When most people think about DUI offenses in Pennsylvania, they typically think of police officers in terms of how they arrest and prosecute impaired drivers. However, police officers are also human, and some of them are arrested for and convicted of driving under the influence. When a police officer is arrested for a DUI offense, his or her livelihood could be threatened. People who have DUI convictions on their records and who want to become police officers might also struggle to gain employment in law enforcement.
Police officers have the same risks of being pulled over for impaired driving as other people do. However, the consequences they might face can be more severe than what other people might face for a DUI because of their positions. Police officers who have been charged with driving while impaired should talk to an experienced DUI lawyer in Chester County at DiCindio Law.
Work-related consequences for police officers arrested for DUIs
Police officers who have been arrested for DUIs may face work penalties and an internal investigation. They might be placed on administrative leave or suspended with pay or without it. Once the investigation is finished, the penalties will depend on the circumstances, including whether the officer was involved in an accident, if anyone was injured, whether the officer has prior DUIs, and whether the officer has other serious driving offenses on his or her driving record. The department’s policies will factor into the work-related penalties an officer might face. In most cases, a first general impairment DUI offense will not lead to job loss. However, if the officer was arrested for driving under the influence while he or she was on duty, termination is likely.
Blue wall of silence
A common public perception of law enforcement officers is that they follow a blue wall of silence within their police agencies and will generally protect officers who commit crimes, including DUIs. Under this idea, people believe that police officers who are pulled over on suspicion of DUI will not be arrested or charged. While this was more common in the past, many police departments now mandate the use of recording equipment and cameras in DUI stops. If an officer pulls another officer over and then lets him or her go, the officer who stopped the car can face serious penalties. This means that more officers are being arrested and charged with DUIs. If an officer tries to ask for favors from the officer who pulled him or her over based on his or her status as a police officer, he or she may face additional penalties.
Statistics regarding police officers and DUI offenses
Researchers at completed an empirical study of police officers who were arrested and charged for driving while impaired between 2005 and 2010. During that period, 5230 criminal cases involving 4,450 police officers were filed across the U.S. The
researchers did not review data about federal officers and instead only looked at data involving sworn, non-federal police officers. Out of the criminal cases filed against police officers, the researchers found that 782 cases involved 750 police officers charged with DUI-related offenses employed by 511 law enforcement agencies. Out of the officers, seven who were charged faced multiple cases after having multiple victims, and 14 officers were arrested more than once for driving under the influence. The researchers also found those police officers who were charged and convicted of DUIs were much likelier to lose their jobs when they caused accidents, drove while impaired while on the job, or worked for rural police departments.
DUIs involving people who want to become police officers
Some people who have career goals of becoming police officers are charged with DUIs or have DUI convictions on their records. They might worry whether having a DUI will keep them from finding a job as a police officer. While multiple factors will determine whether a DUI will prevent someone from becoming a law enforcement officer, the best approach when you are charged is to get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer to try to prevent you from having a conviction on your record.
People who already have DUIs on their record might have a hard time finding work as police officers. Whether or not a past DUI conviction might prevent you from pursuing a career in law enforcement will depend on the age of your conviction, its seriousness, whether your DUI involved drugs, and whether you have more than one conviction. If you have a felony DUI on your record, you will likely be ineligible for a career as a police officer.
The job market can also impact your likelihood of finding work as a police officer with a DUI conviction on your record. Even though a misdemeanor DUI might not be an automatic disqualification, the police department can still consider it when reviewing a pool of otherwise qualified applicants. A DUI conviction will be considered to be a negative mark. If the conviction was fairly recent, it will be treated even more seriously.
What happens to a police officer who gets a DUI?
Under the law, all people are supposed to be treated equally. This means that police officer who is charged for DUIs should not get any special privileges simply because of their positions. Police officers who are convicted of driving under the influence will face the same penalties in Pennsylvania as other people who are convicted of DUIs. However, police officers may also face employment consequences as previously described.
An internal investigation within the police department will normally be conducted after an officer is arrested for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Depending on the outcome, the police officer might be placed on administrative leave, dismissed, or ordered to undergo a treatment program. If the officer was driving while impaired while he or she was on duty, he or she will likely be terminated.
Even if the officer was not working at the time of the DUI offense, the penalties could still interfere with his or her ability to perform the job. For example, if your license is suspended, you might be placed on leave with no pay until you restore your driving privileges.
If you are a police officer or someone who wants to become an officer who has been arrested and charged with a DUI, you should seek legal help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535.