WHEN A DOCTOR IS CHARGED WITH DWI
Driving while intoxicated is not considered a “criminal” offense in the State of New Jersey, but the ramifications of a DWI conviction can nevertheless be quite serious – and especially if you are a physician in this state.
THE REPORTING REQUIREMENT FOR DOCTORS CHARGED WITH DWI
DWI is considered “quasi-criminal” in New Jersey, and the state requires a doctor to report any arrest for a quasi-criminal matter within ten days to the Board of Medical Examiners. Failing to report a DWI arrest could lead to a suspension or a revocation of a doctor’s medical license.
Doctors who are concerned about reporting a DWI arrest should know that the Board of Medical Examiners does not revoke a medical license every time that a doctor is arrested. A first DWI offense – provided that no one was injured, no other drugs were involved, and you blood alcohol content (BAC) level was below 0.15% at the time of the arrest – probably will not result in disciplinary action.
However, medical professionals must be honest and report any DWI arrest within the ten-day time frame.
WHAT ACTIONS MAY BE TAKEN BY THE BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS?
Doctors have a duty to do no harm, and the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners takes that duty seriously. The Board will determine if, along with the arrest for DWI, a doctor has behaved unprofessionally or is in any way impaired from performing his or her duties. If the Board determines that a doctor has a drug or alcohol dependency issue, it could suspend – or in extreme cases, revoke – that doctor’s right to practice medicine.
The Board may suspend or revoke any certificate, registration, or license it has issued upon proof that the applicant or holder “is presently engaged in drug or alcohol use that is likely to impair the ability to practice the profession or occupation with reasonable skill and safety.”
“Presently” means within the last year, and “proof” could be more than one DWI arrest or conviction, a DUI arrest based on drug use, or a DWI that coincides with a criminal charge such as vehicular homicide, assault by auto, eluding, endangering another, or resisting arrest.
OTHER POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES FOR DOCTORS FACING DWI CHARGES
New Jersey is an “employment-at-will” state, so an employer may terminate any employee at any time for any legal reason or for no reason at all.
This means that even if you are not disciplined by the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners for a DWI offense, an employer may still choose to discipline or terminate you. However, if you are found not guilty, or if the charge is dropped, an employer is unlikely to act against you.
ABOUT THE HERNANDEZ LAW FIRM
Similarly, if you are found not guilty of a driving while intoxicated charge, or if the case is dismissed, there will be no reason for the Board of Medical Examiners to take disciplinary action.
Since 2004, New Jersey DWI lawyer Steven W. Hernandez has been representing doctors and other healthcare professionals who are charged with driving while intoxicated. Lawyers throughout the state use his book, “New Jersey DWI Defense, the Law & Practice.”
You should not have to worry about losing your license to practice medicine because of one isolated mistake. If you are a physician in New Jersey and you are arrested for DWI or DUI, you cannot afford the wrong attorney. You must be represented by an attorney who has substantial DWI training and experience. That attorney is Steven Hernandez at the Hernandez Law Firm.