Can I still be a teacher with a DWI arrest on my record?
June 26, 2012 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Can I become a teacher with a DWI arrest on my record?

Over the weekend, I was arrested for a DWI. I am hopeful about getting it reduced, but it is by no means a certainty.

This week, I have an interview for teaching position. It is with non-traditional students (ages 20-27) at a charter school. I am wondering if there is any chance I can still be a teacher when I now have a criminal record, and specifically a DWI arrest on my record.

Have you been in a similar position? How has receiving a DWI impacted your employment opportunities? I am in Texas, depending on how much that matters. I am simply terrified that my life is pretty much ruined because of this incredibly stupid mistake. Thank you so much for your compassion.

(Throwaway email at
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
I am wondering if there is any chance I can still be a teacher when I now have a criminal record, and specifically a DWI arrest on my record.

Really depends. The biggest thing it's going to depend on is the quality of the other applicants. If there's someone else who's just as qualified, a potential employer may decide to just not deal with the hassle of figuring out whether or not this arrest should actually disqualify you by simply hiring the other person. It'll also depend on whether the job description involves driving in any sort of official capacity, because most insurers take a dim view of letting people with DWIs/DUIs on their record operate institutional vehicles, especially with passengers. But the fact that your students are apparently adults, and the fact that it's a charter school, should alleviate at least some of the weirdness that can go along with hiring people either into situations with minors or situations with public schools, both of which can have restrictions one doesn't find in other job contexts.

So yeah, this is bad, but it's not the end of the world. People with DWIs/DUIs get jobs. I'd bet some are teachers. I'd be more immediately worried about what this is going to do to your insurance premium, because that ain't gonna be pretty.

First thing you do is call a lawyer. Like, three days ago. Because you need one. At this point, it sounds like you'd be willing to plead to almost anything to get the charge reduced, and you're not going to be able to negotiate that without a lawyer. Also, note that if you're convicted of the DWI offense, the minimum sentence is 3 days in jail. You might want to figure out some deal that doesn't involve jail time, which means some lesser offense. Again, lawyer.
posted by valkyryn at 12:16 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a very good friend who was basically hired as a special education teaching assistant and when it came time to do the paperwork when they asked him about criminal record he disclosed his DWI and was told, "No. I'm sorry. There is no way we can hire you." This was 5 years ago in Austin.

Now, the one difference is that he plead guilty and was convicted. You have not been convicted (yet) and can honestly say so. However it is certainly time to lawyer up. I understand that, for right or wrong, with a reasonable lawyer and no accident, you can plead down to driving to endanger, or some such thing, that does not affect your record in the same way. You probably want to do this anyway. The cost of a good DWI attorney is a lot right now, but the cost of a DWI conviction is much, much more in the long run.

I am not a lawyer.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:19 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

This thread on another site might offer you some insight. About halfway down the page, there are more links to similar threads on that forum. On preview, valkyryn's advice is the advice you need: Lawyer. Now.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:20 PM on June 26, 2012

Yes, you need a lawyer. I deal with lots of DUI, have been a member of California DUI Lawyer's Association ("CDLA"), gone to lots of conferences on defending DUI cases and so on. I'm not claiming to be one of the leading DUI attorney's in California or anything, but I have read their stuff.


a) If you're in California, and
b) you aren't unlucky enough to be in one of the couple of counties where there really isn't any plea bargaining, and
c) no one was injured in the DUI, and
d) it's a first offense,
e) your BAC isn't insanely high,

you are practically guaranteed to be able to plead to some not DUI charge with the most common being what's called a "dry reckless" which is better than a DUI charge in about every way imaginable. If your BAC is above .08 you'll probably have to take a "wet reckless" charge.

Of course, it's still possible that your case can be handled with some sort of motion practice regarding the legality of the stop, problem with the chain of evidence, or all sorts of other lawyerly stuff. These are all basically hoping that, some way or another, the police messed up. And they do mess up a non-trivial amount of the time.

In Cali a decent DUI attorney is going to charge you $3500 up to trial at a minimum. Anyone charging less is not intending to really vigorously defend your case. Even doing reasonable discovery motions will eat up too much time. Expect even more if you go to trial.

But my point is that there's lots a decent lawyer can do for you, even if you're not in California (and I have no reason to think you are) there are similar tactics which can be done in most states of the union.

Finally, make sure your attorney knows your long term goal. If your goals are to stay out of jail at any cost a lawyer may do one thing, if your goals are to keep a DUI off your record a lawyer may do another. Knowing your goal gives your attorney the ability to trade things you don't care about for things you do. I.e. "Ok, you have my client dead to rights on the BAC, but the probably cause on stop is iffy. Generally you're going to give 10 days of jail, no actual time served, as part of the probation on the the DUI. How about my client agrees to 12 days of actual jail time in a dry reckless? That way he'll learn his lesson about how serious a DUI really is, but it won't destroy his job prospects? Look, he's only 3 credits away from finishing his teaching certificate, you know California has a hard time getting enough teachers, don't do this to him." And then on the jail end you can probably get the 12 days served in a work program instead when the DA isn't watching.

So, yes, you're in a serious situation, but it can be handled, and everything will probably turn out ok if you take the steps you need to.

Feel free to Memail if you want recommendations on attorneys anywhere in California. The CDLA has deep roots around the state. Outside California I'm not sure I'd be able to help you find someone reputable.
posted by bswinburn at 1:00 PM on June 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

Opps. You're in Texas. I've spoken to Texan attorneys at conferences and from what I've gathered speaking to them everything I've said is still pretty much accurate.
posted by bswinburn at 1:05 PM on June 26, 2012

Tell your lawyer about the fact that you want to teach and are concerned about the potential negative impact of a conviction (even on a lesser charge). This is not an uncommon situation, and most criminal defense lawyers that I know have dealt with it before. In my jurisdiction (which is not yours), often deferred adjudication would be requested in this type of situation assuming this is a first offense. Again, this is very state/local specific, but it is not a particularly unique situation. Get a good lawyer and make sure he knows about your future career concerns.
posted by lalala1234 at 6:25 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am very well acquainted with someone in Texas who was just hired as a teacher at a public middle school and has 2 DWI convictions. Feel free to memail me.
posted by kamikazegopher at 3:35 PM on July 2, 2012

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