Potential Professional Implications of a DWI Charge
The Texas lawyer charged with a DWI has more at stake than just defending the criminal charge. A Texas DWI could, depending on the nature of the charge and other circumstances, lead to a related disciplinary charge of professional misconduct. Criminal charges are, of course, serious. No lawyer wants to face a DWI charge's embarrassment and risk of fines, incarceration, and license suspension or restriction. But lawyers must generally maintain an active license to practice law in Texas and elsewhere. Indeed, Texas Penal Code 38.122 makes the unauthorized practice of law without a license a felony. And so, the lawyer who loses a license or sees the license suspended will generally lose the employment, standing, and income of a practicing lawyer. Again, the criminal DWI charge is serious. But for the Texas lawyer, the collateral consequences of a DWI charge may be greater than the charge itself if not handled properly. What a lawyer facing a Texas DWI charge thus needs most is a skilled and experienced Texas DWI Specialist who can represent the lawyer effectively in both the criminal case and any related professional disciplinary proceeding. Retain premier Houston DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy for your dual defense of DWI charges and professional disciplinary proceedings.
DWI Charges and Lawyer Conduct Rules
Texas lawyer discipline rules leave an open question as to how disciplinary authorities may treat the outcome of a DWI charge. Texas Disciplinary Rules of Conduct Rule 8.04(a)(2), like the ABA model rule found in many other states, provides that a lawyer shall not “commit a serious crime or commit any other criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” A Texas DWI could constitute a serious crime, especially if it is a felony charge involving a child passenger, injury to another, or a third or subsequent offense. An ABA summary of case law in other jurisdictions confirms that disciplinary authorities and reviewing courts tend to look to factors like injury to others or repeated disregard for the law to determine whether the DWI constitutes a serious enough crime. But some DWI charges, like those suggesting alcohol or drug abuse and addiction, could also reflect adversely on the lawyer's fitness to practice law. For example, the Texas Supreme Court stated in the attorney discipline case In the Matter of Lock, 54 SW3d 305 (Tex. 2001), that controlled substance possession, although not a crime of moral turpitude, could reflect adversely on the attorney's fitness. In their efforts to protect the public, Texas lawyer disciplinary officials pay attention to indications of lawyer alcohol and drug abuse, including DWI charges.
A Lawyer DWI Worst Case Scenario
Based on the above case law, the Texas lawyer charged with a first-offense misdemeanor DWI would hope that lawyer disciplinary officials do not label that misdemeanor offense a “serious crime” under Texas Disciplinary Rules of Conduct Rule 8.04(a)(2). Yet the above ABA summary of case law includes one case, People v Miller, 409 P.3d 667 (Colo. 2017), in which the Hearing Board held a single misdemeanor DWI offense to be lawyer misconduct under an equivalent Rule 8.4. That's the worst-case scenario. Virtually any DWI conviction could, in theory, constitute professional misconduct. The People v Miller case did involve a very high blood-alcohol content, even though it was without other aggravating factors. No one suffered an injury, for instance. And fortunately, the lawyer had voluntarily undergone psychological evaluation and even self-reported the misdemeanor DWI charge, both of which the Hearing Board found mitigated the seriousness of the DWI charge. The lawyer thus suffered only public censure rather than license revocation or suspension. Beware, though: any DWI charge could lead to professional discipline.
Other Implications of a Lawyer's DWI Charge
Lawyers, though, generally have more on the line in a DWI proceeding than simply avoiding jail while also avoiding license suspension. Any discipline, including so little as public censure, can bring other collateral consequences. Clients, for instance, may well hold their lawyer to a higher standard than merely retaining a law license. The lawyer who suffers public censure for a DWI may well lose clients. Law firms and corporate counsel offices who employ lawyers may also not wish to employ a lawyer who has suffered public censure for a DWI charge and conviction. Censures and reprimands can cost lawyers not only clients but also law firm partnerships or corporate counsel employment. DWI charges and convictions can also affect child custody, firearms licenses, security clearances, travel privileges, and other interests that could be important or critical to a lawyer, either personally or professionally. Do not underestimate the potential impacts of a DWI charge. Retain the premier DWI Specialist representation you need for your best outcome.
A Lawyer's Duty to Self-Report DWI Charges
The Texas lawyer convicted of a DWI charge may have the duty to report the conviction to the disciplinary authorities. Texas Disciplinary Rules of Conduct Rule 8.03(e) requires the lawyer to report felony convictions and certain misdemeanors involving theft, fraud, or embezzlement: “A lawyer who has been convicted or placed on probation, with or without an adjudication of guilt, by any court for barratry, any felony, or for a misdemeanor involving theft, embezzlement, or fraudulent or reckless misappropriation of money or other property … must notify the chief disciplinary counsel within 30 days of the date of the order or judgment.” Ordinary Texas DWI charges, typically involving a first or second offense without any injuries, are generally misdemeanor charges and, thus, not reportable events. But as indicated above, DWI charges rise to felony charges when involving a child passenger, injury to another, or a third or subsequent offense. Conviction on one of those felony offenses would require reporting. The DWI charge alone would not ordinarily be a reportable event. But a conviction on the DWI charge could be, depending on whether the conviction is for a felony DWI or misdemeanor DWI. And as the above People v Miller case indicates, self-reporting may be a factor mitigating professional discipline. Retain premier DWI Specialist attorney Murphy to help you determine your reporting obligations, advantages, and disadvantages. Get the skilled and experienced help you need for your best outcome.
Report of DWI Charges by Other Lawyers
Even if you need not self-report a DWI charge or misdemeanor DWI conviction, your professional peers might report you relating to the charge or conviction. Texas Disciplinary Rules of Conduct Rule 8.03(a) requires a lawyer to inform the disciplinary authorities when another lawyer “committed a violation of applicable rules of professional conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer….” A DWI charge may not alone raise a substantial question as to the lawyer's fitness. But a DWI charge might be one factor among other factors that a lawyer could take into account when deciding to report another lawyer as potentially unfit for practice. If, for instance, another lawyer observed a lawyer intoxicated at a negotiation or deposition, or in court, the lawyer might take the intoxication and DWI charge as suggesting unfitness. You may find it best to reassure your professional employer and some of your colleagues and acquaintances who know of your DWI charge that you are addressing the charge and any associated substance issue responsibly. Retain DWI Specialist attorney Murphy to help you decide how and with whom to communicate about your DWI charge and your responsible handling of it.
Accessing the Texas Lawyers' Assistance Program
The best proactive action may be to voluntarily seek the services of the Texas Lawyers' Assistance Program or a private provider of substance abuse and addiction services. The State Bar of Texas recognizes that lawyers generally have higher rates of substance use and abuse, likely related to the lifestyles and stresses of their professional practice. The State Bar of Texas thus promotes the Texas Lawyers' Assistance Program for lawyers who need or could benefit from confidential substance abuse solutions. The Texas Commission for Lawyer Discipline and attorney discipline officials are well aware of both the incidence of substance use among lawyers and the availability and benefit of Texas Lawyers' Assistance Program services. Disciplinary officials would very likely take into account as a mitigating factor the lawyer's voluntarily submitting to substance abuse evaluations and accepting appropriate services. Those services had exactly that mitigating effect in the above People v Miller case. But again, DWI Specialist attorney Murphy can help you decide whose evaluation to seek, when to seek it, and how to communicate with disciplinary officials, employers, or others about those services.
Defending Your Texas DWI Charge
The outcome of your DWI charge may go a very long way toward determining the outcome of your professional disciplinary proceeding and other collateral consequences. Beat the DWI charge, and you'll very likely do better in any disciplinary review. Do not admit to the facts supporting the charge, and do not plead guilty to the charge without consulting a skilled and experienced DWI Specialist attorney. You may feel as if your DWI charge presents an open and shut case. But DWI charges can, on the contrary, present a wide range of potential defenses. Blood alcohol testing may seem like a reliable science but can instead be notoriously unreliable and uncertain, depending on the training and skill of the operator, the nature and calibration of the equipment, and other factors. The DWI stop, search, and seizure may have violated your constitutional rights so that your DWI Specialist attorney may win a motion to suppress the evidence. You also have Miranda rights and the advantage of other protective criminal procedures. Retain DWI Specialist attorney Murphy for your best available advice and representation defending your DWI charge. Beating the charge may make all the difference in your other professional outcomes.
A Lawyer's Best Steps When Facing a DWI Charge
The best step, then, for a lawyer facing a DWI charge is to get the skilled and experienced professional help needed for the best outcome in both the criminal case and related disciplinary proceedings. DWI Specialist attorney Murphy knows how to advise and represent lawyers, physicians, nurses, accountants, and other professionals in both criminal and professional proceedings. Combined representation in both proceedings ensures the coordination of defense services. Any step in the criminal DWI case may affect the outcome of the professional proceedings and vice versa. Do not proceed in one matter without considering the implications for the other matter. When you retain DWI Specialist attorney Murphy for both proceedings, you get the services and representation you need for these steps, among other steps on the way to your best outcome:
- representation at the criminal arraignment, ensuring that you understand the charge and proceedings;
- representation on bail terms and conditions ensuring your ability to gain your freedom and remain free for your professional practice;
- representation at the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing on your driver's license to advocate and preserve your ability to drive for professional purposes;
- entry of the appropriate plea at arraignment to avoid unanticipated impacts on your professional license;
- advice on whether, when, and how to inform your employer, and assistance with those communications;
- plea negotiation and other communications with the prosecution and court to invoke your procedural rights and defenses;
- communication with professional disciplinary officials and representation before any professional discipline hearing board; and
- criminal court motions, hearings, trials, and appeals, for your best outcome to the criminal charges.
Premier DWI Specialist Available for Dual Defense
Other lawyers voted attorney Murphy the Best Lawyers in America 2021 and 2023 Houston Lawyer of the Year for DWI Defense, as published in U.S. News & World Report. Attorney Murphy earned this award based on attorney peer reviews, from professionals who know the highest quality of attorney Murphy's DWI defense services. Another indication of the high regard in which the legal profession holds attorney Murphy is that he frequently lectures nationwide on DWI defense to lawyers and judges. A lawyer charged in the Houston area with a DWI can do no better than to retain attorney Murphy. Call (713) 229-8333 or go online now.