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How does a drunk driving conviction affect your medical license?

Even a first-time drunk driving offense can wreck havoc on the ability of a physician to keep his or her license to practice in California.

Section 2236 of the California Code applies to business professionals. Under that section, any conviction -- whether a misdemeanor or a felony -- that can be related to a physician's qualifications or functions is considered unprofessional conduct.

Even if it seems to you that a drunk driving conviction is unrelated to a physician's qualifications or functions, that generally isn't the way the Medical Board will see it. The Board takes a broad view toward the implications of drunk driving.

For example, a physician's drunk driving conviction can indicate that the physician has a substance abuse problem. At the very least, a conviction can erode the public confidence in (and respect for) that physician significantly. In addition, a doctor who participates in drunk driving is putting the public in danger -- which is the opposite of what a physician ought to be doing.

In addition, trying to hide the conviction or hoping that the Medical Board won't find out is useless. The Medical Board can find out about your conviction once the court clerk files his or her report on the conviction. In addition, all physicians are legally obligated to report criminal convictions under the professional code in general. If you're up for a license renewal, you must reveal any criminal convictions at that point -- even if you haven't before.

Trying to avoid reporting the incident is a terrible career move. It can end up damaging your career even more than the conviction and compound your problems with the Board. Evading responsibility for your actions is probably viewed even more dimly than drunk driving.

Many physicians who experience a drunk driving conviction choose to seek advice from an attorney experienced with professional license defenses before they make their report to the Board. It's often a wise move because you can learn how to best present the situation and try to mitigate the fallout.

Source: www.mbc.ca.gov, "Criminal Conviction - How it Might Affect a Physician’s License," accessed March 02, 2018

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