When it comes to filing accusations against registered nurses, the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is the big bully on the block. But even worse, this particular bully has minions to do its bidding, a.k.a. the Attorney General’s office. To make matters worse, unlike most public employees, the process available to RN’s to fight back against the system is less than employee friendly. Incidents (such as an old DUI) from a decade ago can be brought back to life and often result in the BRN seeking to revoke your license.
What hope do I have, you ask? With respect to first-offender DUI incidents, there is a silver bullet that may just save the day.
The law requires that in order for a DUI conviction to justify a disciplinary accusation, there must be a “substantial relationship” between the DUI and the RN’s employment. The Superior Court has also found that in addition to the substantial relationship standard, due process and equal protection rights may be violated when an accusation is issued as a result of a first-offense DUI. This is because the disciplinary statutes define “unprofessional conduct” to require more than a single alcohol-related misdemeanor conviction. In other words, just because you got a DUI, doesn’t automatically mean there are legal grounds to revoke your license.
Recently an RN retained Goyette & Associates to defend against an accusation based on an unfortunate DUI conviction. This particular nurse had practiced for years and was an exemplary employee. She attendede a party for a friend one afternoon and out of character she consumed too much alcohol. On her way home an off-duty police officer happened to observe her driving and noticed that when she parked her car she ran into her other parked vehicle. The ultimate irony is that this RN didn’t even usually drink alcohol in her daily life.
The case went to court and she plead no contest to a single count misdemeanor and then completed a first offender DUI program. Shaken and embarrassed by the whole situation, she hasn’t touched alcohol again, even though she is clearly not an alcoholic.
Nearly a year later, the BRN filed an accusation against the RN for the criminal conviction. The case was assigned to attorney Dan Thompson who immediately filed a request for a dismissal with the Attorney General’s office. Thompson argued that this was a first offense, there was no history of alcohol abuse, it was a single count misdemeanor with no aggravating factors and the incident had no relationship to the RN’s employment.
As a result, the BRN agreed to dismiss the accusation. If it weren’t for our client’s immediate retention of legal counsel to aggressively defend against her accusation, she could have faced losing her licence or at best being placed on probation for three years.
It is important to note that if aggravating factors exist (i.e. multiple misdemeanors, property damage, personal injury or an accident) the BRN may still refuse to dismiss even a first-offense DUI. However, it is important that you always explore this option first as the “silver bullet” may just save the day, and your career.