Facing a DUI as a Licensed Professional in Wisconsin

workers’ compensation lawyer


While DUI charges carry steep penalties in Wisconsin, these aren’t the only potential consequences of a drunk driving arrest. Getting arrested for DUI can impact your life in a variety of other ways as well—especially if you are a licensed professional.

For physicians, pharmacists, registered nurses, attorneys, accountants, and other licensed professionals, DUI arrests can have serious implications for their careers. These arrests (like others) can trigger professional disciplinary action with potential outcomes ranging from reprimands to license revocation. As a result, a comprehensive and informed defense strategy is key, and licensed professionals must ensure that the decisions they make in their DUI cases do not put their licenses in jeopardy.

5 Important Considerations for Licensed Professionals Facing DUI Charges in Wisconsin

Here are five important considerations for licensed professionals facing DUI charges in Wisconsin:

1. You May Have an Obligation to Report Your DUI

Most professional licensing boards require that their members report DUIs promptly. Typically, this means separately reporting both your arrest and your conviction (if you accept a plea bargain or get convicted in court). If you enter into Wisconsin’s Pre-Charge Diversion Program, you may have an obligation to report this to your professional licensing board as well.

2. DUI Arrests Can Lead to Professional Discipline Even if They Don’t Lead to a Conviction

Along with understanding that you may need to report your DUI, one of the other most important things to understand about your situation is that a DUI arrest can lead to professional discipline even if it doesn’t result in a conviction. Why? Because professional licensing boards apply different standards than Wisconsin’s county courts. In court, prosecutors must prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that there must be no question that you are guilty of driving under the influence.

But, professional licensing boards typically use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This means the evidence only needs to suggest that it is more likely than not that you violated the governing rules of professional conduct. The rules governing your profession may also impose discipline for conduct short of driving under the influence such as drinking to excess, drinking in public, or using illegal drugs. As a result, any defenses you can assert in your DUI case won’t necessarily protect you in your professional disciplinary proceeding. Protecting your professional license may require a very different approach, and it will be critical to have a clear understanding of what exactly you need to defend against in both proceedings.

3. Failing to Report Your DUI Could Lead to Disciplinary Action

If you don’t report your DUI to your professional licensing board, this could have licensing consequences of its own. Failing to make a required disclosure can be considered a lack of candor under most professional licensing rules, and this itself can be grounds for professional discipline. This is true whether or not you eventually get convicted of driving under the influence. As a result, it is important to satisfy your reporting obligations—and to focus on preparing a sound defense instead of hoping to sidestep disciplinary action.

4. You Must Be Very Careful About How You Approach Your DUI Case

Due to the significant differences between DUI cases and professional disciplinary proceedings, you must be very careful about how you approach your DUI case. While certain statements and actions might be beneficial in your DUI case, these same statements and actions could potentially increase your exposure to professional discipline.

The reverse is also true. If you admit to driving under the influence during your professional disciplinary case, prosecutors may be able to use your admission against you in court. Again, an informed approach is critical, and you will need to work closely with your defense attorney to ensure that you do not say or do anything that could increase your risk of facing criminal penalties or losing your professional license.

5. Even if You Don’t Lose Your Professional License, a DUI Conviction Can Still Have Negative Career Consequences

Getting arrested for DUI (and even getting convicted of DUI) doesn’t necessarily mean that you will lose your professional license—though this may be a very real possibility. But, even if you don’t lose your license, a DUI conviction could still have significant and long-term negative consequences for your career.

A DUI conviction will go on your permanent record—and it will stay there. In Wisconsin, DUI convictions are not eligible for expungement. As a result, if you get convicted, your conviction will stay with you for the rest of your life. It will show up on background checks when you apply for new positions or seek funding to start your practice; and, as a result, you may lose access to certain opportunities. If your current employer decides that your DUI reflects negatively on your abilities or the organization’s reputation, you could lose your current job as well.

How Should You Approach Your DUI as a Licensed Professional in Wisconsin?

With all of this in mind, how should you approach your DUI? To ensure that you are doing everything you can to protect yourself, you should discuss your situation with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced defense attorney will be able to explain the criminal and professional licensing implications of your arrest and will be able to help you make informed decisions while building your defense strategy.

When facing a DUI as a licensed professional, time is of the essence. Unnecessary delays (and other mistakes) can lead to unnecessary consequences. To discuss your situation with an experienced defense attorney in confidence, contact us today.

Schedule a Free DUI Defense Consultation at Mays Law Office in Madison, WI

If you are a licensed professional in Wisconsin and are currently facing a DUI charge, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To schedule a free DUI defense consultation at Mays Law Office, please call 608-257-0440 or request an appointment online today.