DUI’s are costly and carry a terrible social stigma. To effectively represent these healthcare professionals it’s important to dig into the effects of a Department of Health administrative investigation as well as defending against the DUI charge.
Consequences to individuals that have taken this career path for a DUI are often harsh. Your job and your license (i.e. the piece of paper that allows you to earn your livelihood) are on the line.
Prepare a Plan With Your Lawyer First
Don’t self-report or speak to an investigating agency without formulating a plan with your attorney first. You have the right to remain silent; use it. Discuss case specifics only with your attorney. And, by all means, when you do discuss your case with the agency, whether in writing or orally, NEVER LIE. It’s important that you not be disingenuous.
When it is time to communicate with the board, you must take pains to do so accurately. Misrepresenting facts or circumstances is the worst thing you can do.
While there is a lot that criminal defense lawyers can do, you are on your own when it comes to addressing your arrest with your employer. Florida is an at-will employment state. That means an employer (hospital or otherwise) can fire an employee for any reason at all as long as the healthcare professional’s constitutional rights are not violated. However, you can’t fire someone for being African American, female, or pregnant because these are protected classes. However, you can be fired because of a criminal conviction.
Typically your attorney will inform you that it’s your decision whether or not to tell your employer. You know your specific contractual agreements, relationships, job responsibilities, and other arrangements with your employer. However, with nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals, they need to consider their self-reporting requirements to their respective DOH agencies when deciding if to tell their employers. Which brings us to the second concern for healthcare professionals: Licensing concerns.
DOH And My Licenses
Both nurses and doctors are licensed through the state-run Department of Health (DOH). The Florida Board of Nursing is the administrative agency assigned to handle, review, and potentially discipline nurses for criminal arrests, including a DUI in Florida. Physicians have to deal with the Board of Medicine.
Self-Reporting and Talking to the Board
Healthcare professionals are required to self-report for all convictions of non-minor traffic convictions, even if adjudication is withheld. This means that even if the charge of DUI is ultimately reduced to a reckless driving, and your attorney negotiates a withhold of adjudication (“no conviction”), the nurse or or other healthcare professional is still required to self-report to the board.
And, of course, the Board has the power to suspend the healthcare professional’s license, mandate a $250 – 500 fine, or both after a hearing if one is requested. You can read the administrative rules governing the Board and its sanction power of nurses for a DUI or other convictions here. The administrative rules provide a range of possible punishments.
However, the board has to power to deviate from this range based on certain aggravating or mitigating punishments. However, the burden of proof is on the nurse (or their attorney), to show mitigating conduct by clear and convincing evidence. For example, the Board may consider a nurses “Efforts at Rehabilitation” when deciding on the punishment the Board will impose on the nurse.
Department of Health at Your Court Hearing
In any criminal proceeding against a person licensed by the department to practice a health care profession in this state, a representative of the department may voluntarily appear and furnish pertinent information, make recommendations regarding specific conditions of probation, or provide any other assistance necessary to promote justice or protect the public.
The Department of Health can come into your court hearing, and make recommendations as to your criminal sentence (if you end up with one). This is another reason that your dui lawyer must get intimately involved with your administrative situation to effectivlely handle your criminal charge.