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Texas DWI Defense for Veterinarians

How Does a DWI Charge Impact a Veterinary License in Texas?

If you're facing an arrest for a DWI in Texas, it's already a stressful situation. You're undoubtedly concerned about the immediate consequences, like losing your license, spending time in jail, and hefty fines. But beyond the short-term consequences of a criminal conviction for DWI, if you are a veterinarian or vet tech licensed in Texas, you can also face career consequences. Veterinarians, like other medical professionals, hold a special position of trust. As a result, we hold vets to high standards in their professional and personal lives. Under Texas law, the State Board of Medical Veterinary Examiners can suspend or revoke your license after a criminal conviction like a DWI.

What Is a DWI in Texas?

Under Texas law, you can face charges for driving while intoxicated if you operate a motor vehicle in public while intoxicated. How we define "intoxicated" isn't black and white under the law. You can be "intoxicated" if:

  • Your blood alcohol content is over the legal of .08%, or .04% if you have a commercial driver's license, or
  • The police determine that you don't have the normal use of your physical and mental faculties.

Whether you still have the use of your mental or physical faculties is a subjective determination. The police are human, and they aren't medical professionals. They can make mistakes.

What Are the Legal Consequences of a Texas DWI?

A first DWI under Texas law is a Class B misdemeanor. You could face a higher level of charge if there are aggravating circumstances with your DWI, including:

With a Class B misdemeanor conviction, you'll face up to 180 days in jail, a suspended license, court-imposed fines of up to $3,000, and a mandatory administrative fine of $3,000.

If your DWI involved a child under 15 in the car, serious bodily injury, a death, or your third or subsequent DWI, you'll face felony DWI charges. If you're convicted of a felony DWI, you can face a minimum of 180 days in jail and up to 99 years if a first responder dies as a result of your DWI.

The Personal Consequences of a DWI in Texas

A conviction for a DWI will also result in consequences beyond the legal repercussions. Collateral consequences that you can expect can include the following:

  • Losing child custody or visitation: If you're divorced or separated or share custody of a child with someone else, a DWI conviction can affect your custody and child visitation arrangement. In determining a child's "best interests," a family court can consider a DWI conviction. The court could restrict your visitation time, prevent you from driving your children, or restrict you to supervised visitation.
  • Challenging job searches: With a DWI conviction, particularly a felony DWI conviction, you may find it difficult to find a job, even outside of the veterinary field.
  • Difficulty obtaining a loan: You may also find it challenging to obtain a mortgage, a consumer loan like a car loan, or even to rent an apartment with a criminal record.
  • Suspended driver's license: With a conviction for a first DWI, you could have your license suspended for up to two years.
  • Disciplinary action from the State Board: You could face disciplinary action from the Optometry Board after a DWI, including a public reprimand, suspension, or loss of your license.
  • Loss of your veterinary license: The State Board may revoke your veterinary license after a DWI conviction, particularly after a felony DWI conviction.

Licensing Requirements for Texas Veterinarians

Veterinarians in Texas are governed by the Veterinary Licensing Act, which also created the State Board of Medical Veterinary Examiners. The State Board creates and enforces professional rules of conduct, regulations, and licensing requirements for veterinarians to:

  • Protect the public,
  • Ensure alternate therapies such as holistic medicine and homeopathy are only performed by licensed veterinarians or under their supervision,
  • Ensure only licensed professionals perform equine dentistry or appropriately supervise it, and
  • Provide for the licensing of veterinarians and vet techs in Texas.

The Texas Board of Medical Veterinary Examiners rules state that veterinary practices should not hire or enter contracts with vets or vet techs who aren't or can't be licensed in Texas.

Issuing a Texas Veterinarian or Vet Tech License

If you have a criminal conviction, the State Board may not allow you to complete the veterinary or vet tech license application process. However, you can request a "criminal history evaluation" before beginning the licensing process. The State Board staff will review your criminal record through this process to determine if you're ineligible for a license. You will need to provide:

  • The basis of your potential ineligibility,
  • Court documents, indictments, orders of deferred adjudication, judgments, and probation records,
  • A non-refundable fee.

The agency may request more information from you, but after receiving all relevant information, they should provide you with a criminal history evaluation letter within 90 days. The letter will include any basis for your ineligibility for a license. If the agency finds you eligible, you can complete the licensing application process for a Texas veterinary or vet tech license. Tex. Bd. Med. Vet. Exs. § 571.3 (Criminal History Evaluation Letters).

Renewing a Texas Veterinarian or Vet Tech License

Whether you currently have a license, you're an applicant for a license, or you're renewing your license, you must report certain arrests or indictments to the State Board. Under the Board's regulations governing veterinarians and vet techs: "A licensee or an applicant for a license shall report to the Board within 30 days of being arrested for, charged with, or indicted for any criminal offense above the grade of a Class C misdemeanor, or for any Class C misdemeanor in or connected with the practice of veterinary medicine or equine dentistry. A licensee or an applicant for a license shall report the final disposition of the matter to the Board within 30 days of disposition. All reports made pursuant to this rule shall be made on the form provided by the Board." Tex. Bd. Med. Vet. Exs. § 573.70 (Mandatory Reporting of Criminal Activity).

A first DWI is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, meaning you must report it to the State Board within 30 days of your arrest and the disposition of your case. If you fail to comply with the State Board's rule for mandatory reporting of an arrest or case disposition, you can face disciplinary action for failing to inform the State Board.

Disciplinary Rules for Texas Veterinarians and Vet Techs

If you have a conviction for a DWI, the State Board may suspend or revoke your veterinary or vet tech license. Under the Board's rules: "[T]he Board may suspend or revoke an existing license, disqualify a person from receiving a license, or deny a person the opportunity to be examined for a license because of a person's conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if the crime directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of a veterinarian, a licensed veterinary technician, or an equine dental provider."

The Board will also revoke the license of any vet or vet tech "upon the imprisonment of a licensee following a felony conviction or revocation or felony community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision."Tex. Bd. Med. Vet. Exs. § 575.50 (Criminal Convictions).

Revoking or Suspending a Veterinary License

In determining whether to revoke or suspend a license, the State Board will look at "whether a criminal conviction directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of a licensee," and the "present fitness to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of a licensee who has been convicted of a crime."

When Is a Criminal Conviction Directly Related to the Duties and Responsibilities of a Veterinarian?

In determining whether your DWI relates directly to your duties and responsibilities as a veterinarian or vet tech, the State Board will look at the following:

  • The nature and seriousness of the crime;
  • The relationship of the crime to the purposes for requiring a license to engage in the occupation;
  • The extent to which a license might offer an opportunity to engage in further criminal activity of the same type as that in which the person previously had been involved;
  • The relationship of the crime to the ability or capacity required to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of the licensed occupation; and
  • Any correlation between the elements of the crime and the duties and responsibilities of the licensed occupation.

What Factors Affect a Veterinarian's Fitness to Perform Their Duties?

To determine whether you're fit to perform your duties as a veterinarian or vet tech, the State Board will look at the following:

  • Te extent and nature of the person's past criminal activity;
  • The age of the person when the crime was committed;
  • The amount of time that has elapsed since the person's last criminal activity;
  • The conduct and work activity of the person before and after the criminal activity;
  • Evidence of the person's rehabilitation or rehabilitative effort while incarcerated or after release;
  • Evidence of the person's compliance with any conditions of community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision; and
  • Other evidence of the person's fitness, including letters of recommendation.

Tex. Occ. Code § 53.022 & 53.023.

As part of the disciplinary process, the State Board encourages early and voluntary settlement of disputes, including contested disciplinary cases. In some cases, alternative dispute resolution may be available. But you can have an attorney represent you through the disciplinary process, which may include the State Board and an administrative law judge. Considering the importance of this matter, and the possibility of losing your license, having an attorney with experience in DWI defense representing you is essential.

Potential DWI Defenses in Texas

While facing disciplinary action before the State Board can be daunting, it's important to remember that you'll need to tackle your DWI charge first. But a guilty verdict isn't a foregone conclusion. You are innocent until proven guilty, and you may have several promising avenues of defense. Some common DWI defenses in Texas include:

  1. Challenging Reasonable Suspicion for Your Stop To pull you over for a traffic stop in Texas, the police need reasonable suspicion that you've committed a crime. While reasonable suspicion can result from a traffic infraction like speeding or running a stop sign, in some cases, a DWI defense lawyer may be able to challenge this through police reports, dashboard cameras, or eyewitnesses. With no reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop that led to your DWI charge, the DWI charge can't stand.
  2. Challenging Probable Cause for Your Arrest To arrest you for a DWI in Texas, the police must have probable cause. "Probable cause" means, considering the facts at hand, the police reasonably believe that you've committed a criminal act. During the trial, the state may use police testimony about your demeanor and behavior, field sobriety reports, police reports, and video. If the reports and video are inconsistent with the arresting officer's testimony, your attorney can challenge whether the police did indeed have probable cause for your arrest. A lawyer with experience in DWI defense will also understand when it's appropriate to challenge the reliability of the field sobriety tests the arresting officer performed on you because of the street conditions, weather, or medical condition you have.
  3. Challenging the BAC Test Results Many assume that a blood alcohol test is a foolproof method of proving BAC, but this isn't true. While BAC testing can be more objective than field sobriety tests, these tests are by no means infallible. Your attorney may be able to challenge how the tests were performed, the training of the officer, and even the calibration and cleaning of the testing equipment.

Contact Our Houston, Texas DWI Attorney for Veterinarians

When you're facing a DWI charge in Texas and hold a state veterinary license, the collateral consequences of a conviction can be serious. Remember, the state must prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt, and a DWI defense lawyer can be your best chance for a favorable outcome. You need a seasoned DWI defense attorney to protect your rights like Attorney Doug Murphy. Doug is Board Certified in DWI Defense and Criminal Law. He's one of only two attorneys in Texas who is Board Certified in both of these areas of the law. Doug has also been named a Lawyer of the Year by U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers in America for DWI defense in Houston. Find out how he and the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. can help you. Contact us online or call 713-229-8333 to schedule your consultation.

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