The Effect of DWI Convictions on Medical and Nursing Licenses in New York

The U.S. health care system is the most intensively regulated sector of our society. The interest of states in regulating doctors and nurses is especially great because physicians and nurses occupy positions of public trust and responsibility. It is because of the veneration and status they enjoy that physicians, as well as nurses, are held to the high standards they are–warranting scrutiny that other professionals may not necessarily receive. This being the case, both physicians and nurses are still subject to temptations, aversions, errors in judgment, and missteps. The difference is that when they do make mistakes, doctors and nurses are punished on two fronts: as citizens who have violated the rules of the state and as licensed professionals who have acted in a manner inconsistent with the terms of their state-conferred privilege.


New York Nursing Licenses and DWI Convictions

If a nurse in New York is convicted of a New York DWI offense, the authority who will decide on the nurse’s disciplinary action is the Office of the Professions (OP) of the State Education Department. UnderNew York State Education Law 6509 (5) (a) (1), any violation of law by a licensed nurse constitutes professional misconduct. A nurse who has committed a DWI offense may face penalties such as censure and reprimand, fines (up to $10,000 for each violation), license suspension and/or a probationary term. If a nurse is convicted of Rochester DWI, they may face getting their nursing license revoked by the Board of Regents, as this may constitute a case of serious professional misconduct. If a nurse has a DWI conviction or a DWAI Drugs conviction and also has an alcohol or drug dependency problem, the nurse may participate in OP’sProfessional Assistance Program. In this program, a nurse with a DWI or DWAI Drugs conviction is required to surrender their license voluntarily and go through an acceptable course of treatment. Successful completion of the program may substitute as an alternative to disciplinary action.


New York Medical Licenses

Criminal activity by physicians is of great concern both to the medical profession and the general public. State medical boards are charged with monitoring and disciplining of criminal activities by licensed physicians. Many state medical boards consistently conduct criminal background checks on all physicians applying for a medical license, and medical licensing boards in some states consider felony convictions—whether they are related to the practice of medicine or not– to be sufficient grounds for a board review, hearing or disciplinary action.


New York Medical Licenses and DWI Convictions

It is up to the state legislature to decide what conduct may cause a doctor to get their medical license revoked. In general, disciplinary proceedings may be brought against a doctor for the conviction of a crime which is not directly related to the practice of medicine. A doctor may have their license revoked for a criminal offense which is deemed by the state medical board to show weaknesses of character that is inconsistent with the general standards of the medical profession. Criminal offenses (usually misdemeanors) that reflect on the character, integrity, and honesty of a doctor or which involve moral turpitude may form the basis for disciplinary action against a physician.


In New York, disciplinary matters regarding physicians are controlled by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), which is a special division of the Department of Health that includes 102 doctors on a 159-member board. Under New York Education Law Section 6530 (9) (a), the commission of a crime in New York constitutes professional misconduct for licensed physicians. A New York doctor who has an alcohol abuse problem may also be charged with professional misconduct under Section 6530 for being a habitual abuser of alcohol. A New York doctor who is convicted of a DWAI Drugs Offense may be charged with professional misconduct and may also be charged under Section 6530 of being dependent on or being a habitual user of narcotics.


A misdemeanor DWI conviction in New York may cause a doctor to get their license revoked. Misdemeanor DWI convictions usually result in revocation of a physician’s license if the criminal conduct compromises patient care, or constitutes conduct which OPMC deems to be of such a serious nature that revocation is the only appropriate penalty. A felony DWI conviction in New York will not necessarily result in the revocation of a doctor’s medical license. In considering whether to revoke a New York doctor’s license for a felony DWI conviction, the OPMC will consider whether the physician’s conduct caused a condition or activity which constitutes an imminent danger to the health of his patients. Another less severe consequence of a doctor’s conviction for felony DWI may be a suspension of their license under New York Public Health Law Section 230 (12) (b). Under this law, if a doctor is convicted of a felony, the Commissioner of Health may issue a license suspension order directing the doctor to cease the practice of medicine pending the conclusion of a summary suspension hearing.

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