From fuel to insurance to car loan payments, driving is expensive. Most people don't think about hidden costs, however: the financial penalties involved with making a mistake and the far-reaching ramifications. If you're convicted of driving under the influence, it will not only affect your wallet through increased insurance rates and fines, but you might find it hinders your ability to earn a living as well.
Getting to Work
If your place of employment is a distance from your home, or if your job involves driving, your DUI is obviously going to have an practical and immediate effect. DUIs carry license suspensions, so you can't drive yourself to or from work. If you're lucky, you can afford daily taxi fare. You might have a close friend, family member or co-worker who's willing to give you a lift on a regular basis for a while, or public transportation might be easily accessible in your area. Otherwise, you won't be able to report to work to earn a living unless your state offers provisional or restricted licenses. These let you drive to work, but they usually come with exacting requirements. For example, whether you get one might depend on how many DUIs you've had.
What an employer can legally do about your DUI is a complicated matter. The federal government imposes some laws, and states often have their own statutes. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes they contradict each other. As a general rule, a prospective employer can only question you regarding criminal convictions, such as for a DUI, and not about arrests. Unless you plead guilty, no contest, or a judge or jury eventually finds you guilty, you usually have no duty to divulge your brush with the law. If you are convicted of a DUI, some states allow an employer to weigh this factor, provided it directly affects your job or one you're applying for. Federal law allows this as well. State laws usually allow employers to do background checks on job applicants, so even if you're not questioned, it's possible that an employer will learn of your conviction anyway. To further complicate matters, in many states these laws only apply to government employers – private companies are exempt and can therefore set their own rules.
Even if an employer isn't supposed to ask you about a DUI arrest, it doesn't mean he won't. If he does, you're put in the uncomfortable position of lying or telling the truth. Some jobs require security clearance and if yours is one of these, you'll have no choice but to come clean. Otherwise, lying to an employer – even a potential one during the interview process – can legally get you fired regardless of your DUI. If you tell the truth, it might affect an employer's opinion of you. If he's a teetotaler, he might decline to hire you or terminate your position for an unrelated reason, never letting on that what he was really influenced by was the fact that you might have a drinking problem. If an employer is considering two equally qualified individuals, the fact that one has a DUI may well tip the scale toward hiring the other.
Even if your DUI is a conviction, not just an arrest, all may not be lost. Some states allow you to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation afterward, which might affect how an employer views your conviction. For employment purposes, these certificates effectively erase your conviction as though it never happened. An employer is not allowed to consider it. You might also want to talk to an attorney about expunging your record so your conviction won't appear on a background check. The rules regarding expungements depend on where you live, so you might need legal advice to find out if this is a viable alternative in your state.
- Law Office of Thomas P. Hogan: How a DUI Conviction Affects Employment
- Pennsylvania DUI Blog: The Verdict Is You're Fired – How a DUI Affects Your Employment
- Bloomberg Businessweek: One DUI Shouldn't End a Career
- American Lawyer Academy: California DUI and Employment
- Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security: Restricted License Information
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