Can a DUI Cost You a Job in Law Enforcement?In a word, probably. Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs certainly has the potential to affect your job in law enforcement or other related career prospects. There are a multitude of ways one decision can have a major ripple effect throughout your future. A DUI or DWI can not only derail your pursuit of a career path in law enforcement, but also prevent it from happening entirely. One choice can change everything, but it doesn’t seal your fate.

Will getting a DUI cost you a police job you already have?

A DUI offense most likely won’t get you fired on the spot, as the investigation and formal charges have to run their natural course. Whether it is a town, city, or state police agency, each will have their own unique policies regarding DUI offenses. During the investigative process, however, it is likely that you will be on unpaid leave. However, if your DUI results in the loss of someone else’s life or caused an accident which resulted in catastrophic injuries, an immediate dismissal may occur.

For some, your DUI case may be dismissed entirely for lack of evidence or probable cause for the traffic stop to have been conducted in the first place. At the end of the day, as mentioned earlier, it’s up to senior leadership and that specific department’s policies in place. Our Sevierville DUI defense attorneys work to get your charges dismissed or reduced.

Your DUI will come up on your background check

Throughout the long hiring process, police departments conduct extensive and thorough background checks on all individuals. This includes health history (both mental and physical) as well as criminal history (both felony and misdemeanors). Since they are even looking at minor things such as speeding tickets, it’s safe to say that they will heavily consider prior DUIs as part of the hiring and vetting of the potential candidate pool.

Depending on the time frame, a DUI on your record is not an automatic disqualifier, but it will be noticed, and you will be asked about it. Each department or agency will have their own specific internal policy regarding DUIs. Some departments may still consider you for hire, but will definitely want that DUI offense to have occurred at least three to five years in the past, with no identical or similar offenses since. Every department will have slightly varying policies in regards to this.

DUIs and federal law enforcement background checks

Applying for federal law enforcement jobs are no different in the way that there are background checks as part of the process. In this arena, an automatic decline is not unlikely, given the more stringent hiring guidelines and background investigations necessary for these types of jobs.

These federal agencies, such as the FBI or CIA, will likely have a much stricter policy in their hiring process than local law enforcement, but every case is personal and nuanced. Honesty is the best policy moving forward if you do have a DUI on your record. Obtaining a security clearance will be affected if you have a DWI on your record involving marijuana, for example, because it is still federally illegal.

What are Tennessee’s DUI laws?

Any driver who is operating a motor vehicle in a state of intoxication, either from drugs and/or alcohol, can be charged with DUI. These charges are also commonly referred to as DWI, or driving while intoxicated, but in Tennessee DWI is actually a separate charge exclusively for drivers younger than 21.

Any police officer who has a reasonable suspicion that you may be operating under the influence can pull you over. This can be for anything as small as not using a turn signal when changing lanes, or even bumping a curb as you turn the corner.

The fines and penalties associated with a DUI charge will vary, depending on the severity of your blood alcohol level. In Tennessee, the law recognizes anything over .08% BAC (blood alcohol level) to be deemed per se as a DUI. However, you can still be charged with a DUI if you are under this limit and driving dangerously.

Firsttime DUI offenders are charged differently in Tennessee than repeat offenders. For each subsequent offense, the fines go up as well as the jail time, and this will surely affect you having a stable law enforcement career. Even if you don’t lose your job, you may be required to attend drug or alcohol treatment programs, which is at the judge’s discretion. Again, this could potentially interfere with your professional trajectory.

However, this goes for more than just alcohol. Drugs such as marijuana or painkillers can land you a DUI charge if you are driving under the influence of those substances. Even without a breathalyzer for such things, you can still be evaluated based on blood draws, results of field sobriety tests, and appearance of the eyes. If you are asked to take a breathalyzer test and refuse (which is well within your rights) you can still potentially lose your license for an entire year as a result under Tennessee’s implied consent law.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI involving the roadways of Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and worried about how it may affect your future career in law enforcement, please don’t hesitate to contact our office today. The DUI defense lawyers of Delius & McKenzie, PLLC are here to ensure you obtain fair and adequate representation as you are entitled to under the law.