As an attorney, you’re probably slightly aware of the penalties for driving while impaired (DWI). A DWI conviction is a serious offense and can lead to harsh statutory penalties. However, what may be even more detrimental is how the Texas State Bar or the Texas Board of Law Examiners assesses your charges.
All attorneys and aspiring attorneys are required to know and follow the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Additionally, those wishing to apply to the bar must follow the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas. Both rules state that a lawyer must have good moral character and be considered fit to practice as an attorney.
If a lawyer is convicted for a DWI, especially a felony-level DWI, he or she may be at the mercy of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel (CDC). It’s against the Texas Disciplinary Rules to commit a serious crime or commit criminal acts that could negatively reflects on the lawyer’s character. The rules can be vague, so it’s important that you are vigilant in case of suspension or disbarment.
Houston Attorney for Lawyers with a DWI in Texas
Are you an attorney whose recently been convicted of a DWI? You may have your bar license suspended, revoked, or be unable to take the bar admission exam if convicted. It’s vital that you gain legal representation before you meet with any disciplinary action committee.
Call Matthew Horak for an experienced criminal defense attorney. He has defended numerous attorneys who’ve been convicted of a DWI and are called to appear in front of the bar. Matthew Horak is familiar with all the Texas Disciplinary Rules and Bar disciplinary actions. Call Matthew Horak today at (713) 225-8000 to schedule a free consultation today.
Horak Law has offices in Houston and The Woodlands and serves nearby communities including Houston Heights, Midtown, Gulfton, Magnolia Park, and River Oaks.
Overview of Attorney DWI Consequences in Texas
- Consequences for Attorneys with a DWI Conviction
- Texas Attorney Disciplinary Action Proceedings
- What if I Want to be an Attorney but I Have a DWI Conviction?
- Additional Resources
Possible Bar Consequences for a DWI Conviction
The Texas Bar created the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (TDRP) to ensure that all attorneys are honest, professional, and to maintain the integrity of the profession. For criminal convictions the Texas Bar will default to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel (CDC) to initiate a disciplinary action hearing and determine if career-related punishments are necessary.
Attorneys who have been convicted, pleaded nolo contendere, or placed on probation with or without an adjudication of guilty may face compulsory discipline. CDC doesn’t only take into consideration the outcome of the offense, but also the underlying facts of the crime.
For a DWI conviction, disciplinary proceedings may vary based on the circumstances of the offense. TDRP Rule 8.04 outlines actions that are considered attorney misconduct and could be subject to disciplinary action. One of these rules addresses criminal offenses. It establishes that no lawyer shall:
“…commit a serious crime or commit any other criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyers honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”
A “serious crime” is defined as any felony involving moral turpitude and other non-DWI related crimes. The Texas Bar also states that any “intentional crimes” are also susceptible to a disciplinary hearing. An intentional crime is any serious crime that requires proof of knowledge or intent.
The rule itself is incredibly vague and relies heavily on the context of the DWI offense. It’s possible that the CDC may not consider a single DWI conviction as a serious crime. However, let’s say the DWI arrest happened on the way to work. This may be considered a criminal act that negatively affect’s the image of a lawyer. In addition, repeat DWI offenders or felony-level DWIs are very likely to face disciplinary action.
It’s important that you’re ready for whatever may happen next. Depending on the context of the crime, you may be required to appear in front of the Board of Disciplinary Appeals. A skilled criminal defense attorney can appear at your hearing, present evidence, and advocate for your practice in front of the board.
Texas Board of Disciplinary Action Proceedings
According to the TDRP, lawyers who have been convicted for a crime with or without adjudication of guilt must notify the Chief of Disciplinary Counsel within 30 days of the date of the judgement. Once a petition is filed with the Board of Disciplinary Appeals, the proceedings may begin.
The first action the board will determine is if the attorney being evaluated has actually been convicted or granted probation for a crime. To do this, board members will examine uncontroverted affidavits and other available evidence to determine this and the crime’s severity. Once this has been confirmed the board will sit, hear, and determine if the attorney being assessed should be disciplined.
Judgement for the disciplinary action must be filed within forty-five days of the answer day. If the attorney’s DWI conviction is grounds for disciplinary action, he or she may be suspended or disbarred. If the attorney is already suspended and is subject to disbarment, the CDC will file a motion for final judgement of disbarment. The attorney can contest this within 10 days by filing a motion of a verified denial contesting the decision of the judgement. If this is successful, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals will conduct another hearing to resolve the issue.
What if I get a DWI and I’m in Law School?
Graduate students or law students have their own set of rules and conditions. The Texas Board of Law Examiners assesses bar applicants to see if they have a good moral character and are considered ethically fit to practice. The board follows a set of rules called the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas.
The Board of Law Examiners typically uses the TDRP as an outline to define good moral character. So, if your DWI is deemed to be an intentional or serious crime you may be disqualified from the bar. Additionally, if the crime negatively affects the integrity of the aspiring attorney’s future practice it may be grounds for disqualification. This especially applies if you’ve had a felony-DWI conviction or probation with or without adjudication of guilt.
There’s no reason to give up hope though. With the assistance of a skilled attorney, you can contest the disqualification. The following are some defenses available to those who have been prohibited from Bar admissions.
- The evaluation procedures for handling the disciplinary action was lacking in notice or opportunity for the applicant to be heard and is a deprivation of due process;
- The evidence used to establish misconduct was in another jurisdiction or insufficient and the board shouldn’t accept the final conclusion based on the insufficient evidence;
- The Texas Board of Law Examiners doesn’t consider the misconduct the applicant was disciplined for to be professional misconduct.
Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct – Visit the official Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct written by the Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda. Gain access to the rules and learn what may happen after a criminal conviction, what the bar deems to be inappropriate for a client-lawyer relationship, and other rules for professional conduct.
Texas Board of Law Examiners – Visit the official website for the Texas Board of Law Examiners. Gain access to the Rules Governing Admission in the Bar of Texas, how character and fitness are determined, answers to frequently asked questions, and bar exam information
Harris County Attorney for Lawyers with DWI Charges in Texas
If you or someone you know is an attorney and has recently been convicted or put on probation for a DWI, it’s critical that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Matthew Horak is a skilled attorney who is dedicated to helping lawyers preserve their practices.
Call Matthew Horak today at (713) 225-8000 and schedule a free consultation surrounding your disciplinary action hearing today. Horak Law represents lawyers convicted of crimes throughout the greater Harris County area and surrounding counties including Liberty County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, and Montgomery County.
This article was last updated on November 27, 2018.