How to Deal With an Employer When Asked About Past DUI Conviction?

Interviewer: If I was in a situation and I knew that I had another 10 years to go and I’m working with you and I plan to continue working with you, could I keep you in my rolodex, so to speak, to get advice and information about employers? Could you give me advice on how best to explain to an employer about a DUI conviction?

I don’t know if it’s true now, but there may be a certain way that some employers may be able to accept that person. There’s still a chance that you may get hired with a DUI conviction, but could an attorney such as yourself give me advice on what things to say and what not to say and how to approach an employer?

Matthew Nebeker: I offer that service to a lot of my clients. I had a client recently for whom we resolved the case through a plea negotiation. He was a contractor and he was worried about how this was going to affect his licensing and stuff like that. I told him and advised him that when he gets those applications, to schedule an appointment with me. We’ll look very closely at the language on those applications and make sure that we understand completely what information they’re requesting and limit it to just that information that they’re requesting. Then we provide the most precise, detailed explanation that we can.

I would definitely be willing to sit down with someone and help them explain to a potential employer, or on an application what we could put there that would put them in the most favorable or best possible circumstances.

Interviewer: Just speaking from experience, when I used to do job placements and assess people with disabilities and convictions, a lot of the advice I’d give was that they tell the truth about the situation. Explain it. Never lie on an application. I think with DUI convictions it was always a little bit more of a challenge for me to give that advice. I think leaving it to the professionals would be a good idea.

Matthew Nebeker: Yeah. I know another example I could throw in, because I had a DUI case where the client was under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol. We resolved the case with a drug related driving charge. We basically said that he was under the influence of his prescription medications. The court accepted that. The prosecutor accepted that. That’s what the conviction reflected and we took that.

His employer wanted to know what the outcome of the case was, because if it was an alcohol or street drug related offense, the guy was going to lose his job. It was a good job. He was supporting his family on it. He made quite a bit of money. I wrote a letter explaining that this was a conviction based on him being under the influence of his prescription medication. He had not, to the best of my knowledge, abused his medication. He had taken it as his doctor had prescribed. What the client didn’t know was how this medication was going to affect him and affect his ability to drive.

That was the truth. We explained that it was a new medication and he didn’t know how it was going to affect him. With that explanation and that letter explaining the conviction and the definition of the conviction that was entered, he was able to keep his job.

Had he gone in there and said, “Well, it’s just a DUI,” he probably would have lost it. When we sat down and worked together and crafted that outcome for him so that he could keep his job, we did him a great service for him and his family.

Interviewer: Have you ever found that people have this presumption that, “Oh, I’ve got an attorney. I’m going to win this case,” and then they find out that it’s a lot more complex than that? They end up getting a misdemeanor and they get discouraged from that point on?

Matthew Nebeker: Yeah, that happens. My opinion on that is that sometimes they watch TV shows that last an hour or half an hour. In that hour or whole time the defense does a Perry Mason kind of deal. The next thing you know, the guy is walking out of the courtroom without any problems. Real life is not always like that. That’s why I take as much time as I can to sit down with them and explain to them the situation.

For example, if a prosecutor makes what I consider a reasonable offer to settle the case, I’ll explain that. I have an obligation to explain that to my client. I explain the potential consequences of taking the plea offer, or the other option is to go to trial. I have to explain the trial process and what can happen if they were convicted at trial and how the plea is different from the conviction. Once I go through that, sometimes I’ll even ask them if they would like to think about it for a week or two and talk to their friends or family about it so that they can make an informed decision.

Yeah. Sometimes the reality of it is sometimes there’s an offer there that’s too good to walk away from and too beneficial for the person’s family and job and career that they do sometimes walk out of court with a conviction. My job is to minimize the consequences to them. Sometimes they’re not so happy about it, but ultimately it was the best decision for them and they made that decision in consultation with their family and stuff like that.

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