How a Drunk Driving Conviction Could Affect Your Ability to Practice Law

Lit up police car lights during nighttimePerhaps you or someone you know are debating applying to law school and have a DUI/DWI conviction that is 5, 10 or even 20 years old. Or perhaps you are in your second year of law school and recently had one drink too many while at a school function and were unfortunately arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. One of the first thoughts running through your mind might be how this incident may affect your chances of being admitted to practice law – in New Jersey or any other state.

At the end of the day, the issue of whether or not you will be permitted to practice law with a record or history of driving while intoxicated is “it depends.”  For that reason, if you are facing current or recent charges for DUI or DWI, it is important to get an attorney immediately.  An attorney may also be able to appeal and possibly overturn past convictions.  If the DWI/DUI appears on your record, it could make it harder to be admitted to practice law or even be cause for your license to be denied.  In addition to the fines, potential jail time, and loss of a driver’s license faced by every drunk driving defendant, a DUI conviction could seriously affect your ability to work or provide for your family and loved ones.

Lengthy Background Investigation

In order to become a licensed attorney, an individual must both graduate from an accredited law school and pass the bar exam for the state he/she wishes to practice in. However, even if you achieve these two things, in order to be admitted to practice, an individual is required to show that they are of sufficient character and fitness to be an attorney.

Each state conducts its own character and fitness investigation in various ways, including New Jersey.  The sometimes-lengthy process typically involves providing fingerprints and submitting to a detailed background check, including personal references.  If you have been convicted of Driving While Intoxicated or Refusing to Submit to a Breath Test in New Jersey at any point in time, it will appear on your driving record, and the Bar Admission review board will see it.  Out-of-state convictions will also likely appear on your permanent driving record.

In general, most minor offenses will not prevent an otherwise qualified applicant from Bar Admission in a given state, including New Jersey.  Convictions for DUI/DWI are treated more seriously than minor offenses, but less seriously than felonies or crimes.  For that reason, the circumstances surrounding any drunk driving record, including the number of offenses, will be considered as a potential aggravating factor.

New Jersey bar applicants whose backgrounds may be a little more complicated, such as those with a DWI conviction, generally face a more detailed inquiry. This may mean a lengthier investigation, with more conversations with previous employers, review of treatment records, or potentially even inquires with old high school friends. It is very possible that an applicant will be found of sufficient character and fitness after the lengthier inquiry, even with one drunk driving conviction.  Unfortunately, this may not be true in every state.

Character and Fitness and Substance Abuse

According to the American Bar Association, one of the top four areas of concern for bar examiners in evaluation character and fitness is untreated substance abuse. The Bar Examiners will pay particular attention to recent convictions, multiple convictions, and the circumstances surrounding any conviction.

The bar examiners are much more likely to find an applicant who has a DUI conviction and sought treatment to be of sufficient character and fitness, rather than someone who did not seek out help. Essentially, treatment is viewed as a plus, not a minus. However, even if you did not seek out treatment at the time of your offense or conviction, it does not mean that you will be denied admission to the bar. Each person and each case are different, and the board of bar examiners understands this.

How an Drunk Driving Attorney Can Help

If you want to become a lawyer, or work in any number of other professions, your DUI/DWI record could make it difficult or impossible to become professionally licensed.  It is imperative to understand all of the ways in which a DUI/DWI charge or conviction can affect your permanent record. If you or someone you know has been charged or convicted of drunk driving, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A good lawyer can aggressively fight pending DUI charges and may even be able to appeal and overturn old convictions, wiping them from your permanent record.

New Jersey DUI/DWI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Understands How a Conviction Can Affect Your Career and Livelihood

The penalties for drunk driving are severe.  For some, it can even mean the loss of a professional license, in addition to fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges.  If you or someone you know is charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, it is extremely important to contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney who can explain your rights to you and vigorously defend you. If you go to court, an experienced lawyer can also make sure you get the best result possible and can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI/DUI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.