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Misdemeanor DUI Conviction - California State Bar Moral Character Application

Merced, CA |

I was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI in February of 2009. My blood alcohol level was .24%, three times the legal limit in CA. I began law school in August of 2009, graduated this past June, and just passed the bar exam. I am experiencing some delay in my moral character application, which I expected. But, I spoke with my analyst today, and she told me that my case has gone up to her supervisor for additional review. She also mentioned that I may have to appear in front of a committee. I still have unpaid fines and around 5 DUI classes. I am also still on probation (placed on 5 year informal probation in 2009).

Can anyone offer any insight into my prospects, tips on what to do? Any advice would be much appreciated because I'm pretty nervous after speaking with my analyst today.

Attorney Answers 8

  1. Best answer

    Most of my practice is involved with professional licensing, including State Bar of California matters. Because I disagree with the thrust and tenor of much of what has been offered here by an array of well-meaning and practical minded criminal defense attorneys, I am going to add a few lines. Administrative law is highly counter-intuitive to skilled and experienced criminal law attorneys, and what makes sense to lawyers who practice in the criminal courts, where "due process" and "fairness" serve as hard measures, often is not recognized by criminal law attorneys in admin law proceedings where these terms have entirely different and lesser meanings.

    First, make no mistake, the most difficult issue for you will not be the DUI although, with that BA reading, that will itself be highly problematic. But the real difficulty will be that you have not taken advantage of the time between your conviction and your application for admission to effectively build a persuasive affirmative record of rehabilitation. In fact, you have allowed the opposite kind of record to develop, establishing a "prima facie case" of indifference and inattention to what will read to most Bar staff as a clear-cut substance abuse problem that culminated in a serious and major DUI.

    There is NO acceptable explanation for not dealing promptly and responsibly with your DUI penalties before this point in time, and you are not going to to find or craft any excuse that will be satisfactory here. You are simply going to have to bite the bullet and acknowledge that this failure is part of the overall tapestry of your substance-abuse problem. And you are going to have to deal responsibly and effectively with this alcohol problem now, under the observation and supervision and direction of the State. You had your chance to deal with it privately and semi-autonomously, and you whiffed on that. Now the State is in it -- if you want the license.

    All California licensing agencies are statutorily charged with the obligation to focus on the issue of rehabilitation. Punishment and recompense occur in the course of criminal and civil actions. But rehabilitation is the factor that determines whether an offender will transgress again after licensure. And that is the purview of State licensing agencies. Licensing is a privilege authorized by the state, not a right, and the privilege will not be authorized where there are legitimate issues of professional integrity and competence because those issues pose genuine risks to the welfare of the public. A strong and impeccable showing of rehabilitation is the ONLY meaningful evidence that can overcome licensing agency concerns about putting the public at risk when a license is sought by an applicant with a questionable history. So, your failure over the past three years to build a clear and compelling affirmative record that adds up conclusively to a showing of alcohol rehabilitation is going to be the tough issue here.

    I know what it is to be broke right out of law school, but the fact is that you are going to need licensing counsel if there is any real intent and determination to dig yourself out of this hole and salvage your education and exam pass. You are going to have to make certain commitments, and you are going to have to develop and sell a comprehensive plan that will meet the statutory rehab factors set forth in California's Business & Professions Code. Very likely you are going to have deliver on some of your commitments before you can be licensed. Consult with a skilled and specifically experienced licensing attorney ASAP to craft a plan that has some chance of satisfying the Bar and allowing provisional admission.

    I recommend against jumping into any specific programs at this point. It is too late for "voluntary" action, so it will be sounder and more persuasive if you wait and come to agreement with the Bar staff as to specific elements of an approved and agreed upon rehab plan.

    Good luck to you.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

  2. Just comply with the expungent issue. You are looing at least a six month delay. First time passer, excellent

  3. you're probably a pretty good candidate for early termination of probation and an expungement.

    I believe this would help your situation considerably however nothing will happen until those find your page

    and again giving a particular of your situation I would strongly recommend hiring your own attorney to handle it with you

  4. I'd finish the probation and do everything you can to clean up the mess.

    Good luck.

  5. Finish all your terms of probation first. Then apply for early termination of probation via 1203.3 and finally get an expungement via 1203.4.
    Robert Driessen

    Mr. Driessen is a former Deputy DA in Orange County with over 8 years of criminal law experience. Nothing stated on this site shall in anyway be construed as legal advice, or as creating any attorney client relationship. If you would like to hire Mr. Driessen, feel free to contact him at

  6. Well the FTP fine and failure to complete the DUI class are not much of a demonstration of your responsibility traits are they... and the failure to complete the DUI class should have resulted in a continuing suspension of your driver's license, even up to today! Hint... Clean it all up! No one will be impressed that for the last five years you haven't been caught driving on a suspended license everyday!! I'm not much of a fan of expungement, it makes people think that they can say that they were never convicted... the DMV will FOREVER have your DUI conviction in their records for anyone to find. Obviously the State Bar knows about this "expungment" procedure too and will simply ask you if you utilized it. And just in case you didn't know it... being on DUI probation requires .00 BAC at all times while driving. If you are stopped and found to be failing to observe "zero tolerance" it will cost you a one year suspension from DMV in addition to big time court problems. Hope this helps. g

  7. I can recommend outstanding California licensing counsel with whom you can consult.

  8. I agree with my colleagues about completing your classes although I'm unclear why you have 5 more classes and were put on 5 years probation if the DUI was in 2009. Typically, 5 years probation and DUI classes results due to a conviction for a conviction for multiple DUIs. I'm assuming that the person you spoke to at the State Bar advised you that it is going up the chain. If so, you should start looking into obtaining recommendation letters relating to your initiative to staying sober, even if it is from a counselor at the DUI school as well as documentation relating to how you have put drinking behind your, and you may want to consult a licensing attorney experienced in how to deal with the State Bar on issues like this. You should expect to appear before a panel with the State Bar and possibly an evaluation with a State Bar appointed psychologist/physiatrist. Consult an experienced State Bar Licensing attorney in your area!

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