California Licensed Nurses and DUI offenses

A DUI for a Nurse can have serious consequences.  Nurses accused of a DUI must deal with not only the criminal charges and DMV APS Action but also oversight from the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN).  The BRN will investigate the RN’s DUI including the circumstances surrounding the DUI and the Nurse’s conduct to consider whether the DUI is a single event or whether there is an issue with the Nurse putting public safety at risk.

Reduced Charges are Better than A DUI Conviction

In most cases, negotiating out of a DUI will have major benefit in a Nurses DUI Case.  The BRN looks at reckless driving much different that they do an actual DUI. We have saved many nurses by negotiating a non-dui resolution in their DUI case.

The California Nursing Board will Find out about the DUI

In most cases, the BRN will be notified by the Department of Justice that a nurse was arrested because of the fingerprinting process done at the time of arrest.  The BRN will then send a letter to the nurse to disclose the nature of the arrest.  There is a deadline to respond to the nursing boards request for information regarding the arrest that cannot be missed.  We always recommend that the nurse retain a professional licensing attorney experienced with nurses to navigate the communication with the Board.  As DUI defense attorneys, we work with the licensing board attorney to formulate a defensive strategy that will save the nurse’s professional license.

Employer Reporting Requirements

Nurses always ask if they are required to report their DUI to their employer.  It depends on the employer.  Unless there is a mandatory reporting requirement in the employee handbook its up to the discretion of the nurse if they want to report it to their employer or not.   If the nurse is part of a union, they can always talk to their union rep about what is best under the circumstances.  Consulting with either the DUI attorney or licensing attorney can also shed light on what should be done in each circumstance.

Reporting a DUI Conviction to the California Nursing Board

The California Board of Registered Nursing requires RNs to disclose convictions, which includes a plea of guilty or no contest in criminal court, within 30 days from the date of court action.  Nurses should know that the Nursing Board will be notified by the Department of Justice after arrest or a plea has been entered in criminal court. The Board considers self-reporting a mitigating factor. In many cases it’s not the DUI that gets the nurse in trouble but the failure to disclose or report the DUI that is a problem.  Falsely claiming or not reporting the DUI can result in serious consequences for the Nurse.

Reporting a DUI conviction when Renewing a Nursing License

In addition to reporting the conviction within 30 days, nurses are also required to disclose their conviction upon renewal. Nurses disclosing a conviction should allow extra time during the nursing license renewal process. This is because you must disclose if you were convicted of DUI and if your driver’s license was suspended. You may be required to submit additional supporting documentation along with your license renewal application.

Nurse and DUI – Drug and Alcohol Intervention Program

The BRN recognizes the risks of stress from the profession and that relief may be sought from drugs and alcohol.  To address these issues the BRN created a drug and alcohol intervention program designed to help RNs who may be showing symptoms of burn out.  If a nurse does not qualify for the intervention program or chooses not to participate because of the requirement that they must abstain from work for a substantial time, the Board will investigate and evaluate whether discipline is warranted by its disciplinary guidelines and the level of discipline under the Nurse Practice Act (NPA).

Potential Nursing License Consequences for a DUI Conviction

Under relevant statutes, the Board has the authority to sanction, discipline, suspend and/or revoke a license for unprofessional conduct, which includes a conviction of a felony or “any offense substantially related to the duties of a registered nurse.”  The Board has determined that a DUI is “unprofessional conduct” even if it occurred on the Nurse’s own time because such conduct involves the use of “dangerous drugs or alcohol in a manner which is dangerous to the licensee or the public or to the extent that such use impairs the ability of the licensee to conduct himself or herself professionally with safety.”  The Board will evaluate whether the facts surrounding the DUI, the nurse’s history, and other relevant evidence to determine the level of discipline or sanction to impose.

Factors The BRN Considers

The Board outlines, within the Disciplinary Guidelines, criteria to be considered when determining what level (if any) of discipline should be imposed. These factors include:

  1. Nature and severity of the conduct
  2. Total criminal record
  3. Time and actions taken since the offense
  4. How the licensee has done on criminal probation
  5. Whether a Petition for Penal Code Section 1203.4 relief has been granted


In many cases, the conviction of a non-aggravated (no accident, low BAC) first time DUI has been considered a minor violation of the NPA and may be handled with a Citation Order, which can carry a fine.  This sanction is limited to fines and does not place restrictions on the Nurses license, but it can become part of the permanent record and may be disclosed to the public on request for a period of three years.  If the nurse objects to the Citation, the nurse has a right to an administrative hearing.


If the facts of the DUI are aggravated, the nurses BAC was elevated, or there are multiple substance-related offenses, and the Board determines that the conviction was a major violation of the NPA, the Board will forward the case to the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General’s Office will then prepare a formal Accusation upon review of the evidence.  After the Accusation is filed upon the Nurse, there is a short time frame to preserve and assert his or her rights and file a Notice of Defense, to alert the Board and Deputy Attorney General that you want to protect your license. After the Notice of Defense is filed, defense counsel can negotiate an appropriate stipulated settlement and/or schedule an Administrative Hearing.


When a nurse’s DUI result in an Accusation against his or her license, there are several levels of discipline. Types of Discipline include A Letter of Public Reprimand, Stayed Revocation (with Probationary Terms), Suspension, or Revocation.

A Letter of Reprimand (LPR), is a formal warning, attached to the nurse’s license, and may be viewed online for three years.  LPRs place no restrictions on the nurse’s license or ability to practice nursing.

Many DUI convictions, however, result in a Probationary Term as outlined by the Board’s Disciplinary Guidelines. The Board may impose up to 20 probation requirements on a nurse. Although many are self-explanatory, such as obeying all laws and reporting in-person to a probation monitor, others may be difficult or even cause financial hardship for a nurse with a DUI. For example, the nurse will have to pay back the money that the Board spent investigating and trying the disciplinary case.  A nurse on probation will also have to submit to numerous random drug and alcohol tests over the course of his or her probationary period, as well as assume the cost of these tests.  Probation allows the nurse to continue working on a restricted basis for 2-5 years. If the nurse fulfills all the probation requirements, the probation will end. If the nurse violates the terms of his or her probation, his or her RN license may be revoked or their probationary term may be extended.

In more serious cases, the Board may favor a nursing License Suspension of Revocation. The Board may insist on License Suspension or Revocation in cases where the nurse needs to enter a rehabilitation or diversion program before he or she can practice nursing in a safe manner.

Professional Licensing Attorneys

In all professional license cases we always encourage the professional license holder to retain a professional license attorney to represent them while going through the licensing board disciplinary process. As DUI defense attorneys, we work with the professional license attorney to come up with a resolution that will have the least impact on the professional license holder’s occupation. In most cases, we get a letter from the professional license attorney which explains the consequences to the professional license holder. This letter can be very helpful in negotiating out of a DUI charge in court.

You don’t have to plead guilty, contact our office today for a free same day consultation

Because you have so much to lose with your Professional Nursing License, you need the most experienced and aggressive DUI Defense attorneys on your side. Whether it’s defending you in trial or negotiating for dismissal or reduced charges, you can count on us. Our experienced and aggressive negotiating efforts usually result in better outcomes for our clients including reduced charges, lesser jail days, and smaller fines. Call our office today at (916) 939-3900 to speak directly to an attorney about your Nursing License and DUI case. We are open 24/7/365 to answer your questions.