Craig KuharyCriminal Defense
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Could an OWI conviction jeopardize your nursing license?

Perhaps you joined other nurses in the celebration for a retiring colleague. You had two glasses of wine with dinner, and then began the drive home.

You had not gone far from the restaurant when a law enforcement officer stopped you on suspicion of drunk driving. How would an OWI conviction affect your professional license as a registered nurse?

Professional expectations

Boards of nursing harbor concerns not only with the behavior of a licensee when on duty, but also when he or she is not on the clock. A conviction for drunk driving comes under the heading of “unprofessional conduct,” a broad definition for behavior that a board considers dishonorable or unethical. In fact, a conviction could have occurred years in the past, but the state nursing board can still act if the conviction eventually comes under review. For example, in a 2012 case, the board placed the professional license of a California nurse on probation for three years, even though the drunk driving incident happened before this person even entered nursing school.

Wisconsin penalties

In addition to the payment of fines and the possibility of jail time, there is the matter of the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. Reinstatement is critical, for without the ability to drive, how would you get back and forth to work? In the state of Wisconsin, a driver charged with OWI/DWI/DUI has only 10 days to challenge license revocation with the Department of Motor vehicles.

Career concerns

The penalties for drinking two glasses of wine before driving may seem onerous to you and more than a little frightening. You also face a review by the nursing board, which could result in disciplinary action. Keep in mind that you have rights, including a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding your arrest. There is always a possibility of an administration error or a flaw in a breathalyzer's operation. A conviction for drunk driving could jeopardize your career as a registered nurse, and you want the most favorable outcome possible for your case.

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