What Happens if You’re an Educator and Receive a DWI?

June 21, 2024


Receiving a DWI is one of the most common, expensive, and frustrating experiences a person can have with the criminal justice system. This experience becomes more complicated and severe if you have a job in education. If you receive a DWI and work in a school K-12 in New York, there are a few aspects of law and public opinion you may want to be aware of.

The first point to consider is that of public perception. With schools being in the news for episodes related to violence, school administrators are working harder than ever to promote their schools safety. While it’s debatable whether a DWI can affect an education professional’s effectiveness, public perception may trump any debate because schools do not want the perception that they employ individuals who are a threat to themselves or society.

An automatic connection seems to be made in people’s minds that a DWI compromises an educator’s stature. There will always be parents who would take great offense in knowing that their children come into contact with someone who received a DWI. This puts schools in a position to protect their image first and foremost, which does not bode well for educators with a DWI.

A second dimension to consider is how fast your arrest will become known to your employer. School Districts move rather quickly when they receive what’s called a Notice of Subsequent Arrest. In New York, there is legislation known as the Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act. This act, along with Commissioner Regulations standards and the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability Department, triggers a notification that is sent from the Division of Criminal Justice to the New York Department of Education whenever an arrest occurs. An educator is faced with an automatic notification that an arrest has occurred, which is sent to the School District and school of employment, even before a first court appearance.

Which ties back into perception – despite being innocent until proven guilty in this country, the court of public opinion may have already passed its judgment. In addition to this notification, an automatic hold is placed on your fingerprint records that can only be lifted once you submit proof that your case was resolved. What’s negative about this process is it could impact obtaining certifications and even job opportunities. While these prospective restrictions in the future are troubling, it could be the case that your employment comes into jeopardy long before these processes play out.

The final item to consider if you’re an educator charged with a DWI is the likelihood that your employment can be terminated before the resolution of your case. Since schools want to promote safety, anything deemed unsafe spells bad news for whoever falls under a categorization of unsafe behavior. You could be facing termination as a result of your DWI charge. This rather abrupt termination is the result of an employment classification known as “at will” employment. The National Conference of State Legislators provides an excellent description of at-will employment:

“At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability.  Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences. At-will also means that an employer can change the terms of the employment relationship with no notice and no consequences.  For example, an employer can alter wages, terminate benefits, or reduce paid time off.  In its unadulterated form, the U.S. at-will rule leaves employees vulnerable to arbitrary and sudden dismissal, a limited or on-call work schedule depending on the employer’s needs, and unannounced cuts in pay and benefits.”

At-will employment boils down to you being at the mercy of your employer, absent certain circumstances that are protected (whistleblowing, illegal discrimination, retaliation etc.) As an educator, receiving a DWI could be just cause for your termination without your employer having to justify it.

Receiving a DWI can be a legitimate threat to your current and future employment as an educator. That’s why it is crucial to consult with an experienced DWI attorney who has handled cases where educators received a DWI. While all this information is troubling on its face, there are ways to keep your employment, or at the very least, be compensated fairly for your termination.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.

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