If you’ve been convicted of a DUI, you are required to report that conviction to the Physician Assistant Board. Section 802.1(a)(1)(B) of the Business & Professions Code requires physician assistants to report, “the conviction of a licensee, including any verdict of guilty or plea of guilty or no contest, of any felony or misdemeanor.” Failure to do so could result in a fine up to $5,000.
But how does a DUI affect your ability to practice medicine? The answer: it depends.
While you are required to file notice of the conviction, the resulting notice may not always trigger an investigation. The Licensing Board of California is not reviewing the resulting conviction under the same standard as to whether you did something “wrong.” Rather, they are reviewing the criminal charge and conviction to determine whether it is “substantially related to the profession.”
As such, a DUI conviction may not affect your license at all. For example, one that occurred while you were on vacation, resulted in no accident or property damage, had no other passengers involved, all reduce the likelihood of finding the DUI conviction substantially related.
Or, the DUI conviction may have serious consequences. For example, one that occurred while en route to perform medical services, a second or subsequent DUI, one involving passengers, injuries to others, or damage to property, or a DUI with a very high level of blood-to-alcohol content (“BAC”) is more likely to result in discipline by the Board. That is because such is more likely to be deemed as “substantially related to the profession.”
Potential effects of discipline associated with a DUI may include:
- Loss of insurance;
- Loss of employment;
- Probationary fees;
- Mandated medical examinations;
- Daily drug and alcohol screens; and
- Mandated treatment and therapy.
Here’s what to expect if you’ve been convicted of a DUI with surrounding circumstances such as the above.
The board is likely to investigate the circumstances surrounding the DUI conviction rather than the isolated incident. Their goal is to determine whether there is a bigger issue that affects the doctor’s ability to practice medicine – i.e., alcoholism or drug addiction. To defend against this, you will want to be prepared to prove that there are no aggravating factors. You will likely need to bring in an expert to testify that alcohol use is not an issue. In the alternative, you will likely need to compile significant evidence of rehabilitation if the alcohol use is an issue, in order to minimize likely discipline.
Keep in mind because the board is not a criminal court, even if you are simply charged and not convicted with a DUI, you may face a board hearing. According to California, if the board can prove that the actions constitute unprofessional conduct, though not necessarily criminal conduct, the board may be able to discipline the doctor.
If the board does decide to implement discipline, it must proceed through the administrative hearing process. You will have the opportunity to respond and defend yourself or demonstrate contrition seeking a reduced level of license discipline. And in the event the discipline is the ultimate discipline – revocation – you still have a further chance to “appeal” or challenge that decision by way of petitioning for intervention by the Superior Court. In doing, so, you will want to ask for a stay during the appeal – this means that the disciplinary action, such as a suspension, will not go into effect until after the hearing on your petition.
So, as soon as you are charged with a DUI, you should begin to plan a strategy to handle the board. Being prepared and addressing the issues head-on may help prevent any negative consequences or discipline from the board.