession, a DUI conviction may undermine a nurse’s marketability and capacity to perform their job effectively.
Once convicted of a DUI, nurses have a duty to report it to the Board within thirty days. If the Board decides to proceed with discipline, the nurse will have the opportunity to present a defense and any information that would be helpful to their case before a final decision is made. The final decision can be to either dismiss the case without any penalty for the accused nurse or can one of six “sanctions” the director deems appropriate:
- Limitation – Restriction on how and when the nurse may practice. · Civil Penalty – A fine of up to $20,000. · Suspension – The license may be suspended for a set period of time or until conditions set by the director are met. · Revocation – The nurse would be unable to practice in Nebraska indefinitely. A nurse may not apply for reinstatement for two years.
Any of these sanctions may have long-term effects on a nurse’s career, and it is important that nurses facing discipline seek the necessary guidance as early in the process as possible. An attorney can help nurses identify factors that may reflect the severity of the infraction and influence the Board’s decision such as:
- The nurse’s accountability and willingness to seek treatment
- Previous nursing track record
- Previous criminal record
- Other signs of drug and alcohol abuse or dependence
A nurse facing a DUI charge or conviction is not helpless and in most cases there will be many tools a knowledgeable attorney can help the nurse identify to improve the chances of a favorable outcome.
Berry Law’s Team Provides You With Multiple Attorney Perspectives
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Protect Nurses Facing Possible License Revocation?
Most nurses never expect to face discipline from the Board of Nursing. The process can seem intimidating and even impossible to navigate for someone without experience. An attorney familiar with
the process can provide some much-needed support, direction, and peace of mind throughout the process.
Because each case is unique and the outcomes will depend on the unique facts of the case, it is critical for nurses facing discipline to have personalized counsel. The right representation can identify defenses and steps a defendant can take to improve the outcome. Berry Law’s experienced and tenacious attorneys can help nurses take the necessary actions to minimize a misdemeanor’s impact on their careers.