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Houston Professional License Defense Attorney

Legal Professionals Safeguarding Licenses in Houston, TX

A professional who faces a DWI arrest needs the experience of a professional DWI lawyer, i.e. a Board Certified attorney with the experience to understand and know what is at stake and the requirements for a professional after an arrest. Doug Murphy and his team are renowned for helping countless professionals save their personal and professional careers after a life-changing charge of DWI or other criminal charges. Professionals have unique ramifications, whether it is with a professional licensing entity or facing the wrath of a corporate board or private owner dealing with an embarrassing arrest made public. Doug Murphy provides expert DWI defense to professionals like:

Alcohol Use and Professional Careers

Entering a healthcare profession like medicine, nursing, or dentistry, a business profession like finance, securities, financial advising, or accounting, a specialty profession like piloting, or a helping profession like real estate or teaching doesn't require abstinence from alcohol. Many professionals are fully able to drink responsibly, with no adverse impact on the practice of their profession, through all stages of their professional careers. Professionals get to relax and enjoy life at times, just like others do, and enjoying a drink at a social occasion or nurturing a wine-tasting hobby is not inherently a problem.

Special Hazards of a DWI

Yet DWI charges, whether weak charges that the prosecutor never should have filed or charges after a once-in-a-lifetime mistake, can cause special hazards for professionals. Professions have licensing or certifying bodies to protect the public and preserve the public's trust in the profession. Texas, like other states, has a plethora of occupational and professional licensing bodies. Licensing or certifying bodies take DWI charges and convictions seriously. A DWI charge or conviction can affect a professional in virtually any licensed or certified profession. Professionals who have no drinking problem at all and who don't abuse drugs can nonetheless lose their licenses or certifications over poorly handled DWI charges. Lose the license or certification, and the professional loses the privilege to practice the profession. Practicing a profession without a valid and current state-required license can be grounds not only for further discipline but for fines and other civil and even criminal penalties. For example, Sections 165.001 et. seq of Texas's Occupations Code permits the medical board to impose fines and civil and criminal penalties for, and obtain injunctions against, practicing medicine without a license.

Special Skills Required

Professionals charged with DWI, whether they are innocent or have just made that once-in-a-lifetime mistake, need the most professional of lawyers, a Board Certified DWI defense attorney, to aggressively and effectively defend not only the DWI charges but also the professional's license or certification. The plea bargains, diversions, and compromises that are sufficient in DWI defense for non-professionals may not be sufficient to maintain a professional's license or certification. Lose the license, lose the practice. Lose the practice, lose the career.

Professional License Representation Available

Premier Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy aggressively and effectively defends professionals facing DWI charges. If you are a professional facing Texas DWI charges, then you can do no better than to hire the region's premier DWI defense attorney with a national reputation. Attorney Murphy has represented hundreds of Texas professionals, not only in court but also before their licensing boards to ensure that the professional has the best chance to preserve their license. Attorney Murphy, whom other lawyers voted Best Lawyers in America's Lawyer of the Year, is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both Criminal Law Certification and DWI Board Certification. He is also a frequent national lecturer on DWI and other aspects of criminal law. Texas professionals facing DWI charges make the best decision when retaining Attorney Murphy both to defend against DWI charges and represent the professional before the licensing board.

Why Professional Licensing Bodies Don't Like DWIs

Typical Licensing Concerns

Professional licensing bodies rightly concern themselves with the honesty, trustworthiness, safety, and competence of professionals. Relatively few professionals have serious drinking problems or abuse drugs. Yet many more professionals face DWI charges because of police errors, prosecutor overreach, or one of those rare don't-know-how-it-happened mistakes. Yet a DWI arrest inevitably triggers a licensing investigation. That investigation may be unwarranted. It may seem highly unfair. A DWI charge is not a DWI conviction. The charge, once defended and defeated by a retained DWI defense attorney, may mean nothing at all. But licensing bodies take public protection as their charge. They won't know if a professional is a danger or not, competent or incompetent, or guilty or innocent, until they investigate. Protecting the public while ensuring public confidence in the profession means that licensing bodies must go after professionals who:

  • Commit violent crimes, endangering individual safety and security;
  • Commit crimes or acts of dishonesty, destroying trust;
  • Abuse substances or pursue addictions, degrading professional performance;
  • Engage in inappropriate sexual relationships, harming patients and clients;
  • Demonstrate financial improprieties, risking client funds and property;
  • Demonstrate professional incompetence, harming patients or clients;
  • Disrupt professional and employment relationships; or
  • Disrespect and disregard licensing bodies and requirements.

A DWI as a Licensing Issue

Where on that list of licensing concerns would a DWI fall? Why should a professional licensing body have any concern over a single DWI occurring, say, on a holiday weekend? One might think that a DWI charge has little or nothing to do with safe, competent, and trustworthy professional practice. And in many instances, that is indeed the case. The DWI charge, once defended and dismissed, may indicate nothing about the professional who in fact, has good character and great professional competence. Just because you face a DWI charge doesn't mean you have a drinking problem or drug abuse issue. But licensing bodies don't necessarily look at a DWI charge that way. Licensing bodies can construe a DWI charge as disregard for law, rule, and regulation. If the profession requires respectful compliance with all legal rules and limits, as nearly every profession does, then a licensing body could take a DWI conviction as evidence that the professional doesn't respect compliance. A DWI charge is a licensing issue. But it doesn't have to mean any license discipline. If you are a professional facing a Texas DWI charge, then retain premier DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy. Attorney Murphy has successfully represented hundreds of professionals facing Texas DWI charges.

Authority of Licensing Bodies

Investigative Authority

Licensing bodies generally have the authority to treat a DWI as grounds for investigating a serious licensing issue. Licensing bodies may not have the authority to treat a DWI entirely unrelated to the defendant's professional practice as grounds for license suspension or revocation. Licensing bodies generally may, though, take the DWI charge or conviction as a reason to investigate the professional for a connection between the drunk driving and their professional practice. In other words, a DWI could lead to a discovery of deeper licensing concerns, like professional practice under the influence, that justify license discipline. Section 164.051 of Texas's Medical Practice Act, for instance, makes exactly that distinction. Section 164.051(a)(4)(B) makes drunken medical practice a grounds for license discipline. A DWI charge doesn't mean the professional was ever drunk while practicing the profession. But a DWI charge can give the licensing body a reason to investigate that possibility.

Few Hard-and-Fast Rules

Licensing bodies also tend to have few hard-and-fast rules, including rules about DWIs. Licensing bodies tend instead to take each licensing issue, including DWI charges, on a case-by-case basis. Section 164.051 of Texas's Medical Practice Act once again provides an example. Section 164.051(a)(2) makes a felony conviction or misdemeanor conviction for a crime of moral turpitude grounds for license discipline. A first-time Texas DWI is only a misdemeanor and not ordinarily a crime of moral turpitude, and thus not a cause in itself for medical license discipline. Other Texas DWIs, like third-time DWI or a DWI causing death or serious injury, are felonies and thus could result in medical license discipline. That licensing practice of looking at the details of each case increases the importance that your DWI defense attorney makes those details of your DWI charge and resolution as favorable as possible, within the best possible context.

Reporting DWIs to Professional Bodies

Better to Report a DWI

Professionals should not think that they can get away with hiding a DWI from their licensing bodies, even a DWI that has no basis or bears no relationship to the professional's practice. Licensing bodies frequently require professionals to affirmatively disclose arrests, convictions, and other circumstances that might raise a licensing red flag. Disclosure is typically required not only when applying for the license or renewing the license, but also when the red-flag event occurs. Nurses licensed in Texas, for instance, may suffer discipline under Section 301.452(b)(3) of Texas's Nursing Practice Act for any felony or misdemeanor of moral turpitude. Texas's Board of Nursing thus requires nurses to report convictions, including DWI convictions, for the Board to review whether discipline is authorized and appropriate. Professionals must generally report DWI charges and convictions.

Failure-to-Report Discipline

The nurse or other professional who does not report a DWI arrest or conviction as the licensing body requires runs the risk of the licensing body discovering the arrest or conviction and imposing additional discipline for the professional's failure to report. A professional could, in other words, suffer license discipline simply for failing to report a DWI, even if the professional could readily show that the DWI has nothing to do with the professional's fitness for practice or if the DWI charge is dropped. Generally, if you have any question over whether to report a DWI arrest or conviction, you are better to report with the help of your DWI attorney than to not report and then suffer failure-to-report discipline. Remember, disregard of the licensing rules is itself often an automatic grounds for discipline. Hoping that a licensing board doesn't detect a DWI is a very poor strategy, one that will keep you up at night and add significantly to your risk of discipline. It is far better to retain Texas DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to defend and defeat the DWI charge or negotiate the best possible outcome, while helping you report to and deal with your licensing board.

How Licensing Bodies Find Out Anyway

In these internet days, locating arrest and conviction information online gets easier and easier. Licensing bodies check criminal history databases within their state and sometimes even nationally for arrest and conviction evidence. Law enforcement agencies making a DWI arrest may also alert the defendant professional's licensing body. Texas dentists, for example, must generally submit Live Scan fingerprints to obtain or renew their license with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. When a Texas law enforcement agency arrests a Texas-licensed dentist on a DWI, the agency is reasonably likely to make the Live Scan fingerprint match alerting the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. Don't try to hide DWI arrests and convictions from your licensing board. You may have done nothing wrong to hide. Your DWI charge may have been unjust or entirely unrelated to your professional character and fitness. Instead, retain a DWI lawyer to defend the DWI charge and help you report and deal with your licensing board.

Licensing Board Representation

Because chances are good that you will need to report your DWI arrest or conviction to your professional licensing board, you should retain a DWI attorney who has experience representing professionals before licensing boards. Professionals, whether innocent or responsible, who face DWI charges, whether related or unrelated to professional practice, need a professional's lawyer, meaning a lawyer who knows the unique and hugely important concerns of a professional. Many DWI lawyers leave collateral matters like professional licensing to the client to handle. They limit their representation to dealing with the criminal charge in court. But to the professional charged with a DWI, the professional's licensing investigation isn't really "collateral." The professional's licensing investigation is often just as important or even more important than the DWI charge. If you are a professional facing a DWI charge, you need a DWI defense lawyer who will agree to take on the licensing representation, too.

What Licensing Boards May Require

Doing your best with the DWI charge can certainly help you in your licensing proceeding. But what you and your DWI defense attorney do in the licensing proceeding can also make a difference. The licensing board may be more concerned with your alcohol use and habits than with the circumstances of the DWI. You may have no habit of alcohol or drug use at all. Your DWI charge may have been a police error or prosecutor overreach. Or your DWI charge may have been a fluke, a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Whatever the circumstance, you can benefit by showing the licensing board that you do not suffer from alcohol addiction, any related debilitating physical or mental disorders, or any related criminal tendencies. Above all, you can benefit by showing the licensing board that nothing impairs your ability to safely and competently practice your profession and that you present no threat to patients, clients, customers, or the public. Premier Texas DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy can help you show mitigating evidence to the licensing board, even while you acknowledge the need to avoid further DWI issues.

The Professional Stakes Are Higher than the DWI Stakes

DWI Penalties

The above discussion intimates that for the professional charged with a DWI, the stakes may well be higher on the professional side than on the DWI side. A first-time Texas DWI is typically a Class B misdemeanor with penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a $3,000 fine. First-time DWIs, though, often result in no jail time beyond the initial arrest. Probation, license restriction, and a modest fine are not in themselves huge issues for many professionals. Subsequent DWIs certainly increase the penalties. A second DWI, still a misdemeanor, can result in up to twelve months of jail and a $6,000 fine. A third DWI, a felony, can result in a two-to-ten-year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine. But a first-time DWI conviction or other DWI convictions can still be manageable, with the right DWI lawyer representation. Indeed, when you retain premier Texas DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to aggressively defend your case, you increase the likelihood of defeating the DWI charge entirely, on constitutional grounds, with warrant challenges, and with challenges to toxicology results.

Licensing Board Discipline

The much bigger issues may instead be on the professional side, where the DWI, if not handled properly, may result in a license reprimand, suspension, or revocation. And that risk may be the case even if you have no drinking problem or substance abuse issue at all, indeed even if the DWI charge itself is without basis. The discipline authority of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy is an example. The Accountancy Board can do any or a combination of the following, whenever a licensed accountant threatens the public trust with a violation of accountancy rules and ethics:

  • Reprimand the professional publicly or privately, in writing;
  • Require the professional to take specific corrective action;
  • Require the professional to attend substance abuse education;
  • Place the professional on probation under supervision and restriction;
  • Limit the professional's practice to certain duties or employment;
  • Suspend the professional's license to practice for a certain period; or
  • Revoke the professional's license while restricting reapplication rights.

Collateral Consequences

Any license discipline, even something so minor as a reprimand, has the prospect of causing the professional to lose patients or clients, lose hospital or other privileges, lose malpractice insurance or pay increased premiums, and lose employment. Any of those professional losses could easily harm the professional much more than the DWI probation and fine. A combination of those professional losses could seriously impact or even ruin a professional career. Loss of professional employment and career can mean financial and reputational ruin, with all of their impacts on family members and family relationships, friendships, other memberships, honors and awards, and other professional privileges. Don't make the mistake of focusing on the DWI charge to the detriment of attending to your professional license. Both are important. Your professional license may well be more important. With a DWI charge, and related professional license reporting requirements, you face licensing risks even if you have no drinking problem or substance abuse issue whatsoever. Don't make the mistake of ignoring your licensing risks. Retain premier Texas DWI defense lawyer Doug Murphy for your professional defense in both the DWI court proceeding and before your professional licensing body.

Professionals Suspected of Abusing Alcohol

Distinguishing Mistakes from Problems

Many DWI charges have nothing to do with alcohol or drug addictions. Some DWI charges have no factual basis at all. The court should dismiss those charges, based on the skilled advocacy of a DWI defense lawyer. Other DWI charges result from mistakes having nothing to do with abuse of drugs or alcohol. Just because a professional faces a DWI charge doesn't mean the professional has a drinking problem or drug addiction. Yet professionals can have substance abuse issues just like non-professionals. Professional practice doesn't insulate professionals from alcohol or drug abuse. Professionals, though smart and educated, can develop unhealthy habits. In fact, the nonprofit American Addiction Centers reports that these professions tend to have especially high alcohol abuse rates:

  • Lawyers, up to 20% of whom reportedly abuse alcohol, twice the national average rate;
  • Doctors, over 15% of whom reportedly abuse alcohol, with nurses and other healthcare professionals showing similar abuse rates;
  • Business and management professionals, about 9% of whom reportedly abused alcohol within the prior month;
  • Finance and insurance professionals, over 7% of whom reportedly abused alcohol in the prior month;
  • Real estate professionals, around 5% of whom reportedly abused alcohol within the prior month; and
  • Teachers and other education professionals, about 5% of whom reportedly abused alcohol in the prior month.

Getting a DWI Lawyer's Help for Special Relief

Fortunately, many professions recognize that substance abuse among professionals is a treatable occupational hazard. Many professional associations have professional assistance programs, some authorized by law, that help the professional address substance use issues while maintaining their professional practice. Professional licensing bodies may recognize a professional's voluntary participation in a professional assistance program's treatment, counseling, or education measures as a mitigating circumstance to a licensing violation charge. Distinguishing a single mistake from a deeper substance abuse problem is a first step in the proper handling of a DWI charge. A rigorous defense to the DWI charge is also appropriate. But navigating the professional licensing issue, including deciding whether to participate in a professional assistance program, may be the most important step of all.

Contact Our Houston DWI Defense Attorney for Professionals

A professional who faces a DWI needs a professional's lawyer, meaning a lawyer who knows the unique needs of professionals. General practice lawyers who happen to handle DWIs and criminal defense lawyers who make DWI defense a part of their practice can treat DWI defense as a standardized service. To some lawyers, every DWI case looks a lot alike. And some DWI lawyers are just not that well trained or equipped to help clients with collateral consequences like loss of a commercial driver's license, firearms licenses, or security clearances. Professionals facing DWI charges, though, need representation from a lawyer who has experience representing professionals, not just the services of a generalist lawyer. Professionals facing DWI charges need dual representation in the court proceeding and before the professional licensing board.

If you are a professional facing a Texas DWI charge, then you need a Texas DWI defense attorney who knows how to represent professionals to protect your career. DWI convictions carry severe collateral consequences for professionals. Retain premier Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy to protect your professional license and career. Other lawyers have voted attorney Murphy Best Lawyers in America's Lawyer of the Year. Attorney Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both Criminal Law Certification and DWI Board Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. online or at 713-229-8333 today for professional DWI representation.

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