If you are a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), or Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP) who has been arrested for a DUI, it is imperative to hire an attorney with expertise in both criminal law and professional licensing law who uniquely understands the impact of a DUI on your license. This attorney will represent you with both the DUI and the disclosure/disciplinary process with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS).
A DUI is considered a criminal offense in California and can put your professional license and years of hard work at risk. After a DUI conviction, your professional licensing board may file an accusation calling for revocation or suspension of your license.
Consider the following fictionalized vignette:
Thelma (a California therapist) is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) with a thriving private practice in Berkeley, California. She is currently on a much-needed vacation in Napa with her husband. Tonight she and her husband are celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary. They enjoy a romantic meal at the restaurant in Napa where they first met on a blind date. Thelma follows her rule of having only one glass of wine per hour in order to drive safely. As they arrive back at the hotel, Thelma collides with a parked car. Her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest is 0.08%. Thelma is scared that she could lose her MFT license and doesn’t know what to do next.
What type of lawyer should Thelma hire? Should she tell the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) about her arrest? How can Thelma best protect her MFT license?
Should You Tell Your Licensing Board About Your DUI?
California mental health professionals undergo Live Scan fingerprinting at the time of licensure. When a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), or Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP) is arrested and fingerprinted for a DUI, the Department of Justice automatically notifies the California Board of Behavioral Sciences of the arrest.
A DUI conviction must also be disclosed to the BBS for all license applications and license renewals. It is critical to have a professional licensing attorney assist in this disclosure in an effort to minimize both disclosure mistakes and disciplinary repercussions. A professional licensing attorney can also assist a mental health professional in deciding when, if, and how to disclose a DUI arrest or conviction to an employer.
Plea Bargaining a DUI
A “wet reckless” (Vehicle Code 23101 and 23103.5 VC) is a plea bargain from a California DUI. An attorney with expertise in both criminal law and professional licensing law uniquely understands the impact of a DUI on a mental health professional’s license and will work hard in an effort to get a DUI reduced to a wet reckless. A DUI conviction may result in a license revocation, probation, and heavy fees. A wet reckless conviction may result in less severe disciplinary penalties by a licensing board.
It is imperative for a mental health professional facing a DUI to hire a professional licensing and DUI attorney at the earliest stages, before a conviction, to fight for the DUI to be reduced to a wet reckless.
What Happens After Your DUI Arrest Becomes a Conviction?
The BBS may discipline a mental health professional licensee or intern who has used alcohol in a way that is dangerous to himself or the public. According to the California Business and Professions Code Section 4982(c),
“The board may deny a license or registration or may suspend or revoke the license or registration of a licensee or registrant if he or she has been guilty of unprofessional conduct. Unprofessional conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following: (c) Administering to himself or herself any controlled substance or using of any of the dangerous drugs specified in Section 4022, or of any alcoholic beverage to the extent, or in a manner, as to be dangerous or injurious to the person applying for a registration or license or holding a registration or license under this chapter, or to any other person, or to the public, or, to the extent that the use impairs the ability of the person applying for or holding a registration or license to conduct with safety to the public the practice authorized by the registration or license. The board shall deny an application for a registration or license or revoke the license or registration of any person, other than one who is licensed as a physician and surgeon, who uses or offers to use drugs in the course of performing marriage and family therapy services.”
The BBS considers each conviction on an individual basis and evaluates when the conviction occurred, its severity, and the details of each case. The BBS will require several types of documentation to be submitted including court documents, copies of police reports, evidence of rehabilitation, reference letters, and a written background statement. But note, a state licensing authority has no mandatory duty to remove publicly available information about a licensee’s convictions from its website–including convictions that are eventually dismissed under Penal Code Sec 1203.4 and Sec. 1203.4a.
It is highly recommended that a licensee or applicant consult with a professional licensing attorney before submitting the background statement, as this letter is carefully considered by the California Bureau of Behavioral Sciences.
What to Ask an Attorney:
• Do you have expertise in both criminal law and professional licensing law?
• How many DUI cases have you won?
• Have you successfully gotten a DUI reduced to a wet reckless?
• Do you have experience representing mental health professionals in DUI cases?
• Have you ever had a client’s license revoked by the BBS for a DUI?
• What are the outcomes I can expect for my case?
• Will the attorney I hire handle my case personally?
• Do you charge a flat fee or an hourly fee?
We Are Here to Help.
The Law Offices of Lucy S. McAllister have successfully represented a wide range of California licensed professionals including Marriage and Family Therapists, Social Workers, Psychologists, nurses, and physicians. We are experienced in handling all types of licensing issues. Let us help you protect your professional license, your reputation, and your livelihood.
If you are a California mental health professional who has been arrested for a DUI, it is imperative to enlist the assistance of an experienced DUI and licensing attorney immediately. The Law Offices of Lucy S. McAllister are here to help. We have a background in criminal and professional licensing law and understand the unique legal complexities facing mental health professionals. We have the knowledge and experience to craft a comprehensive strategy and are dedicated to navigating your specific case from the DUI through the disclosure and disciplinary process to best defend your professional interests.
For additional information or to schedule a consultation on a professional licensing issue, please contact us today at (877) 280-9944.
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