Will a DWI Hurt My Career?

Getting a criminal charge from a DWI will not only affect your ability to transport yourself--it can have long-lasting, negative effects on your career as well. In some cases, you may even lose the job you currently have or be barred from future opportunities. In this blog, we’ll discuss impacts that a DWI can have on careers and employment in more detail.

Read more to find out how a DWI conviction can:

  • Affect your ability to commute to work
  • Affect your ability to drive as part (or all) of your occupation
  • Cause loss of employment
  • Result in jail time
  • Prevent you from getting the jobs you want (or need)

A DWI is a serious matter and deserves experienced legal representation. Our experienced DWI attorneys in Jacksonville can help.

Commuting to Work

Many people rely on their cars daily to just to get to their place of work. To suddenly be without your main mode of transportation can greatly impact your commute time and, more importantly, your ability to get to work on time.

Here is how your commute could be affected:

  • If someone is convicted of a DWI in North Carolina, and it is their first offense, their driver's license will be revoked for an entire year.
  • However, if this DWI conviction is their second offense within 3 years, their license will be revoked for 4 years.
  • In some instances, a judge may grant limited driving privilege, as long as the driver obtains a substance abuse assessment and as long as they didn’t injure anyone or have a child under 16 years old in the car while driving while impaired.

Driving as Part of Your Occupation

While limited driving privilege can help commuters, it will not help those with professions in which driving is a job requirement and a DWI can be grounds for dismissal.

  • In North Carolina, if you are a commercial motor vehicle operator, your first offense will result in a one-year disqualification to operate any commercial motor vehicle.
  • A commercial motor vehicle operator's second offense results in a lifetime CDL disqualification.
  • When it comes to school bus drivers and child care vehicle drivers, North Carolina has zero tolerance.

If you drive a company car, things can get trickier. In some instances, you’ll only be required to notify your employer if you’re convicted (not accused) of a DWI. However, some employee contracts state that the employee is obligated to inform the employer about any arrests (DWI or otherwise) or face dismissal. Some occupations that require employees to report DWI arrests include childcare workers, military personnel, commercial truck operators, drivers for rideshare services like Lyft and Uber, and postal workers.

Loss of Employment Due to Jail Time

North Carolina is an at-will employment state, and according to the North Carolina Department of Labor, “the employer can discharge an employee at the will of the employer for any reason or no reason at all” if there is no specific law or contract clause protecting the employee. If your employer is not firing you based on age, race, sex, religion, national origin, color, disability, or pregnancy, there is little you can do on your own to fight their decision to terminate you.

If you are not able to report to work as agreed (due to jail time, for instance), that could be grounds for dismissal. At best, there are few employers who are going to treat an employee’s time in jail as unpaid time off or personal leave.

Jail Time for a DWI Misdemeanor

In North Carolina, DWI misdemeanors are categorized by 5 main levels, Level V being the least serious and Level I being the most serious. Jail time increases with each level:

  • Level V: Minimum jail sentence of 24 hours to a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend this sentence, but the suspended sentence must require that the driver spend 24 hours in jail OR perform 24 hours of community service OR not operate a vehicle for 30 days.
  • Level IV: Minimum jail sentence of 48 hours to a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend this sentence, but the suspended sentence must require that the driver spend 48 hours in jail OR perform 48 hours of community service OR not operate a vehicle for 60 days.
  • Level III: Minimum jail sentence of 72 hours to a maximum of 6 months. A judge can suspend this sentence, but the suspended sentence must require that the driver spend 72 hours in jail OR perform 72 hours of community service OR not operate a vehicle for 90 days.
  • Level II: Minimum jail sentence of 7 days and a maximum of 1 year. Judges can’t suspend the minimum sentence.
  • Level I: Minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of 2 years. Judges can’t suspend the minimum sentence.
  • Aggravated Level I: Minimum jail sentence of 120 days and a maximum of 3 years. Judges can’t suspend the minimum sentence.

Jail Time for a DWI Felony

Drivers with 3 prior DWI convictions within the past 10 years may be considered Habitual DWI offenders and can face felony charges if they get another DWI. The minimum jail time is 1 year, and the sentence cannot be suspended. That is a lot of time to be out of work, and jumping back into the workforce will not be easy.

Obstacles to Future Employment

Even in the instances in which a judge decides to suspend the sentence, a DWI conviction will still be a matter of public record, which could affect your future employment.

  • It is not uncommon for companies to run a background check before giving you an offer of employment or upon giving you a conditional offer of employment. If you did not already disclose on your job application that you have a DWI conviction, it will show up on the background check, which will show that you were not truthful when completing the criminal conviction section of your job application (a legal document that you signed). This can be grounds for rejecting you from the application pool or revoking your job offer.
  • However, having to disclose that you have a DWI conviction on a job application (one of the first things a potential employer sees) puts you in an awkward position and what can feel like a huge disadvantage. In a sea of applicants, it can be worrying to think that you might be unfairly or illegally passed over in favor of a different applicant when you’ve had no chance to explain yourself or demonstrate your character.
  • There are some jobs that will be impossible or next to impossible to obtain with a DWI on your record. These include any jobs that require driving (ex. bus driver, delivery driver, traveling salesperson, etc.) or any type of work involving the teaching or care of children. Other positions involving sensitive data or certain levels of security clearance may also be difficult for you to obtain simply because you have a criminal record.

At The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm, we understand the impact a DWI conviction can have on your personal and professional life, and we work hard to have the vast majority of these cases reduced or dismissed outright. Even if the evidence against you is strong, our experienced DWI lawyers can help you mitigate the damage from a DWI conviction. Contact us for a free consultation, and tell us about the details of your case.

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