California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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Maybe. Teachers and prospective teachers may face difficulty in gaining employment or maintaining their educator positions, with a DUI or DWI conviction on their record. The true answer to this question typically depends on the severity of the DUI and the jurisdiction in which the teacher works.
With regards to new teachers, they are subject to background checks prior to being offered a position as a school teacher. These checks will inform an employer if an applicant has been convicted of a DUI offense. This type of information might be enough for a school or school board to deny a teacher a position.
As to teachers already holding a teaching position, a DUI conviction could provide a variety of different outcomes. For example:
All teachers convicted of a DUI should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney or DUI attorney to see if they can get their conviction expunged. An expungement means that the conviction will not show up on a teacher’s background check.
A drunk driving conviction may lead to a school denying a new teacher employment.
When a new teacher applies for a teaching position, the employer will run a background check on the applicant.
A background check will disclose to the school the teacher’s criminal history/criminal record. This includes any criminal offenses that the teacher was convicted of – including any DUI convictions.
A DUI conviction could mean that the school decides to deny the teacher any type of employment. For example, the DUI charge may make a school question a teacher’s:
Note that all DUI cases are unique, meaning the facts will be different for every conviction. The more severe the facts, the stronger the likelihood that a DUI will lead to the denial of employment.
For example, if a DUI was a teacher’s first offense and he/she had an extremely low BAC, then a school probably would not deny employment. However, if field sobriety tests showed that a new teacher was highly intoxicated and later assaulted police while they were making their DUI arrest, then the teacher will likely not get a teaching position.
If a person gets employed as an educator and is then later convicted of drunk driving, several different results can take place depending on:
As to the latter, note that school districts vary when it comes to policies on DUIs. Some have none whatsoever, while others may demand that a teacher be suspended or fired for any DUI conviction.
The following are all possible outcomes if an existing teacher gets arrested and convicted of DUI:
As with new teachers, note that it is more likely that a DUI will negatively affect a teacher’s job/career when the case involves harsh or severe facts, like:
When considering possible outcomes, teachers must also consider that they will likely receive a driving license suspension following a DUI arrest. This might mean that a teacher can no longer make the commute to his/her job.
Yes. The law on sealing or expunging a criminal record differs from state to state. But, at the very least, most states offer a procedure for expunging or sealing a misdemeanor DUI. And many states allow people to petition to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor under some circumstances.
An expunged offense means that it will not show up on a background check, and thus, will keep an employer from learning about a conviction. This makes it easier for a teacher to get employed, or stay employed, following a DUI charge.
Since expungement laws differ among jurisdictions, a teacher convicted of DUI should contact a skilled DUI defense lawyer or DUI lawyer for help. An attorney will be able to:
California does not necessarily preclude people from becoming or remaining teachers because of a DUI conviction. But school districts and private schools conduct careful background checks and a DUI record is a factor they may consider when deciding whether to offer one a position or impose disciplinary action against an existing teacher.
Also note that a teacher in California that gets convicted of DUI is required to report the conviction to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) whenever he/she either:
When a teacher reports a DUI conviction, the CTC will review the facts of the case and determine whether or not the teacher is still fit to serve as an educator.[ii]
Note that if a teacher gets a DUI in California, he/she may face consequences in addition to the possibility of losing his/her job and credentials. Some of these include:
For more discussion, see our page on jobs you can’t get with a DUI on your record.
[ii] See same.
[iv] Vehicle Code 23538b VC.
[v] Vehicle Code 23536a VC.
[vii] Vehicle Code 23536a VC.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.