How Can DWI Convictions Impact Family Law Issues?
Certainly if alcohol is the fact in a person’s life, it’s usually part of the custody battle or family litigation even without the presence of the DUI. Of course the DUI has practical ramifications where we talked about how just getting the kids and dealing with visitation can be effected by not having a driver’s license. But theoretically, one could plead guilty to DUI in New Jersey and request something called a Protective Order. Under our court rules, a person can ask the municipal court to mark a guilty plea so that that plea will not become evidence in civil litigation. So the fact of a DUI conviction itself wouldn’t be considered in, say, a divorce trial.
But certainly that’s a very small protection because other aspects like the ability to drive, whether there is an underlying drinking problem or some alcoholism or drug issue, those are probably issues that are already well-known by the parties in the matrimonial litigation and are probably being dealt with the DUI just getting a little extra gloss by virtue of the loss of license and financial commitments that are generated from a conviction for DUI.
How Can A DWI Conviction Impact Academic Prospects?
That sort of thing is kind of like employment. It’s very variable. DUI in New Jersey is not a crime, so if one of the conditions of a scholarship or an employment is whether one has a criminal record, technically DUI would not come under those categories. But you have to really look hard at the questions because sometimes they’ll also ask, “Have you been convicted of DUI or have you been convicted of a serious traffic offense or have you had your driver’s license revoked?” Those kinds of questions would require the respondents to say “Yes, I had a DWI and this is what happened”. You also have to consider whether the question is really intended to elicit disqualifying information but whether it’s just calling for disclosure.
Sometimes it’s calling for disclosure and the questioner is really trying to understand how you dealt with that challenge. So usually if you get a DUI, I’ll recommend that if one has this kind of a thing, if one is involved, say, in that matrimonial litigation we talked about earlier, or if one has one of these professional licensing issues, or a contract for that matter, that takes into account disabilities like alcoholism. It’s always a good idea to see a certified alcohol counselor or psychologist or other mental health professionals to evaluate the situation, to make a diagnosis if it’s appropriate, and to make a referral for further education, further evaluation or treatment and to follow those recommendations. This is particularly helpful if one has health insurance. By the way, I always tell people that if they’re going to do this through their health insurance, do not say they are doing it because their lawyer told them to but to say, and this is the honest truth, that they’re doing it because a significant event occurred to them, the DWI charge, and they want to get themselves checked out.
In this way, it becomes a medical issue as opposed to a legal issue although certainly we can, in the legal arena, take advantage of whatever the evaluation says. I also recommend that when getting such an evaluation that the person be perfectly honest just as we have privilege within the attorney-client relationship, there is also privilege in the counselor-patient relationship. What we’re really more interested with that is finding out what’s going on. So if there is something that shouldn’t be disclosed, we can protect that disclosure by virtue of the privileges, but more often than not, from my perspective, from the legal perspective, it doesn’t matter whether a person has a drinking problem or does not have a drinking problem because how you handle those determinations can cut positively both for negotiating alternative dispositions to a guilty finding on a DUI such as getting a reckless driving charge or downgraded DUI.
If you go to trial and the person gets convicted because the counselor says, “There is no problem”, I can honestly say at sentencing or in negotiations that this is an isolated event unlikely to recur. That’s not me saying it as the person’s advocate but some detached third-party giving an assessment diagnosis. On the other hand, if the determination is that there is an issue with alcohol, you would expect the referral and that referral should be covered by health insurance, minus any co-pays and then the pitch becomes that the DUI event was a wakeup call that led this person to take appropriate rehabilitative actions and they’re following through in dealing with the issues. It doesn’t matter if you have a problem or you don’t have a problem.
If the third-party professional, a mental health professional deals with it objectively, and then a client follows those recommendations appropriately, that evaluation is going to work in our favor.
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