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Understanding the Impact of DWI Convictions on Security Clearance in Texas

Know How a DWI Can Affect your Security Clearance in Texas

Depending where you work in Texas, any position you hold—from a clerk to an intelligence analyst—can require security clearance. The process can be arduous and long to obtain clearance, so once you get clearance, you don't want to lose it.

Sometimes, however, that's what happens: you lose it. The cause may be something you initially would not have thought would result in that kind of reaction: a DWI conviction. A charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and a subsequent conviction of the same is a problem. But we are human, and mistakes are made. If you have or are intending to apply for security clearance, you need to find an experienced DWI trial attorney to help you with your legal matters.

An experienced DWI defense trial lawyer knows: (1) the court system; (2) judge personalities and characteristics; (3) the psychology of a jury; and (4) how to develop a legal strategy to either have your DWI charge dismissed before trial or acquitted after trial. If either of the latter materialize, you should still be able to keep or obtain your security clearance.

There are three things you should require in your attorney, who ultimately holds your freedom and future within his power: (1) trial experience; (2) experience specific to DWI and criminal defense; and (3) insight to develop a personalized defense strategy in accordance with the facts.

  • Trial experience provides the insight and confidence necessary to challenge the State appropriately.
  • Experience with DWI cases to understand the nuances and specifics of the law and potential outcomes, among other necessary, informative details.
  • Experience in criminal defense provides the ability to develop strategies that work; only through trial and error do attorneys gain the powerful tools and knowledge necessary for successful outcomes.
  • Insight provides the knowledge that pulls it all together for a defense that challenges the State and invokes reasonable doubt.

Doug Murphy prepares each case for trial and goes to trial unless he has the case dismissed before trial commences. Doug Murphy is Board Certified in DWI and Board Certified in criminal defense, both of which testify to his capabilities. Finally, Doug Murphy has the insight to develop a strategic defense. Doug Murphy understands what's at stake, and he can help.

What Happens With Security Clearance if Convicted of DWI?

There is no short or easy answer to this question. Security clearance will either be affected or it will not. The facts and unique circumstances of each case will determine the outcome. What you need to understand, however, is simple: a DWI conviction is a security concern. As a security concern, the DWI suggests you, too, may be a security concern. Regardless of whether you are a clerk or an intelligence analyst, if there is a security concern hanging over you, your position or career could be in jeopardy.

An investigation will take place to determine if you are a security risk. Fighting your DWI charge is an important part of proving that you are not a security risk. Fighting your DWI will go a long way to help you obtain or maintain your security clearance status.

DWI & the Adjudicative Guidelines to Determine Eligibility for Access to Classified Information

The U.S. government grants security clearance as a privilege. With this clearance, you are provided a level of eligibility to access or work with confidential information or to be in the vicinity where this confidential information is held. After a thorough background check and other measures, the government grants the security clearance as its assurance that you are not and do not pose a risk that could result in the exposure of confidential information. The Adjudicative Guidelines For Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information control the process to determine if you or someone else is or is not qualified for clearance. There are thirteen guidelines in total, but only 5 of them are directly or indirectly relevant to DWI convictions.

1. Guideline E - Personal Conduct

You may think that how you act outside the office place would or should have no impact on your eligibility for security clearance, but it does. Personal conduct that involves any of the following acts or behaviors can initiate concerns that you are a security risk:

  • Questionable judgment;
  • Untrustworthiness;
  • Unreliability;
  • lack of candor;
  • Dishonesty; or
  • Unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations.

Any of these behaviors, though not specific to DWI, "could indicate that [you] may not properly safeguard classified information." Driving while intoxicated (either with alcohol or drugs) indicates you may lack the capability to effectively assess certain circumstances.

2. Guidelines G - Alcohol Consumption

Here, DWI is specifically considered. If you are applying for clearance or needing to re-apply, your alcohol consumption will be considered, i.e., to determine if your alcohol consumption is a product of "questionable judgment, unreliability, failure to control impulses." According to this guideline, consuming alcohol is not a problem unless it creates circumstances that "increases the risk of unauthorized disclosure of classified information due to carelessness." Thus, a DWI indicates you drink, but to what extent your alcohol consumption may interfere with work is to be determined by the totality of the circumstances.

3. Guideline H - Drug Involvement

If a charge of DWI was associated with drugs, whether prescription, legal, or illegal, this guideline questions your "willingness or ability to protect classified information." This guideline notes that drug use is a concern because it can "impair social or occupational functioning, increasing the risk of an unauthorized disclosure of classified information." Additionally, if your drug DWI was related to illegal drugs, then it raises questions about your commitment to comply with laws, rules, and regulations.

4. Guideline I - Emotional, Mental, and Personality Disorders

This guideline is indirectly yet directly related to a DWI conviction; it refers to "emotional, mental, and personality disorders [that] can cause a significant deficit in an individual's psychological, social and occupational functioning." According to this guideline, such a disorder can indicate that you could be or become a security risk because of "a defect in judgment, reliability, or stability."

A DWI could be a symptom of an emotional, mental, or personality disorder, but there would also have to be other instances and information to support this conclusion. For instance, if you are clinically depressed, then there may be other instances related to alcohol consumption that will indicate you are unfit emotionally for security clearance. Again, the totality of the circumstances must be reviewed, but a DWI conviction could make someone consider if you have one of these disorders or not.

5. Guideline J - Criminal Conduct

This guideline refers to criminal conduct as a "history or pattern of criminal activity." Criminal conduct is a security concern for obvious reasons, but according to the guideline it is a security concern because it "creates doubt" about your "judgment, reliability and trustworthiness." It also raises questions about your commitment to comply with laws, rules, and regulations.

A DWI conviction is proof of criminal conduct. One night out and one subsequent mistake can lead to serious collateral damage for your future; a DWI conviction remains on your record permanently because it is not a crime eligible for expungement.

Overcoming a Security Concern Based on a DWI

If you have a DWI conviction on your record or were just charged with a DWI, there is help; not all is yet lost. If a DWI is the factor that raises questions about your reliability, trustworthiness, etc., then the guidelines offer hope. According to 32 E.C.F.R. § 147.2(d), the guidelines must take into account the "whole-person," and that means you will not be disqualified for security clearance unless your conduct "reflects a recurring pattern of questionable judgment, irresponsibility, or emotionally unstable behavior." To consider you as a "whole-person," nine factors are considered in light of each other.

Nine Factors to Consider in Combination with Any Disqualifying Factors

  1. The nature, extent, and seriousness of the conduct;
  2. The circumstances surrounding the conduct, to include knowledgeable participation;
  3. The frequency and recency of the conduct;
  4. The individual's age and maturity at the time of the conduct;
  5. The voluntariness of participation;
  6. The presence or absence of rehabilitation and other pertinent behavioral changes;
  7. The motivation for the conduct;
  8. The potential for pressure, coercion, exploitation, or duress;
  9. The likelihood of continuation of recurrence.

Accordingly, each case must be judged according to "its own merits." The whole-person approach considers your overall behavior rather than basing a conclusion on a one-time incident. That said, a DWI conviction is a concern, and it is one you must take seriously.

Examples of Major Threats to Your Security Clearance

  • Past DWI conviction.
  • Any evidence that alcohol consumption has negatively impacted—present or past—our work performance, your finances, or your personal or professional relationships, among other scenarios;
  • If previously convicted of a DWI, failure to complete court-mandated alcohol education or treatment program.
  • Regardless if previously convicted of a DWI, relapse after completion of an alcohol-related treatment program.
  • Professional diagnosis of chemical substance abuse or dependency.

If any of the above examples are coupled with your current DWI charge, they could detrimentally impact the U.S. government's decision to grant or renew security clearance to you.

If you are applying for security clearance or already have it, these are all reasons why you must fight your DWI charge. A conviction could cause problems for you. You should hire an attorney who has the requisite experience at trial defending clients against convictions of DWI. Doug Murphy is that attorney.

Contact a Harris County DWI and Security Clearance Attorney

If you already possess or are applying for security clearance and have been arrested for a DWI anywhere in Texas, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced DWI attorney who has specific experience on this subject. Reputable DWI and criminal defense attorney Doug Murphy has the experience, the knowledge, and the resources to address your DWI charge and to prevent it from negatively impacting your current or pending security clearance. Don't let a DWI jeopardize your livelihood. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. online or by phone at 713-229-8333.

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