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What are the consequences of a DUI conviction for a lawyer?

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2023 | criminal defense, dui/dwi |

Attorneys in Ocean City and throughout the rest of Maryland are expected to meet the standards laid down by the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. One of these rules states that an attorney engages in professional misconduct when they commit a crime that raises questions about their honesty and trustworthiness and adversely affects their ability to represent their clients. The ABA’s rules also require attorneys to report colleagues who engage in unprofessional behavior.

DUI convictions

When lawyers find themselves on the wrong side of the law, it is often because they got behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. While driving drunk is a crime, attorneys who are convicted of it rarely face professional sanctions unless they are repeat offenders, committed additional crimes or were involved in an accident that resulted in serious injury or death. Lawyers who face disciplinary actions after a DUI conviction are usually either censured or suspended, but serious misconduct can lead to disbarment.

Interpreting the rules

The ABA’s rules are subject to judicial interpretation. A single DUI conviction will not usually lead to professional sanctions for an attorney, but it could. In 2017, an attorney practicing law in Colorado was publicly censured after a misdemeanor DUI conviction even though he had no prior criminal record, did not commit any other crimes and was not involved in an accident. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a public censure was appropriate because the attorney’s blood alcohol concentration was “strikingly high.”

Professional misconduct

Attorneys who drink and drive can be censured, suspended or disbarred if their behavior is considered professional misconduct. Attorneys are rarely disciplined professionally for a first DUI offense unless they committed other crimes or caused serious accidents, but the rules are ambiguous and subject to interpretation. If an attorney behaves in a way that shows disregard for the law and the safety of the public, they could be disciplined after a being convicted of drunk driving for the first time.



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