How Can a DWI in New Jersey Impact a Professional License?
If someone with a professional license was charged with a DWI in New Jersey, the impact to their professional license will depend on their profession. For example, if that individual is an airplane pilot, they would have to report the incident twice. Under 14 C.F.R. 61.15, all pilots must send a Notification Letter to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Security and Investigations Division, within 60 calendar days of the effective date of an alcohol and/or drug related conviction or administrative action. They would have to report it to the FAA as part of their medical examination certification. This will likely lead to some rehabilitative action. Similar requirements apply for persons applying to the U.S. Coast Guard to captain or pilot a vessel. One profession that gets hit hard in terms of oversight is nursing. Nurses that get charged and ultimately convicted with a DWI go through very serious battery of vehicle rehabilitative measures, which can include seeing a counselor, attending AA and whatever else the board of nursing determines is appropriate. These actions, of course, can be challenged, but a great deal of deference is given to the boards.
For other professionals, such as lawyers or doctors, there is very little effect unless it impacts the the actual practice of law or medicine. A DWI conviction can become significant when applying for admission to the bar, but if there is a showing of rehabilitative effort, it’s a small hurdle that can be usually overcome. Those licensed as commercial drivers face a one-year revocation of their commercial driver’s license [“CDL”] endorsement for a first offense and life for a second offense. In most states, “life” means 10 years. But in New Jersey, “life” means life.
Finally, those who want to drive a taxi, limousine, Uber, Lyft, or other ridesharing service will be prohibited from that line of work if they have a DWI conviction by virtue of state regulations. The same is true for those who teach motorcycle safety or drivers education.
Why Is a DWI More Serious for Nurses than It Would Be for Doctors?
For nurses, a DWI is usually more serious because of regulatory oversight by the Board of Nursing. Whether a doctor must report a conviction varies from state-to-state. Some take it very seriously, while others practically think of it as a nonevent. For doctors in New Jersey, there is no significant consequence of which I am aware. You would think that DWI reporting would apply more heavily to doctors, but they might just have a better lobby. On the other hand, nurse practitioners are taking up this issue more in the trenches. Perhaps the Board of Nursing believes that it is a more significant issue than the Medical Examiners.
Am I Required to Inform My Professional Board or Association if I Am Charged or Convicted of DWI in New Jersey?
Whether you are required to inform your professional board or association if charged or convicted of a DWI will depend on profession. For lawyers, there is no requirement to report because, in New Jersey, a DWI is not classified as crime. In other states where it is classified as a crime, there is an obligation to report. Nurses may have an obligation to report. Pilots have an affirmative obligation to report. But for other professions, there are no obligations to report. Other professions, such as commercial drivers and rideshare drivers, are prohibited from engaging in that type of work. Also, the motor vehicle commission will include a legend on the driver history abstract so that, if stopped by a police officer, the person can be charged with an offense.
Is It Possible to Have a DWI Expunged or Removed from My Record In New Jersey?
In New Jersey, there is no provision for expungement of DWIs because DWI is classified as traffic offense and not a crime. There are provisions for expunging criminal offenses, but that does not apply at all to traffic offenses. Once an offense is on your driving record, it is there forever. A DWI can have a potential lifelong impact. There are general enhancement provisions for subsequent DWIs and breath test refusal charges within 10 years of a first. When you get into third or subsequent offenses, even a remote DWI or a refusal conviction occurring many years earlier can have a drastic impact on penalty exposure.
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