When you are pulled over by law enforcement for suspected Driving While Impaired, your job prospects might not be the first worry on your mind. That’s understandable, but after the dust settles it is important to know how your current or future job could be impacted.
Whether your DUI/DWI is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor, future job opportunities might be narrowed, and it is even possible for you to lose your current job.
Job applications often ask whether you have been convicted of a crime and many employers run background checks on their candidates. If your chosen career doesn't involve much driving, handling sensitive material, or dealing with children, you might not be penalized.
Restrictions for Employers
In North Carolina, like other states, there are questions that employers are prohibited from asking.
Employers in the Tarheel State can’t ask about the following:
- Arrests. Employers can ask about convictions in most states, but not about arrests. You don't have to volunteer information about a DUI arrest and should give information on convictions only if asked specifically during an interview or on a written application.
- Expunged Criminal History. North Carolina law bans employers from inquiring about an applicant’s expunged criminal history, including arrests, charges, and convictions. You also do not have to disclose any expunged criminal history in answering questions on a pre-employment screening questionnaire.
- Sealed Juvenile Records. North Carolina courts typically seal all records related to a criminal offense committed by a minor. You do not have to disclose any information about your sealed record, and they are allowed to seek that information.
Ban-the-box laws prohibit employers from asking about a person's criminal history on a job application. The question is used to weed out applicants with a criminal record, without considering the specifics of the crime or when it happened. Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia have passed these laws. North Carolina is not one of those states.
Jobs Sensitive to DUI
Employers for some positions tend to be more sensitive about DUIs than others. Though you might not be legally denied the right to work in these capacities, you may have more difficulty getting hired.
Jobs sensitive to DUI include:
- Daycare Providers
- Bus Drivers
- Delivery Drivers
- Outside Salespeople
- Any Job Involving Highly Confidential Information
Some employers may also have stated policies in their employee handbook about DWI and other offenses.
What a Background Check Reveals
Running a background check is a standard process for most employers today. Even if you aren’t asked about convictions early on in the hiring process, you might be subject to a background check, particularly if you are a finalist for a position. A background check will verify your identity and reveal your credit report. It also brings to light your criminal record at the county, state, and federal levels.
A background check will reveal the following criminal record:
- Current Pending Charges
- Misdemeanor Convictions
- Felony Convictions
- Acquitted Charges
- Dismissed Charges
DWI Affects Current Employment
North Carolina is an “at-will” employment state. You can be terminated with or without a cause. If your company’s employee handbook requires you to disclose DUI charges, then you should do so. Telling your employer means they won’t find out in another way, which can be embarrassing and detrimental to your career. If you drive a company vehicle, you should disclose if you have been charged with a DWI. If your license is suspended, you should not drive.
Any kind of professional licensure—medical, legal, professional pilot, or other licenses—requires that you report any arrests and/or convictions to the issuing agency. You will lose your license and probably your job. You will lose a commercial driver’s license at least temporarily and possibly permanently in certain circumstances.
Other Impacts on Employment
There are other consequences to DWI that indirectly impact your job search.
You might lose your driver's license for a period of time, leaving you without transportation to work. You also won't have a driver's license to provide to human resources to complete hiring paperwork. Not providing a valid driver's license could raise red flags with hiring managers.
Whether it is conscious, employers may question your character if you have been convicted of a DWI. Although you don't have to volunteer information about criminal convictions, don't lie if directly asked. Keep your explanation of the DUI short, and sound apologetic. Some jobs strongly rely on a person’s reputation in the community, such as elected officials and clergy members. These jobs are particularly vulnerable to DWI charges and convictions.
Expunging a DWI
Pending and dropped charges will appear on your criminal record.
Only in specific circumstances can a DWI be expunged from your criminal record in North Carolina:
- The charges have been dropped
- The charges have been dismissed
Some non-violent convictions can be expunged from your record. DWI convictions, even misdemeanor convictions, are explicitly excluded from the definition of non-violent misdemeanor and never eligible.
Hiring Experienced Legal Counsel
Before telling your employer of your DUI charge, one of our attorneys at Jetton & Meredith Law can advise you on how to minimize its impact.
Protecting your employability is only one reason to have skilled legal counsel at your side when you have been charged with DWI.
There are five levels of misdemeanor DWI charges in North Carolina, with Level 1 being the most serious. Punishment ranges from fines of $200 and jail sentences of 60 days up to a $4,000 fine and up to two years in jail. Felony DWI mandates a minimum of one year in jail.
Defense strategies depend on the specifics of your case but can include arguing the police didn’t have probable cause to pull you over or the sobriety test wasn’t properly administered.
We can help you understand your options for resolving a DUI charge.
Contact us by phone at (704) 931-5535 or through our online form.