What To Do If You Are a Teacher Facing a DUI Charge
For many jobs, a DUI doesn’t necessarily destroy your career. As long as you’re able to get to work and the DUI isn’t substantially related to your work responsibilities, you shouldn’t have a problem keeping your job. However, some employers take DUIs more seriously than others, and this is particularly true for teachers.
If you’re a teacher facing DUI charges in California, you risk losing not only your job but your teaching certificate. Depending on your DUI circumstances, it is crucial to prepare yourself for a roller coaster of legal battles for your job and future.
The California Education Code and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing
You may already be familiar with Section 23152 of the Vehicle Code, which makes it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol/ drugs, but licensed teachers are also subject to laws under the Education Code that deal with professional misconduct. Criminal fines, serving jail time, probation, and mandatory Alcohol Anonymous classes are common California DUI penalties. On top of these, licensed teachers can also face repercussions from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing or the CTC.
Section 44421 of the Education Code grants the Commission authority to “privately admonish, publicly reprove, revoke or suspend for immoral or unprofessional conduct, or persistent defiance of, and refusal to obey, the laws regulating duties of persons serving in the public school system, or for any cause that would have warranted the denial of an application for a credential or the renewal thereof, or for evident unfitness for service.”
The language behind this law may seem clear-cut, but the fate of your teaching profession ultimately lies in the hands of the Commission. Fortunately, a conviction doesn’t automatically revoke your teaching credentials. Before the Commission can take any disciplinary action against a teacher, it must conduct a deep investigation. Subsequently, the investigation results must provide substantial evidence that the teacher’s actions will negatively impact their ability to perform her or his duties as teacher.
During the investigation, the Commission will consider the following:
- When the DUI occurred
- Whether the DUI negatively impacts students and the community
- Whether the incident received publicity from the local news or social media
- Presence of aggravating factors like prior offenses and a lack of remorse
It’s important to note that you can NOT hide your conviction from the Commission. California teachers have to input their details in a system through a biometric fingerprinting Live Scan during licensure. Thus, the Department of Justice keeps the Commission in the loop by notifying the Commission when a licensed teacher is arrested. We can’t stress enough how important it is to seek out an attorney with experience in DUI cases and professional licensing the minute you face criminal charges.
Why you need a lawyer
The impact of a DUI on your teaching career will depend on the specifics of your case. While there is no guarantee that you will be fired from your job, it is certainly a possbility. An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Southern California with a hybrid skillset in criminal and licensing law is an asset in this specific type of criminal case.
The most important aspect of your DUI charges is to avoid a conviction, which is where a criminal defense attorney can help. Attorneys will look for grounds to support a dismissal of your case, like an illegal search and seizure, failure to preserve evidence, entrapment, and coerced confession, among other defenses.
Your criminal defense attorney can also seek a plea bargain under Sections 23101 and 23103.5 of the Vehicle Code to have your conviction reduced to a wet reckless. Unlike a misdemeanor or felony DUI conviction, a plea bargain for a wet reckless conviction can help you avoid serving time in jail through rehabilitation and mandatory classes like Alcoholics Anonymous. A plea bargain also helps mitigate the consequences from the Commission. A DUI conviction will likely result in license suspension/revocation, probation, and other fees, but a wet reckless conviction carries less severe disciplinary actions from the Commission.
Unfortunately, your case could still become more complicated because the Commission may consider certain case resolutions or pleas as convictions, even if the criminal court does not. For example, an expunged conviction is not always considered a conviction in a criminal court, but the Commission doesn’t have any reservations against considering an expunged conviction during its preliminary investigations.
Apart from handling your criminal case, your Southern California criminal defense attorney can also advise you on how best to disclose your DUI history to the Commission and your employer. With your lawyer’s help, he/she can minimize potential mistakes in the disclosure and the disciplinary penalties.
Attorney Don Hammond Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. to the rescue!
Attorney Don Hammond leads a team of criminal defense heroes who have successfully represented a wide range of licensed professionals, including teachers and educators. If you’re a Southern California teacher who has been arrested for a DUI, it’s important to hire a proactive and qualified defense and licensing attorney. Here at Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C., we have the knowledge and experience to craft legal strategies to help you make it through your DUI unscathed. For additional information or to schedule a first consultation, contact Don Hammond Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. at 323-529-3660 or send an email to [email protected].