Drunk Driving Can Ruin Your Career

Steven Spielberg

(Note from the author: The original of this article was posted in 2005. Much has changed since then and the reader is advised to research current law firm websites devoted to DUI defense for updates.)

Although you won’t find “loss of job” listed in Washington state’s DUI laws, a drunk driving arrest can have a devastating impact upon your continued employment. If you need to drive to get to work, or you must drive to do your job, a DUI arrest in Washington state sets in motion two ways you can suffer due to loss of your license:

(1) administratively at the hands of the Department of Licensing

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

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

There is an exception to the ignition interlock law that permits you to drive an employer’s vehicle, if required by the job, without an ignition interlock. The application for this may be found on several websites, including the Fox Bowman Duarte website.

An ignition interlock means that your car won’t start if alcohol is present, and the horn will honk and lights flash if alcohol is detected while driving. The job implications of this in-car breath test device are ominous for persons in sales requiring client interaction: few potential clients are impressed by a sales person who drives an ignition interlocked vehicle.

Beyond this, individuals who must travel for business and then who must rent cars at destination sales locations will be unable to rent cars during the time an ignition interlock is required, thus impacting the ability to travel for business. At present, no car rental agencies are known to have ignition interlock equipped vehicles in their fleets.

Criminal Penalties:

Even with no prior record, up to a year in jail can be imposed and if the breath test was refused, a two-year license revocation is imposed. Then, the ignition interlock requirement exists for at least one year after the suspension has been served.

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

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, sports figures or employees with security clearances or those 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 individuals so situated. Such cases must be defended well and handled carefully, with the objective of preserving the career while minimizing potential legal consequences.

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