As a licensed dental professional, you know that providing dental care to patients is a serious business. Patients put a lot of faith and trust in dentists and need to know that you will take care of them and keep them safe and comfortable. That's why there are such strict rules around who is allowed to receive and retain and dental licenses.
For this reason, right or wrong, fair or unfair, licensed dental professionals who are found guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI), or other criminal offenses, may find themselves fighting to retain their professional license.
The same is true for applicants for professional licenses. Someone with a record of DWI or a criminal offense may be prevented from obtaining a license.
Will the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Find Out About My DWI, DUI, or Criminal History?
If you are asked on an initial license application or a renewal application whether you have ever been convicted of a crime, including a DWI, you will almost certainly have to disclose your criminal record. The only exception to this is may be if your criminal conviction was later dismissed and the dismissal was not an expunged. Unless yours is the rare situation where this exception applies, you should be honest and open about your criminal record.
Professional licensing bodies have access to a great deal of information and they will likely discover your conviction. If you neglect to disclose a criminal conviction to a professional licensing board, you will likely be subject to additional penalties. Also, failing to disclose your record will make it much more likely that your initial or renewal application will be denied and any existing license you already have is likely to be revoked. If you are convicted of a crime while you already have a professional license, you may need to report your conviction to the dental licensing body even if your license is not yet due for renewal.
In some circumstances, you may need to report only being charged with a crime, even if you have not yet been convicted. As a licensed dental professional, you should contact a lawyer if you have any negative encounter with law enforcement in order to better understand your rights, obligations, and to protect your license and livelihood.
Throughout most of the state, Texas dentists undergo Live Scan fingerprinting when they receive their licenses and when their licenses are renewed. If law enforcement agencies have your fingerprints on file, they will likely notify the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners of any criminal offense you are charged with, including a DWI or DUI arrest.
By law, a dentist in Texas is required to disclose a DWI conviction to the Dental Board. It is in your best interest to be forthcoming and disclose any arrests or convictions. But, you shouldn't do this on your own. Hiring a professional and experienced board certified DWI attorney to help you in the disclosure process can make a huge difference in what actions are taken next.
When you disclose a charge or conviction to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, you should explain the circumstances surrounding your criminal charge or conviction. It's best to be honest about your criminal history and include details of mitigating circumstances and any rehabilitative efforts you've taken. An attorney who is experienced in defending professional licenses will be able to advise you on what to include, help you draft a letter to the board, and you through the process.
Consider Joshua, a dentist in Dallas. Joshua has long suffered from chronic back pain due to an old injury. The pain flares up occasionally, and when it does, Joshua takes a muscle relaxer that his doctor prescribes for him. One Sunday, a day when Joshua was not seeing patients, he helped a friend with a home improvement project, causing his back pain to flare up. He took a double dose of the muscle relaxant so that he could still function well enough to pick up his mother-in-law from the airport as planned. However, while driving to the airport, Joshua rear-ended a stopped car at a red light. When the police officer responded to the scene of the accident, he suspected that Joshua was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He arrested Joshua for DUI. Joshua was terrified that he could lose his dental license, which would mean losing the practice he'd spent years building, and losing his livelihood. He hired a professional license defense attorney to help him explain his circumstances to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. After investigating Joshua and his history, the Board determined that he was not a risk to the public and he was allowed to keep his license.
Is My License at Risk? How Can I Tell?
Certain categories of crimes are more likely to jeopardize your license than others. You may not know right away if your license is at risk, but cases involving drug or alcohol abuse, those that suggest mental illness, theft or fraud, violent crimes, and sex crimes will be most likely to trigger disciplinary action. A DUI or DWI could spur disciplinary action, but disciplinary action is not a certainty.
When you or someone else reports your criminal conviction to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, or the board learns of your conviction some other way, an investigator will most likely be assigned to gather information. The investigator will search criminal records for relevant information and interview people who may have information on you and your offense. The investigator may also interview you during this process. The investigation and interview are very serious and you should take them very seriously. You should not agree to be interviewed and should not give any documents to the investigator until you have consulted with an attorney. Not only will a knowledgeable attorney be able to advise and assist you, but he or she may be able to convince the investigator to close the case without any further action.
If the investigator concludes the investigation by deciding that disciplinary action is warranted, your case will be passed to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners with a recommendation that the board brings disciplinary action against your license. At this point, you will receive what is called an “Accusation”. This may be the first formal notice you receive that your license is at risk. The Accusation will detail the claims against you, the legal basis for the action, and the recommended discipline, which could be the revocation of your license.
Is My License at Risk as a Dental Hygienist?
Like all professional license holders, a dental hygienist can be subject to disciplinary action after committing a crime, including driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated. If you're facing DUI charges and you're currently a dental hygienist or you plan to be one in the future, read on to learn how a DUI or DWI can lead to disciplinary action. Can a DUI or DWI conviction impact your dental hygienist license? In a word – yes.
Dental hygienists in Texas are also regulated by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners and the process for disciplinary action is much the same as it is for dentists. If you are a dental hygienist and you have been arrested or charged with a criminal offense, such as DWI, you need to consult with a knowledgeable attorney immediately.
What Can I Do to Get or Keep My License?
Being denied a license or having a disciplinary action brought against you is humbling, frustrating, and frightening. If the Dental Board has denied your license application or brought a disciplinary action against you, you will have to show to the board's satisfaction that you do not suffer from any addictions, habits, mental illnesses, or criminal tendencies that would impair your ability to do your job or that would pose a risk to patients or the general public. You will have to show that you understand the seriousness of the charges against you and that you share any evidence or information that might lessen the impact of the charges.
Your professional career and dental license may be at risk after a DUI or DWI. A DUI or DWI charge can apply to using alcohol and/or drugs while driving. The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners may file an accusation against a dentist for a DUI or DWI, calling for revocation or suspension of the dentist's license.
If you are a Texas dental professional who has been arrested for DWI or DUI, it is vital that you immediately hire an attorney who is an experienced DWI Board Certified Lawyer, as well as experienced with professional license defense.
Board Certified DWI Lawyer Doug Murphy understands the unique legal complexities facing dentists accused of and convicted of DUIs and DWIs. We have the knowledge and experience to create a comprehensive legal strategy that will help you through the entire process, from the arrest through the disclosure and disciplinary process with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. We have successfully represented a wide range of licensed professionals in Texas, including dentists, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and mental health practitioners. Let us help you protect your professional license, your reputation, and your livelihood.