The Impact of a DUI Arrest or Conviction on your Job

Although you won’t find “loss of job” listed in the DUI punishment statutes, a DUI arrest in Washington State can have a devastating impact upon your continued employment. If you need to drive to get to work, or if you must drive in the course of your job, a DUI arrest sets in motion two ways you can suffer due to loss of your license: (1) Administratively at the hands of the Department of Licensing and (2) by court action if you are subsequently convicted of DUI. In most first arrest cases (except refusal of the breath test) you will be eligible to apply for an occupational license once you have suffered through thirty days of the suspension, but the department of licensing occupational driver license application does require verification of your eligibility by your employer. License suspension due to a DUI arrest poses additional complications of concern especially if you drive a company car: First, you will be required to file proof of financial responsibility (SR22 insurance) with the Department of Licensing for three years. Second, the Department of Licensing will impose an ignition interlock requirement on your license as a condition of granting an occupational license. This means that your license to drive is valid only if you are driving a car that is equipped with an ignition interlock device. It is unlikely that an employer will look favorably upon this restriction upon your license As a practical matter, if your job involves traveling and you must rent cars in destination cities, the DUI arrest itself can cause huge problems because of the hole punched in your license by the arresting officer. Recall that upon a DUI arrest with a breath test of .08 or higher or a breath test refusal, the Department of Licensing issues a license suspension or revocation that becomes effective 60 days after the arrest (be sure to timely request a driver’s hearing to fight the suspension). The hole punched in your license signifies that your license will expire (and be suspended or revoked) effective 60 days after the arrest. In fact, your license remains valid during this 60 day period, but the hole makes it look invalid. Car rental companies view a license with a hole in it with great suspicion and companies may choose not to rent vehicles to individuals holding such a license. This can be quite an unpleasant surprise to the unsuspecting business traveler who has been arrested for DUI (not convicted or charged) and whose license has a hole punched in it. Beyond this problem, no rental agencies are known to this author that will provide vehicles with ignition interlock devices installed (disqualifying you as a renter if your license is subject to this requirement) and rental agencies might not honor the occupational license issued by Washington’s department of licensing, since it looks nothing like an ordinary license. There are some careers that will be jeopardized by a DUI arrest or conviction for reasons other than loss of the ability to drive. Corporate officers, public figures, or employees with security clearances or in sensitive positions may find, if the matter comes to the attention of the media, that the impact of the resultant adverse publicity is more damaging to the career than the actual legal consequences of a DUI. The author of this article has represented many individuals so situated. Such cases must be defended well and handled carefully, with the objective of preserving the career while minimizing potential legal consequences. If you have fears about the impact of a DUI arrest or conviction upon your career, you should first determine, by obtaining the advice of experienced DUI defense counsel, the true potential consequences of your arrest and, with your lawyer, map out the best legal defense to the charge. Next, determine what the corporate policy is in the event of a DUI arrest or conviction so that you will not be terminated for failing to report an arrest IF you are required to do so. Take no steps without adequate professional advice. In some cases, additional steps might include contacting a union representative, or seeking independent representation by a lawyer versed in employment law.