I am a Registered Nurse and was Arrested for a DUI, What Impact Will this have on my License?

The California Board of Registered Nursing, as construed by a Nursing Practice Act statute,  often considers DUI an act of unprofessional conduct, saying that it involves the dangerous use of alcohol and a crime involving consumption of alcohol.   However, in California a criminal conviction is not grounds for professional discipline unless it is substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of the profession.   The applicable law is found in California Business and Professions Code.  With that being said, when a DUI arrest occurs the individual is processed by the police and fingerprinted and therefore the arrest will usually be reported even though the person has not been to Court.  An experienced DUI Lawyer can appear with you in Court and employ various legal defenses to keep the arrest from becoming a conviction on the DUI charge (VC23152).  If you are already a nurse, a DUI will usually not result in a termination, however it will cause problems.  If you want to become a nurse then a DUI will cause more problems, in either event having a DUI attorney representing you is the safest bet.  There are strategies than can be utilized to mitigate the effects of a DUI arrest and how it will impact a nursing career.  So if you are a nurse, especially a registered nurse or RN in California,  taking immediate steps to retain an attorney is imperative.   A DUI Lawyer can help with a plan to mitigate the damage of a DUI arrest.  For a nurse, this means dealing with not only the criminal court proceedings, but also the consequences the drunk driving arrest will have on the individual’s job as a nurse.

So what do I do if the Nursing Board is sending me letters or leaving me messages to contact them about my recent DUI?  Hire a  Lawyer.  Exercise common sense  over the situation.  Under California law you have a right to counsel and a right to know the nature of the complaint against you before you answer questions or provide a statement to the investigator.  In addition, everyone has a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and it is unwise to answer questions that will subject you to criminal charges.   Make the right choice, hire a legal professional to help you navigate your way through the system.  Most of the Board investigators are seasoned professionals themselves who are used to working with attorneys.  Exercising your right to counsel does not make you look guilty; rather, it makes you appear to be an intelligent professional who cares about your Nursing License.

The information provided in this article was contributed by Matthew J. Ruff ,  a licensed California Attorney that focuses his practice on Criminal Defense and DUI.  He is available to defend nurses facing a DUI or any other criminal charge in all California Courts.


As of May 2012 the California Appeals Court has ruled that a registered nurse can lose his or her license after just one DUI conviction.  This decision is very troubling for many in the field and the best advice that one can give right now is to fight any DUI that is pending.  A single DUI conviction can result in the loss of your ability to make a living.  Consult a lawyer in your area if you have been arrested for a DUI.  If you have a pending case in Southern California, DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff today for a no cost evaluation.  Facing the Board of Registered Nursing alone can be a daunting and scary experience, Matthew Ruff has thousands of cases of experience in defending criminal charges, many of whom were nurses and registered nurses.

On the other hand, it is important to remember that if you are a nurse and simply arrested for DUI that does not mean you are done.  The California nursing Board has reiterated that there is no mandatory duty to report a DUI unless you are convicted.  This means that you are presumed innocent unless proven guilty either by a Judge or Jury, or you plead guilty or no contest in Court.  Hiring an attorney is the smartest way to avoid being convicted.  Many lawyers can assert legal defenses that may cause the DUI to be dropped or reduced.  For example, recently Matthew was able to get a driving under the influence with a refusal completely dropped after he tried the case before a Judge in LAX Court in West Los Angeles.  Following a trial a Judge acquitted his client of VC23152 and the alleged refusal.  Prior to that, the City Attorney for LA wanted 10 days jail!

Does a DUI have the same consequences for other individuals in the medical field such as CNA, LVN or Nurse Assistant?  It could.  The State of California will likely be notified if you are arrested of driving under the influence and start an investigation.  The steps a person takes after the arrest or detention for DWI will likely influence how the licensing agency will adjudicate the case.

Tips to resolving a DUI case involving a Nurse.

  1.  Avoid pleading guilty to a Felony.  This charge can carry with it an almost mandatory consequence to a nursing license.
  2. Avoid pleading guilty to any DUI involving drugs  (DUID).
  3. Avoid pleading guilty to any driving under the influence with an admission to certain “aggravating factors” such as high BAC, children in car, excessive speed, priors, etc.
  4. The better plea is to the VC 23152b vs. VC 23152a.  The “per se” charge is a more innocuous count that does not necessarily involve admitting you were too impaired to drive.

In any case, always consult with a lawyer who has experience defending nurses charged with DUI before pleading guilty or taking any plea deal in Court.  A DUI Attorney can assess the case for potential defenses such as failure to follow state regulations involving breath and blood testing, violations of Constitutional rights such as improper detention and arrest, and affirmative defenses such as “rising blood alcohol “.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty five years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV regarding license suspension hearings stemming from drunk driving arrests.
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24 Responses to I am a Registered Nurse and was Arrested for a DUI, What Impact Will this have on my License?

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    A very informative post by Torrance DUI attorney Matthew J Ruff advising California nurses (and I will add, nursing students) to immediately retain a criminal defense attorney when facing a conviction for DUI. The best time to hire a lawyer is before a conviction for violation of Vehicle Code 23152 (CA DUI law), but if the conviction has already occurred and the nurse or nursing student is now having difficulty with the BRN, hiring a nursing license defense attorney is critical, especially after the ruling in Sulla v. Board of Registered Nursing.

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