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A DUI can put your ‘moral character’ in question with the Bar

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2019 | Receiving And Maintaining Professional Licenses |

A few drinks at a bar may seem like the perfect way to unwind — but don’t let those drinks turn into a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) on the way home. If you’re an attorney (or a student hoping to soon practice law), a DUI can pose a significant threat to your career.

The California Bar and moral character determinations

One of the most angst-inducing parts of an attorney’s application to practice law is often the moral character determination. It involves a detailed review of an applicant’s personal history. During an investigation that takes a minimum of six months to complete, examiners with the state Bar will look into various aspects of your background, including any criminal convictions and any hints that you may abuse drugs or alcohol.

Do you see why a single DUI can pose a serious problem?

A drunk driving conviction indicates, first of all, that you may not have the appropriate respect for the law that an attorney is expected to have. After all — or so the reasoning goes — if you were an obedient observer of the law, you wouldn’t have been driving while intoxicated. Second, the examiners sometimes seem to take the old adage that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” to heart — meaning that a drunk driving conviction could be the symptom of an underlying problem (alcoholism).

If you’ve been convicted for drunk driving, there’s nothing you can do to hide the situation on your application. (Trying to hide it will actually land you in worse trouble.) Instead, you must focus on convincing the Bar that you have sufficiently rehabilitated yourself. The Bar will take into account factors like:

  • Your age at the time of the offense
  • The amount of time that’s elapsed since then
  • Successful completion of any probation or parole
  • Successful completion of a rehab program for substance abuse
  • Any unique circumstances surrounding the event

Will a drunk driving conviction stop you from obtaining a license to practice in California? The answer may depend on your ability to show yourself in the best possible light. Contact our office to talk about a possible strategy going forward.


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