A charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas can be scary, embarrassing, and stressful for anyone. But if you are a nurse, it can also be costly. A DWI, under certain circumstances, can cost a nurse his or her nursing license, effectively denying the nurse a livelihood in the profession he or she has been trained in and no doubt loves.
If you are a nurse and have been charged with a DWI or related offense, you need to retain a DWI attorney who has the capabilities to defend you at trial and not bargain your future away with a plea deal. As such, you need an attorney who has extensive trial experience and who is determined to take your case to court if (1) he or she deems there is a case according to the facts; and (2) he or she was not able to get the charges dismissed prior to trial. This qualification means you need an insightful, determined DWI and criminal defense attorney ready on day one for the challenge. That attorney is Doug Murphy. Doug Murphy travels all over Texas in representing nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors charged with criminal allegations including DWI.
Doug Murphy has extensive DWI trial experience. In addition to the relevant law, he understands the court system, the State's prosecutorial methods, and the inherent problems with sobriety field test results as well as breath and blood results. His experience is supported by his integrity and determination. He is respected for his capabilities and travels throughout Texas and the nation to teach other lawyers how to develop their skills so that they, too, can fight for the rights and freedoms of their clients who have been charged with DWI or related offenses.
Nursing Ethical Standards
Nursing ethical standards are governed by the Board of Nursing (BON) and outlined in the Texas Administrative Code Title 22, Part 11, Chapter 217.11. The BON was specifically formulated to “establish a minimum acceptable level of nursing practice in any setting for each level of nursing licensure or advanced practice authorization.” These standards apply to all nurses, regardless if vocational nurses (LVNs), registered nurses (RNs) or registered nurses with advanced practice authorizations.
All LVNs, RNs and advanced practice RNs are required to know and conform to the Texas Nursing Practice Act (NPA), the BON's rules and regulations, and all federal, state, or local laws, rules or regulations that impact the nurse's current area of nursing practice. All nurses must also recognize and maintain professional boundaries of the nurse and client/patient relationship.
This sounds like a lot to know and follow, but any deviation or failure to meet these standards can result in action against the nurse's license. A DWI conviction can prompt an investigation to discover if you failed to adhere to nursing ethical standards and if that failure is enough to question your fitness to care for patients.
Do You Have to Report the DWI Conviction to the Board of Nursing?
Yes. If you failed to retain a DWI lawyer could help you either have your case dismissed or acquitted, then you probably either pleaded guilty or settled for a plea deal. In Texas, you are required to self-report a DWI or related conviction to the Nursing Board. You do not have to report the DWI charge until after you have been convicted.
Nursing licenses are generally up for renewal every two years in Texas, thus, time is of the essence to report the DWI conviction. If at renewal, the conviction is uncovered, you can face harsher penalties via disciplinary action. On the other hand, if you properly and duly disclose the DWI conviction, you have a better opportunity to explain your situation and argue that the DWI is a one-time, isolated matter and does not impact your life, fitness or character in any way. It is advised that you obtain experienced legal counsel on how best to disclose the DWI conviction and how to proceed thereafter. Your performance, actions, among other factors, will be monitored and interpreted either in your favor or against it. Once a DWI conviction is reported or discovered, an investigation will follow, and you have a right to an attorney during a BON investigation.
What Happens During a Nursing Board Investigation into Your DWI?
The Board of Nursing initiates an investigation into your DWI conviction not to determine guilt as such, but to determine if your DWI conviction violates the Nursing Practice Act. Generally, a violation of the NPA includes any felony or misdemeanor (other than a Class C misdemeanor in most cases) that involves moral turpitude directly associated with the nursing profession. A DWI can directly relate to your nursing career if you have a mental illness or engage in any conduct that could place patients at risk.
An investigation can go either way. For a first-time DWI, disciplinary action is unlikely if you show that this isolated event was a misunderstanding or a mistake and that it has no impact on your fitness and character to conduct your duties as a nurse, especially with patient care.
On the other hand, more than one DWI or felony DWI means a tougher challenge for you; it will be harder to persuade the Nursing Board that your fitness and character is not affected by your alcohol consumption. In these circumstances, you require an experienced attorney who understands the Nursing Board's investigation process and knows how to strategize a truthful and persuasive argument on your behalf.
One caveat: the Nursing Board has in the past been known to assume that any and all criminal conduct is unprofessional conduct, and therefore, your DWI conviction -- regardless if a first-time, isolated event -- has a detrimental impact on your practice of nursing.
The investigation process can involve but is not limited to any of the following:
- Interviews with colleagues or superiors;
- Requirement to submit to chemical dependency screenings;
- A request for you to take a lie-detector test;
- Review of police reports;
- Review of community support.
Sometimes during these investigations, the Board of Nursing may uncover other conduct that impacts or negatively influences your ability to uphold the ethical standards of nursing. This “other” conduct could include failure to adequately maintain patient records or failure to maintain the proper standard of care. Any other discovered conduct can be used against you during the investigation, particularly if it relates to alcohol or drugs.
What Action can the Board of Nursing Take?
If the Nursing Board panel determines that you are in violation of the NPA, you can face any of the following disciplinary actions:
- Nursing license suspension or revocation;
- Restrictions on nursing license or nursing practice; and/or, among other actions
- Mandatory alcohol or drug treatment.
What to do if you are arrested for DWI & have a Nursing License?
If you are an RN or LVN and are charged with a DWI or related offense, you should first know that you should not say anything to anyone, including (1) the police -- at the time of your arrest and anytime thereafter so that you do not incriminate yourself; and (2) friends or colleagues, who may later be questioned by panel members during a Nursing Board investigation.
At your first convenience, you should contact an experienced DWI and criminal defense lawyer. You should retain an attorney who will fight for your rights and help you maintain a clean criminal record rather than settle for a plea deal with the prosecution. If your case is either dismissed or you are acquitted, then you never have to report the DWI arrest to the Texas Board of Nursing.
Prevent Losing Your Nursing License: Contact a Board-Certified DWI & Board-Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The consequences are real. The stakes are high. If you are a practicing nurse in Texas and have recently been arrested and charged with a DWI, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer with specific trial and DWI experience. Your career and reputation can't afford a plea deal; you owe it to yourself to fight the charge.
Reputable Board-certified DWI and Board-certified criminal defense attorney Doug Murphy has the experience, the knowledge, and the resources to address your DWI charge and fight it before a judge and jury. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or by phone at (713) 229-8333 today to discuss your case.