Getting a Job After a DUI Conviction

How a driving under the influence conviction can affect your job prospects and ways to clear your record.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

Compared to other crimes, a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction is on the minor side of the spectrum. But a DUI can still be problematic when it comes to finding and keeping employment, especially when the job involves driving. Here are some of the basics on how a DUI record can affect employment and possible ways of minimizing the impact of a DUI arrest or conviction.

DUI Convictions and Criminal Record Checks

In the majority of states, including California and Texas, a DUI conviction is a criminal offense regardless of whether it's your first or subsequent conviction (New Jersey is one notable exception where a first DWI is a traffic infraction). Standard first and second offenses are normally misdemeanors, whereas a third or subsequent conviction can be a felony in many states.

So, if you're convicted of driving under the influence, chances are it's going to show up on a criminal record check and be visible to employers who conduct a search.

Which Employers Care About DUI Convictions

Depending on the industry, a DUI conviction might or might not affect your ability to get a job or keep your current employment. If you have a DUI conviction, you might be less likely to find certain kinds of jobs. These might include jobs:

  • that involve driving or operating heavy equipment
  • in law enforcement
  • that involve caring for children or vulnerable populations
  • in education
  • in healthcare (including nurse and doctor positions), and
  • with the government.

With many of these types of work, employers might not be entirely prohibited from hiring someone with a DUI conviction. But between applicants who have convictions and those who don't, employers are more likely to go with applicants who have clean records.

How to Keep a DUI From Affecting Employment Opportunities

Being arrested for a DUI doesn't necessarily mean you'll lose your job or employers won't consider your application. Oftentimes, options are available to minimize the impact a DUI arrest on your employment and employability.

Avoiding a DUI Conviction

Many states have first-offender programs (sometimes called "diversion" or "DUI court") that allow participants to avoid a DUI conviction by completing certain requirements. First-offender programs typically require participants to comply with drug and alcohol testing and some type of treatment or substance abuse education. But for those who successfully complete the program, the judge will dismiss the DUI charge. In other words, there's no criminal conviction.

Expungements and Clearing Your Record

In some states, it's possible to expunge a DUI conviction. Expungement procedures and requirements vary by state. But obtaining an expungement generally allows the individual to truthfully report on a job application that he or she has no criminal convictions.

Restricted and Hardship Licenses

Most states have some type of restricted or hardship license that grants DUI offenders limited driving privileges during the license suspension period. A restricted license can ease the burdens of license suspension. But commercial drivers typically aren't eligible for a restricted license and drivers who are eligible might be required to use an ignition interlock device (IID) or be subject to other requirements and restrictions.

Passage of Time

Generally, the passage of time isn't going to make a DUI conviction disappear from your criminal record. (Though, for purposes of DUI penalties, many states won't count priors that occurred a certain number of years in the past.) However, employers are likely to consider a DUI conviction less concerning if it occurred many years ago. So, the more time that passes since your DUI conviction, the less likely it is to affect your chances of getting a job.

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