What Happens to Doctors who get DUIs?

DUI as a doctor in CaliforniaGetting a DUI  in Southern California isn’t just an expensive hassle.  If you are a doctor, it can cost you your career.  Drug and alcohol abuse are some of the most common triggers for Medical Board actions.  For doctors who are charged with a DUI, it is critical to make sure that it is handled properly, not only in the criminal proceeding, but also before the Medical Board.

Prior to 2007, it was rare for the Medical Board to discipline a doctor for violations related to drug and alcohol abuse.  The Board’s diversion program allowed physicians to undergo treatment thereby avoiding any discipline to his or her license.  However, in 2007, California adopted a more aggressive approach to prosecuting doctors for alcohol or drug abuse.

A physician may be disciplined by the Board for a DUI that occurs while the physician is not working and which does not directly impact patient care.  California Business & Professions Code Section 2239 states that two DUIs constitute unprofessional conduct, even if they are totally unrelated to the doctor’s practice of medicine.  While the Medical Board typically does not initiate any formal accusations based on a single DUI offense, two incidents are deemed by statute to be “unprofessional conduct” and therefore, a basis for discipline under the Medical Practice Act.  That said, extenuating circumstances such as property damage or injuries surrounding a single DUI may cause the Board to consider the violation “related to the practice of medicine” allowing it to attempt to impose formal discipline.

Having a license to practice medicine exposes a doctor to more risks of negative collateral consequences than other drivers.  It is critical to quickly take steps to minimize any potential disciplinary action from the Medical Board.  Doing so early will pay huge dividends during the Board’s investigative process and will help minimize negative consequences to a physician’s license.

1 Comment
  1. I agree that Doctor’s should have there jobs on the line when it comes to getting a DUI. I understand that they are just regular people like you and I, but they are people that determine life for some of there patients. By drinking and driving they are people others in danger when they are actually supposed to be doing the opposite. Its fair only to be evaluated and then determine the punishment. Thanks for the post!

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