Drunk driving can ruin your career

Drunk driving can ruin your career

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published in 2005. Much has changed since then, and the reader is advised to examine current DUI defense law firm websites for updates.)

While you won’t find “loss of employment” listed in Washington State’s DUI laws, a drunk driving arrest can have a detrimental effect on your continued employment. If you have to drive to get to work, or you have to drive to get work done, a DUI arrest in Washington State triggers two ways you can suffer from losing your license:

(1) administratively in the hands of the licensing department

(2) through a court action if you are subsequently convicted of a DUI.

In Washington State, when a breath test is taken and the result is .08 or higher, the Department of Licensing will seek to administratively suspend your license even if you have not been charged with a DUI offense. In most cases you will be eligible to apply for an ignition interlock licence, but this only requires you to drive (with few exceptions) if the vehicle you are driving has an ignition interlock device installed.

There is an exception to the ignition interlock law that allows you to drive an employer vehicle if the job requires it without the ignition interlock. The application for this can be found on several websites, including the Fox Bowman Duarte website.

The ignition interlock means your car won’t start if alcohol is present, and the horn will sound and lights will flash if alcohol is detected while driving. The operational implications of this in-car breath test device are ominous for sales people requiring customer interaction: Few potential customers are impressed by a salesperson who drives an ignition interlock vehicle.

In addition, individuals who must travel for work and then who must rent cars at sales destinations will not be able to rent cars during the time when ignition interlock is required, thus affecting the possibility of business travel. Currently, there are no known car rental agencies that have vehicles equipped with ignition interlock in their fleets.

Criminal sanctions:

Even without a prior record, up to a year in jail can be imposed, and if the breath test was refused, a two-year license suspension is imposed. After that, the ignition interlock requirement exists for at least one year after the suspension expires.

If there is a prior DUI offense within seven years of the date of arrest for the current incident, things get much worse if your job requires interstate travel. The New Washington state DUI law requires such a person to obtain a permit from the Department of Corrections before traveling interstate. The application process is time-consuming and will significantly impede or even prevent interstate business travel.

There are some careers that will be threatened by arrest or conviction for reasons other than losing the ability to drive. Corporate officials, public figures, sports figures, or employees with security clearances or those in sensitive positions may find, if the matter reaches media attention, that the impact of the resulting adverse publicity is more career-damaging than the actual “legal” consequences of DUI. The author of this article has represented individuals in such a situation. Such cases must be well defended and handled carefully in order to preserve careers while minimizing potential legal ramifications.

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