By Criminal Defense Practice Group

Doctors, lawyers, electricians, therapists, plumbers, nurses, and dozens of occupations are governed by licensing standards.  In most instances of allegations of law violations, professional licenses are not subject to adverse action unless the violation has a direct bearing on the person’s ability to serve in the specific occupation or trade.  For example, a nurse accused of misappropriating or diluting drugs intended for a patient would undoubtedly face adverse nursing license action.  But an off-duty nurse accused of impaired driving generally would not.

While most categories of professional licensees will not lose their professional licenses as a result of a DUI committed in a non-commercial vehicle, pilots and commercial drivers are exceptions.  Pilots are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which frequently denies aviation medical certificates for DUI, preventing the exercise of piloting privileges.  In addition to reporting on all medical applications, the FAA requires pilots to report driver’s license actions or convictions resulting from a DUI within 60 days of the effective date of the conviction or action.

Subject to federal guidance, commercial drivers are licensed by individual states.  While there are some variations, North Dakota’s law is comparable to most other states.  For a first offense noncommercial DUI, in addition to possible loss of noncommercial driving privileges, a commercial driver faces a one year commercial operator’s license disqualification.  For a second lifetime non-commercial DUI, a commercial driver faces a lifetime commercial operator’s license disqualification.  Temporary restricted drivers licenses, available after 14 or 30 days of a non-commercial suspension, do not allow commercial drivers to operate commercial vehicles.  Accordingly, while most drivers are eligible to drive for work and other limited purposes within a matter of weeks with a provisional license, commercial vehicle operation is not permitted for provisional licensees.

Loss of professional licensure may result from either administrative license actions of driver’s license authorities, or based on a guilty plea or conviction in criminal court.  There are very short time limitations in which to raise challenges to administrative license actions.  Commercial licensees and pilots accused of DUI should immediately consult with qualified counsel to assess available options.

Most agree that a commercial driver or pilot should face harsh consequences for driving a commercial vehicle or flying while under the influence.  But because the law generally does not result in loss of professional licensure for noncommercial DUI offenses for most categories of professions, many argue the higher standard imposed on pilots and commercial drivers is unfair.  Because of these higher standards and harsh consequences, those concerned about professional license consequences resulting from DUI allegations should promptly seek qualified advice.

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