If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, you are already under a tremendous amount of stress. But as severe as the consequences for a DWI can be, they can be doubly harsh if you hold a Texas teaching certificate. Under certain circumstances, a DWI conviction can lead to the loss of your certification and your ability to earn a living.
The best chance you have to protect your teaching certification is through hiring an experienced DWI defense attorney. The best result possible is for you to prevail at trial, so it is important to hire an attorney that is experienced in taking cases to trial. Defending a DWI is a challenge, but the truth is: it is possible to win a DWI trial. To do so, you'll need an experienced DWI trial lawyer who is prepared to advocate for you fiercely.
If you have been arrested for DWI in the Houston area, the attorney that best fits the bill is Doug Murphy. Doug Murphy is an experienced defense attorney that prepares every case as if it will go to trial. He is a Board Certified expert in both DWI defense and criminal defense law and he has the skills to help you craft a defense that could help save your teaching certificate. To discuss your case with one of Houston's most well-known DWI defense attorneys, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for your free consultation.
The Texas Educator Code of Ethics
Educators in Texas are held to a high standard. Their conduct is guided by the Texas Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators. The Code of Ethics is promulgated by the Texas Education Agency. It consists of dozens of standards outlining the types of behavior educators should avoid.
Behavior to avoid includes everything from fraudulently requesting expense reimbursement to discriminating against a student or colleague on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
A conviction for DWI also qualifies as a violation of the Code of Ethics. It is worth noting that failing to report or lying about a DWI conviction could also be an additional ethical violation.
Educator Discipline in Texas
In Texas, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is responsible for the certification and discipline of Texas educators. The SBEC is a division of the Texas Education Agency. Since 1999, the SBEC has been charged with certifying educators as those educators who are of good moral character and pose no threat to the children they are responsible for. A violation of the Code of Ethics can lead to disciplinary action that can cost an educator his or her teaching certification.
Conduct that Can Lead to Disciplinary Action in Harris County
There is a wide range of behavior that the SBEC can take disciplinary action against. The SBEC can take action based on any violation of the Code of Ethics or on any other grounds available by law. Some of the most common reasons for disciplinary action include:
- School or educational activities in violation of law;
- An educator who is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of the state;
- Code of Ethics violations;
- Failure to report or hindering the reporting of child abuse or the known criminal history of an educator as required by law and Board rules;
- Contract abandonment;
- Failure to cooperate with a Board investigation;
- Conviction of a crime directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the education profession; or
- Violation of the security or integrity of a state assessment.
Crimes Directly Related to the Duties of the Education Profession
Of the common incidents discussed above, the one that directly relates to DWI is the "conviction of a crime directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the education profession." The SBEC identifies a list of crimes that it considers related to the duties of an educator. One of those is the commission of two or more DWIs within a 12-month period.
In other words, a single DWI conviction will not automatically trigger disciplinary action. Keep in mind that the SBEC has broad discretion, so it is possible disciplinary action could arise from a single DWI conviction. For this reason, it is critical that you contact an experienced DWI attorney immediately if you have been arrested for DWI while holding a Texas teaching certificate. You want to fight the charge by any means possible so that a conviction does not result.
Failure to Report your Houston DWI Conviction
Your arrest isn't the only way you can find yourself in trouble with the SBEC; failing to disclose your arrest or conviction could also be grounds for disciplinary action. Teachers have the duty to report the “known criminal history of an educator.” This means you are required to report your own criminal history to the SBEC. Failure to do so could lead to the suspension or revocation of your teaching license.
What actions can the SBEC take?
The SBEC has broad authority to discipline Texas educators, including everything from a written reprimand to a permanent revocation of a teaching certificate. The full range of possibilities you could face from a disciplinary action include:
- Being required to withdraw from an educator preparation program;
- Having restrictions placed on your ability to obtain or renew a certificate;
- Receiving an unpublished reprimand that does not appear in your official records;
- Receiving a formal, published reprimand that does appear in your official records;
- Having your certificate suspended for a set term; or
- Having your teaching certification permanently revoked or canceled.
Your Rights during Disciplinary Action Proceedings
Once a complaint is filed against you with the SBEC, the Board will initiate an investigation into the accusations. There are two important things to remember when it comes to your rights during a disciplinary action:
- You have the right to an attorney throughout the entire process; and
- You are entitled to a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings if you request one.
Other Consequences for a DWI Arrest or Conviction in Texas
Even if you don't face a suspension or revocation of your teaching certificate, your livelihood could be in jeopardy upon your arrest for DWI. Your position of employment may have tougher guidelines than SBEC, meaning that there could be a policy in place that requires your termination immediately upon your conviction of DWI.
A conviction is especially problematic if you are in the midst of a job hunt. Schools are required to conduct a background check on all applicants. With most positions receiving large numbers of applicants, it is likely that your DWI conviction will make obtaining employment as a teacher very difficult.
Finally, some schools in Harris County and surrounding counties require teachers to maintain a valid driver's license during the course of their employment. Unfortunately, a DWI conviction could also result in a driver's license suspension. A lack of a valid driver's license is another reason why a DWI conviction can be detrimental to your employment.
Steps to take if you are Arrested for DWI in Texas while holding a Teaching License
If you are a teacher in Texas and have been arrested for DWI, the most important thing to remember is never to discuss your case with anyone other than your attorney. That includes:
- The police. You are under no obligation to answer questions from the police and doing so will likely incriminate you.
- Family, friends, and colleagues. Anything you say to family, friends, or other acquaintances including colleagues may be discovered by the police or SBEC investigators. Your best bet is to refrain from discussing your case at all.
While you should never agree to answer questions, you are required to provide basic contact information like your name and address. While you are also under no obligation to be polite, it is in your best interest to avoid being rude to any arresting officers. This can lessen the chances of mishandling or abuse by law enforcement.
The most important step you can take after a DWI arrest is hiring an experienced Houston DWI defense attorney. When hiring an attorney, it is recommended to select legal counsel who is a Board Certified expert in DWI defense law or criminal defense law. Doug Murphy is Houston's only defense attorney certified as an expert in both DWI defense and criminal defense law.
Protect your Texas Teaching Certificate: Contact a Board Certified Expert in DWI and Criminal Defense Law
If you hold a Texas teacher's license and have recently been arrested for DWI in the Houston area, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. Doug Murphy is an experienced DWI defense attorney who is a Board Certified expert in both DWI defense law and criminal defense law. His expertise will help guide you through the criminal justice process.
Because a conviction can put your teaching certificate at risk, there is a good chance your best course of action is to take your DWI case to trial in an attempt to win an acquittal. Unfortunately, many DWI defense attorneys are happy to push their clients into plea agreements in order to quickly resolve the case. Doug Murphy is not that kind of attorney. A seasoned trial lawyer, Doug Murphy is an aggressive advocate that prepares every case as if it were going to trial. If you would like to discuss your case with a Board Certified expert, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.