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What Happens When a Dentist Gets a DUI in California?

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Driving under the influence in California has many consequences. The driver faces criminal penalties for a DUI conviction. However, they also face collateral consequences. A person holding a professional license may risk losing their license or facing other disciplinary action if they are convicted of drunk driving.

Dentists arrested for drunk driving should contact a Southern California DUI Lawyer immediately after an arrest to discuss defenses to criminal or administrative prosecution.

DUI Consequences for Dentists in California

Dentists in California must be aware of the potential DUI consequences for their professional licenses. A DUI conviction could result in a revocation or a suspension of a dental or hygienist license. There could also be other disciplinary actions taken that could significantly impact the dentist’s practice and career.

Additionally, the dentist faces several criminal penalties. Those penalties could also significantly impact the dentist’s practice or job, especially if they are ordered to serve jail time for the conviction

Criminal Convictions and Dentist’s License Discipline for California Dentists

The Dental Board of California oversees dentist licenses throughout the state. The Board could take one or more actions against a dentist for drunk driving offenses.

Dental Board of California Reporting Requirements for Alcohol-Related Offenses

Dentists are required to report all arrests for felony and misdemeanor offenses to the Dental Board of California. The arrest does not trigger an investigation or discipline. However, if the dentist is convicted of driving under the influence, the Board opens an investigation.

The California Code of Regulations (CCR) §1018.05 requires the reporting of indictments for felonies or the conviction of a crime, including guilty verdicts, guilty pleas, and pleas of no contest within 30 days. Therefore, failing to report such actions could be considered unprofessional conduct.

A dentist might try to avoid reporting a DUI arrest. However, it is best to face the matter directly with the help of a California DUI defense lawyer.

Dental Board Receives Notice of Arrest from Department of Justice 

The California Code of Regulations requires a dentist to submit fingerprints when they renew their license if the Department of Justice does not have a record of the Board taking fingerprints before the current renewal. Once your fingerprints are on record with the Department of Justice, any arrest or conviction is immediately reported to the Dental Board.

Dental Board Administrative Discipline for DUI Convictions Under the Dental Practice Act

The Board may take one of several disciplinary actions when dental professionals are convicted of DUI in California. The disciplinary options for a drunk driving conviction can include:

  • An issue administrative warnings;
  • Administrative fine;
  • Citations;
  • Participation in a diversion program;
  • Completing an alcohol abuse treatment program;
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol screening;
  • Community service;
  • Probation;
  • Supervision and monitoring of the dentist’s practice;
  • Temporary dental license suspension; and
  • Permanent dental license revocation.

Licensed dentists can fight license suspension or revocation. Dentists can also appeal the Board’s decision. Contact a lawyer immediately if you receive a formal Accusation because of a drunk driving conviction.

An attorney advises you of your rights and provides guidance throughout the administrative discipline process. In some cases, your lawyer might be able to negotiate a favorable Stipulated Agreement with the Board that can be submitted to the California Attorney General’s Office to resolve the matter quickly.

Disclosures And Patterns of Abuse

A first-time DUI offense might not be sufficient for the Board to suspend or revoke a dentist’s license. However, if you have a criminal record of drug and/or alcohol-related offenses, a drunk driving offense could be evidence of a pattern of substance abuse. Self-reporting and disclosing the information to the Board can help lessen the consequences of a DUI for a dentist.

Additionally, if you have patterns of alcohol abuse or warning signs of substance abuse, the Board might initiate disciplinary action. The warning signs of substance abuse do not need to be criminal offenses or multiple DUI offenses. For example, reports from patients, staff members, and other parties that you smelled of alcohol or drugs could be considered evidence of substance abuse and unprofessional conduct.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse for Dentists

Dentists have access to prescription drugs. That access can make it easier for a dentist to obtain controlled substances. Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol by dentists can be dangerous for both dentists and patients. Therefore, the California Dental Board treats complaints of alcohol and substance abuse for dentists very seriously. Even if you are innocent, you need experienced legal representation immediately. You could lose your dental license for a first-time DUI conviction, especially if the Board considers the DUI charge as evidence of a substance abuse problem.

Legal Representation in Administrative Hearings

You have the right to legal representations at administrative hearings. Talk with a Southern California DUI attorney who has experience with administrative hearings regarding professional license disciplinary actions. You should not represent yourself at an administrative hearing. The California Attorney General’s Office represents the Board at administrative hearings. Therefore, you would argue your case against a seasoned and skilled attorney.

Dental Board’s Enforcement Program

Knowing what to expect if you are arrested for DUI as a dentist can help you fight disciplinary actions by the Board. The Dental Board’s enforcement program consists of:

Intake of a Complaint

The Board may receive complaints from various sources, including patients, staff members, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, and other parties. Staff members screen incoming complaints and route them to the appropriate division or person.

Analysis of the Complaint

The complaint is analyzed by a team of analysts at the Board. The request records and other information about the complaint. The complaint is evaluated to determine whether there is a potential violation of the Dental Practice Act.


Depending on the allegations in the complaint, inspections might be sent to dental offices. The inspectors can issue citations and administrative warnings to dentists.

Investigation Phase

The Dental Board of California assigns an investigator to formally investigate criminal and administrative violations of the Dental Practice Act and develop comprehensive complaint files. The investigator forwards the evidence and information to the California Office of the Attorney General, and the Board sends a formal Accusation to the dentist. If you do not settle the matter with the Board, your case proceeds to a formal hearing before an administrative law judge. The judge may suspend or revoke your license or take one of several disciplinary actions.

Probation Period

You might be placed on probation if your dental license is not revoked or suspended for a DUI conviction. The probation section of the Dental Board monitors you to ensure you comply with all probation terms. If you violate any of the probation terms, you could have your dental license suspended or revoked.

Dentists And DUI FAQs

Below are answers to frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) about dentists and DUI in California.

1. Who Regulates Dental Professionals in California?

The Dental Board of California regulates the practice of dentistry for dentists, registered dental assistants, and hygienists according to the California Business and Professions Code (California BPC). Protecting dental patients is the Board’s primary duty.

2. Does a Criminal Charge Lead to Disciplinary Action?

An arrest for a criminal offense does not automatically lead to disciplinary action for dental assistants, dental hygienists, or dentists. A conviction for a criminal offense is what triggers action by the Dental Board of California.

3. What Kinds of Criminal Convictions Trigger Board Discipline?

Criminal convictions should be substantially related to the functions, qualifications, or duties of the dentist to justify disciplinary actions by the Dental Board of California. Examples of criminal offenses that could qualify as a crime substantially related to the practice of dentistry include, but are not limited to:

  • Crimes involving alcohol, drugs, or substance abuse;
  • Driving under the influence (“DUI”);
  • Lewd acts on a child;
  • Receiving stolen property;
  • Possession of controlled substances;
  • Exhibiting a deadly weapon;
  • Burglary;
  • Prescription fraud; and
  • Billing and insurance fraud.

The evidence should show that the criminal offense demonstrates a potential or present unfitness to perform the functions authorized by a dental license.

4. Does Evidence of Rehabilitation Help?

Yes, evidence of rehabilitation can help dentists keep their licenses or reinstate their dental licenses after a DUI arrest. The California Business and Professions Code §482 requires each board to develop criteria to evaluate a person’s rehabilitation.

Evidence that the Dental Board may consider includes:

  • The severity of the crime, the person’s criminal record, and the time that has passed since the offense;
  • Evidence of DUI expungement;
  • The dentist’s compliance with DUI probation terms and conditions;
  • Letters of reference;
  • Counseling;
  • Alcohol and/or drug treatment programs;
  • Remedial education programs; and
  • Participation in a 12-step program or similar program for alcoholics.

The Board may consider other evidence of rehabilitation it determines applies to the dentist’s case. The goal of rehabilitation is to acknowledge the criminal offense, comply with the DUI penalties, and take positive steps to avoid such actions in the future.

5. What Happens After the Board Learns of a Conviction?

The Dental Board assigns an investigator when it receives notice of a dentist’s DUI conviction. If the Board determines discipline is necessary, it serves a formal Accusation on the dental professional. Therefore, a dentist should contact a DUI attorney familiar with professional licenses as soon as possible if they did not hire a DUI lawyer to handle the criminal case.

6. What Happens at a Formal Hearing?

A formal hearing is not a criminal court action. Instead, it is an administrative hearing. An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) hears the case. The California Attorney General’s Office argues the case on behalf of the Board to discipline the dentist for a DUI conviction.

The dentist has the right to be represented by legal counsel and present a defense to the allegations. At this time, the dentist’s criminal defense lawyer would present evidence of rehabilitation to mitigate the discipline the Board could take against the dentist.

7. How Can a Dentist Appeal the Board’s Decision to Revoke or Suspend a Dental License?

The California Superior Court hears appeals from administrative hearings for license revocation or suspension. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the Board’s final decision. A dentist can petition the Board for reinstatement of their dental license if they lose their appeal.

8. Can I Become a Dentist With a Criminal History?

It depends on the crime and other factors relevant to the conviction.

The Dental Board has the authority to deny a license to a dentist convicted of a substantially related criminal offense within the past seven years. In addition, in cases involving serious offenses under California Penal Code §1192. 7 and sex offenses that require a person to register as a Tier II or III sex offender, the Board can deny a license, regardless of the time between the criminal conviction for unlawful sexual conduct and the application for a dental license.

You should contact a lawyer to appeal the decision if you are denied a dental license because of a DUI conviction or other crime.

Dentist’s Questions About DUIs in California

Below are answers to common questions about alcohol-related offenses that apply to dentists and other professional licenses in California.

How Does A DUI Affect Employment in California?

DUIs for dentists can affect their employment in several ways. First, the Board could revoke or suspend their license, which could result in closing a dental practice or being terminated from employment with a dentist’s office. The dentist’s reputation could be negatively impacted by a DUI conviction, which could result in the loss of business. At the very least, a DUI arrest that results in a driver’s license suspension and probation can make it difficult to work full-time and meet all job obligations.

How Long Does It Take for a DUI to Drop Off Your Record in California?

Misdemeanor DUIs remain on your driving record for 10 years (a felony DUI remains on your record forever). However, a DUI conviction remains on your criminal record indefinitely. The arrest remains on your criminal history if you receive a DUI expungement. However, the guilty verdict or guilty plea is changed to not guilty, and the court dismisses the DUI charge.

Do You Go to Jail for DUI in California?

You can go to jail for a first-time DUI in California. Some aggravating factors have mandatory minimum jail sentences that are added to any jail time the judge orders for a DUI conviction. A DUI defense attorney can help you fight the charges and argue for DUI probation instead of jail time or fight for the minimum amount of jail time, which you might be able to serve on weekends.

What California DUI Laws Apply to Dentists?

All California DUI laws apply to dentists. The primary DUI law in California is California Vehicle Code §23152. The law prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle while:

  • Under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug;
  • Addicted to the use of any drug;
  • Under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol; and
  • Having a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) above the legal limit.

The legal limit for BAC in California is .08% for most drivers. However, if you are driving a commercial motor vehicle or a vehicle with a passenger for hire in the vehicle with you, the legal limit for BAC is .04% or higher.

Also, the zero tolerance laws in California for individuals on probation and underage drivers set lower BAC limits. Those individuals cannot have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system while driving a vehicle.

California’s implied consent laws require you to submit to a blood test or breath test if you are lawfully arrested for DUI. The chemical test measures the blood alcohol concentration in your system. If you refuse a chemical test, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) administratively suspends your driver’s license. The license suspension stands regardless of whether you are found guilty of driving under the influence.

What Are the Most Common Penalties For A DUI Conviction In California?

The most common DUI penalties include:

  • Fines and assessments that could total thousands of dollars;
  • Jail time or prison sentences;
  • Three to five years of probation;
  • Attendance at DUI school for up to 30 months;
  • Substance abuse treatment;
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (“IID”);
  • Mandatory attendance at DUI programs, such as the Hospital and Morgue Program and MADD’s Victim Impact Panel; and
  • Community service and other probation terms.

DUIs can count as prior offenses in California. If you have a prior DUI conviction within 10 years, the sentence for a second DUI is harsher. The jail sentences, fines, probation, and other penalties increase with each DUI conviction on your criminal history.

Most DUIs are misdemeanors. However, local district attorney’s offices can charge you with felony DUI if you injure or kill another person, have three or more prior DUIs on your record within 10 years, or have a prior felony DUI on your record. The punishment for a felony DUI is severe. You could serve several years in state prison, have your driver’s license permanently revoked, and pay substantial fines.

Get Help from a California DUI Lawyer

The best way to protect your dental license is to fight DUI charges. A Southern California DUI attorney investigates the arrest and develops a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of a positive outcome in your case. Call a DUI lawyer immediately for a free consultation if the police arrest you for driving under the influence in California.

Talk To A DUI Defense Attorney

As mentioned above, an experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.

Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our recent article about whether or not a DUI charge could lead to termination of employment, and other related articles on our blog, which is updated regularly!


The post What Happens When a Dentist Gets a DUI in California? appeared first on Law Offices of Taylor and Taylor - DUI Central.

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