It's hard enough to tell your family that you've been arrested for “driving while intoxicated” (DWI). But what about your job? Do you have to tell your boss?
First and foremost, your attorney should review your employment contract or employee handbook to see if you have any legal or contractual requirement to tell your employer about the DWI. If there is such a mandate, your attorney can help you determine what exactly is required (in terms of timeliness and content of the notice).
Perhaps it isn't mandatory, but—knowing you'll have to adjust your work schedule for meetings with your lawyer and court appearances or other requirements—you'll decide to tell your employer.
Still, that does not help you figure out what to say or when to say it.
While an expert attorney in DWI Defense can help you resolve these issues, let's review some key points you should be thinking about.
What You Should (and Should Not) Tell Your Boss
You may feel that, practically speaking, you need to tell your boss what happened, but you also may want to exonerate yourself in your boss's eyes. You may want to explain that you were not, in fact, intoxicated, the police were being overly aggressive, and you are sure they will drop the charges and/or you'll win in court. Indeed, that all may be 100-percent true. And while feeling that way is completely understandable, you absolutely should not do any of that.
Do not tell your boss (or any of your coworkers) any facts relating to the DWI. Do not tell them what happened.
Instead, only tell your employer that you were arrested. You can, if asked, tell them the charge for the arrest, but (barring a requirement) you don't have to do so.
Warn your employer that the arrest may affect your work schedule, but you will do the best not to let it impact your work beyond that. (If you were injured in an accident, you may also want to mention that you may need time off for medical care.)
If your boss asks for more information, politely and apologetically tell them that—since it's an ongoing legal issue—you can't say anything else. If they continue to press for specifics, suggest they call your attorney, who may be able to give them more information.
Why is not giving them information so important?
Because if you tell your boss the details of what happened, you can inadvertently turn them into a witness for the prosecution: Through the information you give your boss, you may give prosecutors leads on what to investigate. Your boss might even have to testify at trial about what you said to them.
There is one big complicating factor here: Is there any way that your DWI relates to your work? For example, were you on the job at the time of the arrest or driving a company-owned vehicle? Had you been drinking alcohol at a work party or other function with coworkers or clients? If so, it may make it feel more difficult to avoid your boss's questions, but your response should be the same. Give them as few specifics as you can and tell them to speak to your lawyer. (If your company is in any way involved, that may impact both criminal and civil liability.)
When You Should Tell Your Boss
Ideally, wait to tell your boss about the DWI until after you've retained a defense lawyer—because you want to work out with your attorney exactly what you should, and should not, say.
After discussing your case with counsel, you may choose not to tell your boss, or at least delay it—especially if your attorney thinks that you can have the charges dismissed or there is the possibility of working out a plea agreement that could quickly end the matter. (Of course, you may still have to inform your boss if you decide to plead guilty or no contest.)
Time will not be on your side, however, if your job requires that you drive a car during the workday. You will have to tell your boss that you will not be able to drive for the foreseeable future. While you may successfully reverse the temporary suspension of your driver’s license through an Administrative License Revocation Hearing, it can take up to 60 days to schedule the hearing, and you won't be legally able to drive before then.
For Those with Security Clearance and Professional Licenses
Such employers, and related licensing agencies, may require divulging of an arrest as a condition of employment, but, frequently, they are as concerned that their professionals maintain a duty of candor as they are about the arrest itself.
As the Texas Medical Liability Trust explained, even if a prosecutor takes no action to pursue a DWI charge, the state's Medical Licensing board “simply wants physicians to be forthcoming; the Board may find the failure to report more serious than the initial criminal allegation.”
Impact of DWI Defense
A criminal charge is not a conviction. Yet it may feel like that because, from the moment you're arrested, your entire life—including your career—is impacted.
Houston attorney Doug Murphy is regularly recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in America by US News & World Report. Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense. With a “Preeminent” rating from AV, Murphy serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School. He previously was on the board of directors and as co-chair of the DWI Committee with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
If you face DWI charges in Texas, contact Doug Murphy’s office today to discuss the case and begin working on the defense.