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Arizona DUI’s & Healthcare Professionals: Three Things You Should Know

Our firm handles many DUIs for licensed and other regulated professionals including doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers, coaches, Border Patrol Agents, police officers, firefighters, and others. For all of these committed and accomplished professionals, (almost all of which have no prior criminal history), a single misdemeanor DUI can have a significant and lasting impact on careers. In some cases, the DUI can end a person’s career entirely. However, when these situations are handled correctly, and depending upon the particular case facts and licensing agency, the client’s career may survive. This article will cover a few basic initial thoughts for licensed healthcare professionals in Arizona, who are charged with misdemeanor DUIs.

Reporting Requirements

Pursuant to ARS § 32-3208 a large variety of Arizona licensed healthcare professionals must report a DUI citation or arrest within ten working days to the appropriate health professional or licensing board. There are a few things to keep in mind here. First, failure to timely report is considered separate grounds for discipline. See ARS § 32-3208(D). Therefore, it is important that the client does not ignore the reporting requirement.

Second, although ARS § 32-3208 applies by its terms to any “misdemeanor involving conduct that may affect patient safety,” most licensing boards specifically list “DUI” as a reportable misdemeanor. In the end, because failure to timely report is considered grounds for a separate finding of “unprofessional conduct,” it is important that the client check the licensing agency website and inquire further as to whether the appropriate board should be notified. In most cases, the board should.

Third, the reporting requirement contained at ARS § 32-3208 applies not only to the doctors [Arizona Medical Board (allopathic physicians), & (ArizonaBoard of Osteopathy)]; and nurses [Arizona State Board of Nursing]; but also applies to other baccalaureate, associate or certificate level health care professionals including respiratory therapists (Arizona State Board of Respiratory Examiners), pharmacy technicians (Arizona State Board of Pharmacy); dental hygienists (Arizona Dental Board); personal trainers (State of Arizona Board of Athletic Training); and veterinary technicians (State of Arizona Veterinary Medical Examining Board), to name a few. In short, it is important to identify whether the client falls within ARS §32-3208, and if so, be sure that the professional reports the misdemeanor DUI to the appropriate Board within ten business days.

Arizona Medical and Nursing Boards: Parallel Proceedings

Some Arizona health care regulatory boards will generally wait until the outcome of the criminal case before taking disciplinary or remedial action. Others begin an investigation immediately. This includes boards affecting nurses and doctors.

Medical Doctors

The Arizona Medical Board, upon notification of a pending misdemeanor DUI, will order an assessment during the pendency of the criminal case. The assessor will decide if the client has an alcohol or substance abuse problem and
will at that time recommend a course of treatment, if needed. If treatment is recommended, the Board will usually offer the client-doctor a consent decree which requires the client to comply with recommended treatment for up to five years. Occasionally such recommendation includes in-patient treatment at one of a number of recommended facilities, such as the Center for Professional Recovery, located in Malibu, California. The board provides a list of monitoring programs for those clients who have entered a consent decree which involves monitoring. In my experience, most physicians who have received a single misdemeanor DUI do well in these programs.

Nurses

Like the Arizona Medical Board, the Arizona State Board of Nursing also begins an investigation almost immediately upon the report of an R.N., L.P.N., C.N.A., or N.P. having received a misdemeanor DUI. The Nursing Board appoints an internal investigator who obtains police reports and interviews the client, sometimes during the pendency of the criminal case. The State Board of Nursing offers, like the Arizona Medical Board consent agreements which require compliance monitoring for a period of time. The Nursing Board offers a one-time diversionary program, formerly known as the “CANDO” – now known as the “Alternative to Discipline” or “ATD” program. Like the assessment and monitoring programs for doctors, the ATD program can on occasion include practice restrictions for nurses.

Nurse participation in the CANDO/ATP program is voluntary but requires that the nurse largely admit an alcohol problem. In cases where the client is not a candidate for ATP, the Board will investigate the matter and usually impose some sort of sanction, such as a letter of concern; censure or probation. It is important that the client have representation during any Board investigation.

Key Take-aways

The Arizona healthcare professional reporting requirements contained at ARS § 32-3208: (1) applies not only to doctors and nurses but to a broad range of healthcare workers; and (2) requires self-reporting within ten working days. Moreover, some healthcare regulatory boards, particularly the Arizona State Board of Nursing and the Arizona Board of Medicine, begin an immediate investigation during the pendency of the criminal case. It is important to have representation before any Board begins conducting their investigation.

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About Michael Harwin

Michael’s skill and experience have been recognized repeatedly. He holds an A-V 5/5 preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell. He has been named one of the top lawyers in Arizona by Southwest Superlawyers, and one of the best lawyers in Tucson by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. He also has been named one of the best lawyers in the United States by BestofUS.com , and given the highest rating possible by AVVO, 10/10 Superb.
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