In any industry, finding and keeping a job while having a criminal history, such as a DWI arrest and conviction, can be very difficult. Once a background check reveals a criminal record, opportunities will suddenly become few and far between.
This is especially true for anyone convicted of a DWI offense trying to pursue a teaching career in a Texas school district. The teaching profession has strict codes of conduct that leave no room for ethics violations or criminal offenses.
However, with the help of an experienced DWI attorney, even a teacher with a DWI conviction can not only get a teaching certificate in Texas but enjoy a successful career in the education profession.
What is Considered a DUI/DWI in Texas?
Although they sound the same, there is an important difference between a DUI and a DWI charge.
In Texas, a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction is usually reserved for drivers under the age of 21 who are found to be driving with a detectable amount of alcohol in their system. It is a Class C misdemeanor, meaning it carries a punishment of being fined less than $500.
However, driving while intoxicated, on the other hand, is a more serious Class B misdemeanor offense and carries a punishment of a $2,000 fine and the possibility of six months of jail time.
A DWI conviction is usually handed down to drivers older than 21 years and requires the following:
Absence or impairment of normal physical and mental faculties.
A blood alcohol concentration of 0.8 or higher.
Educator Certification, Ethics, and Disciplinary Action in Texas
Educator certification, or a Texas teaching certificate, is awarded to deserving individuals by the Texas Education Agency. It has very strict requirements and guidelines regarding the issuing or renewal of a teaching license.
In terms of ethics, the code of conduct of Texas educators is governed by the Texas Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators. This is a long list of dozens of standards that regulate the behavior of educators who work in any Texas school district.
There is a wide range of inappropriate behaviors outlined in the Texas Code of Ethics, such as fraudulently requesting reimbursements and discrimination of any kind based on sex, religion, race, disability, etc.
Violation of any codes of conduct or rules set for educator certification will result in disciplinary action being taken by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). This is the same board that will deal with issues regarding a DWI conviction.
Implications of a DWI Conviction on a Teaching License
The biggest concern for a teacher with a DWI conviction is that it can negatively impact their ability to obtain or renew their teaching license.
If the educator already has a successful teaching career, an ordinary DWI conviction or felony DWI conviction can seriously damage their credibility and reputation. This is because such a conviction will raise questions about their suitability as an educator, their judgment, as well as ability to perform regular teaching tasks.
Often, to re-establish their position, teachers convicted of DWI charges will be required to provide evidence of the steps they are taking toward rehabilitation. The Texas Education Agency may also the teachers to undergo counseling, provide voluntary community service, or take part in a DWI education program.
The following are some of the actions that the State Board for Educator Certification can take against a teacher with a DWI conviction:
Teaching license suspension or permanent cancellation
Formal reprimand that is part of the teaching record
Restrictions on renewing a teaching license
Withdrawal from the educator preparation program
Factors Considered by the Texas Education Agency
When dealing with a teacher with a DWI conviction, the Texas Education Agency or State Board for Educator Certification has to decide whether further disciplinary action is needed on top of the regular punishments handed down by Texas courts for DWI convictions.
The following are some of the factors that will be looked at:
If the moral character of the teacher is affected by the DWI conviction.
Whether disciplinary action by the Texas Board for Educator Certification will be enough to discourage future violations.
If the teacher has shown that they have been sufficiently rehabilitated.
Whether the teacher still poses a potential danger to their students.
How victims were affected by the actions of the teacher.
Any prior crimes committed by the educator.
Whether the teacher attempted to hide their DWI conviction and disorderly conduct.
Whether the DWI offense was intentional.
The severity of the DWI/DUI conviction.
Rights of a Teacher with a DWI Conviction
It is important to note that even though a DWI conviction is very serious for a teacher in Texas, it usually does not result in the immediate license suspension or dismissal of the offender from their teaching position.
There is a process that needs to be followed, and the rights of the teacher need to be maintained. The most important thing to remember is that the teacher has the right to legal counsel from an experienced defense attorney during the disciplinary process.
Having our DUI law firm present can help the teacher not only avoid losing their job but also maintain a clean criminal record for future opportunities in the education profession. If the teacher requests to be heard before the State Office of Administrative Hearings, it is also their right to be granted this opportunity.
How to Keep Teaching License in Texas School Districts
The best way to safeguard a hard-earned teaching career and carry on teaching in any Texas school district of their choice is for teachers with DWI convictions to approach a qualified DWI attorney and seek legal counsel. Contact Sparks Law Firm for questions like, "Can you lose your medical license for a DWI in Texas?"
Even after being convicted and serving time in jail or paying a fine, teachers can request the help of a lawyer to expunge their criminal history, keeping their options open to future job opportunities.
Sparks Law Firm Can Help Educators Keep Their Teaching Career
In Fort Worth, Texas, Sparks Law Firm has been working tirelessly to help educators with a DWI/DUI conviction fight for their rights and get their teaching careers back on track. One call and a free consultation are all it takes to turn a career-destroying DWI conviction around and restore the teacher's reputation and credibility.