Facing charges for DWI in Texas can be an emotionally and mentally challenging experience. However, if you own a teaching certificate, the penalties for a DWI can be even more severe. In certain instances, a DWI charge may result in the cancellation of your teaching certification and limit your future employment opportunities.

Hiring a skilled DWI defense lawyer is crucial to safeguarding your teaching credential. To achieve the best possible outcome in your case, it is essential to hire a lawyer with trial experience. This blog explores the implications of a DWI charge on your teaching license.

The Texas Code of Ethics for Teachers

Texas holds its educators to a very high standard, as outlined in the Standard Practices for Texas Teachers and Code of Ethics. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) published this code, which serves as a set of rules for their conduct. It comprises several dozen criteria that clearly outline the kinds of conduct that teachers should avoid.

It is crucial to avoid various types of behavior, such as fraudulently requesting repayment for expenses or treating colleagues or students differently based on their color, race, disability, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, or national origin. Additionally, a DWI conviction is considered an infringement of the Texas Code of Ethics. It’s important to note that lying or failing to disclose a DWI charge may also be considered an ethical transgression.

Texas Policy on Educators' Conduct

The State Board for Educator Certification, also known as SBEC, is liable for certifying and disciplining Texas educators. This division is part of the TEA. Since 1999, the board has been tasked with certifying teachers who demonstrate high moral character while ensuring the safety of their students. Educators may face disciplinary action, including the revocation of their teaching certification if they violate the code of ethics.

Disciplinary Action for a Teacher Found Guilty of DWI

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) oversee disciplinary hearings for educators. An administrative law magistrate will interpret the regulations and preside over the proceedings, while the board will ultimately make the final decision.

The board will allow you to present your evidence during the disciplinary action meeting. You will have the chance to defend your right to keep your certification by hiring legal counsel. After carefully reviewing all the information, the State Board for Educator Certification will deliberate and vote to reach a final judgment. A majority vote is all that is required for the final order to be considered valid.

The SBEC considers the criteria listed in Rule §249. 17 when determining whether disciplinary action is necessary after a DWI conviction.

  • The nature of the offense.
  • If the DWI was deliberate or premeditated.
  • If the teacher attempted to hide the wrongdoing.
  • Any attempted misbehavior or prior punishments from the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC).
  • The teacher's actions pose a potential risk to the well-being of the children.
  • The impact of a DWI on victims, such as those involved in accidents caused by a DWI.
  • If there is sufficient evidence and enough time has elapsed to demonstrate the rehabilitation of the applicant or educator.
  • Should a DWI have an impact on a teacher's moral fiber and capacity to serve as an example.
  • If the penalty serves as a deterrent for similar offenses in the future.
  • Any relevant information.

Behavior That May Result in Disciplinary Measures

In certain situations, teachers are more likely to lose their jobs or licenses than not. If, for example, a DWI claim resulted in injuries to anyone, you are far more likely to lose your job compared to a scenario where there were no lasting consequences for other road users.

This is especially important because DWIs that cause injuries to others often lead to additional charges, like aggravated DWI charges. Instead of being charged with a misdemeanor, you can face felony charges. Even school districts that overlook misdemeanors are unlikely to ignore a felony.

If this is not your first DWI conviction, there is a potential risk of losing both your license and your job. Additionally, a high blood alcohol content can lead to the same consequences. It is important to note that DWIs vary in severity and are not uniform. Consulting with a lawyer can help you evaluate the strength of your specific case.

Furthermore, if you are convicted and receive a lengthy jail sentence, you will probably lose your license. The SBEC possesses the authority to enforce sanctions for various behaviors. The SBEC may take legal action in response to any infringement of the Texas Code of Ethics (TCE) or other legal grounds.

Some of the common justifications for disciplinary measures include:

  • Activities related to education or schools that are illegal.
  • A teacher who is unfit to oversee or instruct the state's children violates the code of ethics.
  • Under the law and Board regulations, failing to notify or impeding the disclosure of child abuse or an educator's known criminal past.
  • Abandonment of contract.
  • Refusing to assist in a Board probe.
  • A criminal conviction directly impacts the obligations and liabilities of individuals in the teaching profession.
  • A breach of the integrity or security of Texas assessments.

Crimes Pertaining Specifically to the Responsibilities of the Teaching Profession

The "conviction of felony crimes directly linked to the responsibilities and obligations of the teaching profession" is a common occurrence that is directly linked to DWI among the previously mentioned incidents. The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) provides a list of offenses that it believes is connected to teaching responsibilities. Multiple DWI convictions in 12 months are one of the offenses on that list.

In other words, a DWI conviction does not always lead to disciplinary action. However, it's important to note that the board has the discretion to take action, even with just one DWI conviction. Therefore, if you’ve been apprehended for DWI while having a Texas teaching credential, you should contact an experienced DWI attorney immediately. To avoid a conviction, you should utilize every available resource to fight the allegations.

Not Reporting Your DWI Charge

Failure to report your detention or sentence could lead to disciplinary action. It's important to note that it's not only your arrest that could have consequences with the SBEC but also your failure to disclose relevant information. As an educator, it is your responsibility to inform the SBEC of any known criminal background you may have. Failing to comply with this requirement puts your teaching credentials at risk of being suspended or revoked.

What Does the SBEC Have the Authority to Do?

The SBEC (State Board for Educator Certification) has broad jurisdiction in Texas to impose disciplinary measures on teachers, ranging from written censures to the revocation of their teaching credentials. The range of potential consequences resulting from disciplinary measures includes:

  • Being forced to leave a program designed to prepare teachers.
  • Having limitations imposed on your capacity to apply for or renew certifications.
  • Receiving a reprimand that is not documented in your record but remains unpublished.
  • Having a formal reprimand published and recorded in your files.
  • Having a term-long suspension imposed on your certificate.
  • Have your teaching license canceled or permanently revoked.

Your Rights in the Event of a Disciplinary Action

The Board will investigate the allegations against you after receiving a complaint from the SBEC. It is crucial to keep in mind the following two points regarding your legal rights during disciplinary action:

  • If you ask for one, you have the right to a hearing before the Texas Office of Administrative Hearings.
  • You have the right to legal representation throughout the procedure.

Potential DWI Repercussions for Teachers

Remember, a DWI allegation does not automatically lead to a conviction. Your arrest and court summons do not imply your guilt regarding the charges against you. To secure a conviction, the prosecution must convincingly prove to the jury that the DWI accusation is accurate beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you have been charged with DWI but have not been found guilty, the offense will not appear on your record until after the conviction. If the offense is not listed in the documents you signed before being employed, the school system should not fire you over it. You have grounds for a case if you escaped conviction and did not sign any such paperwork.

But let's suppose you have a DWI conviction on your record. The impact on your teaching career is uncertain. Here are the key options, ranked from worst to best:

  • Your teaching certificate or license is rescinded.
  • The school district can request and carry out your prompt termination.
  • The school district's decision to terminate your employment at the end of the current term.
  • Being temporarily suspended by the school system.
  • Nothing happens. You keep teaching as if nothing has occurred.

You have the right to retain legal representation when facing the school district, even if you’ve been found guilty. In the event of termination without a signed agreement stating that a DWI would result in job loss, you may have grounds to file a claim for unfair termination. Seeking legal advice is crucial in assessing the validity of your claim.

Other Penalties for a Texas DWI Conviction or Arrest

Your job may be at risk following your DWI arrest, even if your teaching credential is not suspended or revoked. Your place of employment could have stricter rules than SBEC, which may include a policy that mandates immediate termination in the event of a DWI conviction.

Having a conviction can be particularly troublesome when searching for employment. The school requires all applicants to undergo background checks. Unfortunately, your DWI may significantly hinder your chances of securing a teaching position, as these roles typically receive a large number of applications.

Lastly, some institutions in Fort Worth and the neighboring counties require instructors to hold a valid driving license throughout their careers. Unfortunately, having a DWI charge can lead to a driving license suspension. Additionally, having a DWI conviction can negatively impact your job prospects if you do not possess a valid driving license.

DWIs and Various Types of Educators

Several criteria determine whether license suspension is a potential punishment for instructors found guilty of DWIs. The first criterion is your status as a teacher—whether you are new, tenured, or seasoned.

If you hold an educator's license but are not yet working as a teacher, it is unlikely that you will be cleared for a background check after a conviction. This can lead to the revocation of your license and greatly reduce your chances of being hired by any school system. In such situations, it becomes even more crucial to challenge a conviction.

Teachers with more experience, particularly those with tenure, have a significantly lower likelihood of losing their license. While there is a possibility of license revocation or suspension, it is less probable. While securing a new teaching position may present challenges, it remains possible.

If you’re an experienced educator, working at a private educational institution instead of a public one will have different implications for your situation. Public schools are subject to more specific regulations, which means that terminating an instructor without a specific, verifiable reason is not possible.  On the other hand, many private schools have the authority to terminate employees for any reason. Legal challenges related to at-will employment in such cases are even more difficult to win.

Steps to Follow If You're a Texas Teacher and Arrested for DWI

If you are a Texas teacher who has been arrested for DWI, you should avoid discussing your lawsuit with anyone other than your lawyer. This includes the following:

  • Law enforcement officers cannot compel you to respond to their inquiries, and answering may potentially incriminate you.
  • Law enforcement will always ask for basic contact details, such as your physical address and name, even though you should exercise caution before providing any answers. While you’re not obligated to respond, it's advisable to remain respectful toward any arresting officer. This could help minimize the risk of potential abuse or mishandling by law enforcers.
  • Friends, family, and colleagues. Be aware that the police or SBEC investigators may uncover any conversations you have with them, including with coworkers. It is advisable to refrain from discussing your case altogether as the most suitable course of action.

Following a DWI arrest, the most crucial action you could take is to promptly contact a knowledgeable DWI defense lawyer. It is highly advised that clients seek legal representation from attorneys who are well-versed in criminal defense or DWI defense.

Regional Variation and School Districts

The policy of your school district will also impact the consequences of a DWI conviction. Before commencing work, you likely signed several documents that outline your rights and obligations if you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime.

With the assistance of an attorney, you can search these documents for any gaps. However, if your employer discovers documents bearing your signature stating that your license would be revoked in the event of a conviction, it is highly unlikely that you will prevail in court.

Assuming you're a public school teacher, you will need to investigate the regional guidelines for public educational institutions in your region if you don't think you signed any such paperwork. Regarding teachers and DWIs, different regions of Texas have varied laws, therefore it's critical to investigate your particular situation.

Can a DWI Keep Me From Teaching?

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) has the power to not only punish qualified educators but also prospective educators. As per the Texas Education Code (TEC), if a candidate has a criminal record, the SBEC is authorized to deny them a certificate or prohibit them from taking a certification exam.

According to Rule §249. 16, a candidate may be disqualified from certification if their criminal record directly impacts the responsibilities and objectives of the teaching profession. This implies that disciplinary action is evaluated on an individual basis and may be subjective.

To determine whether or not a DWI directly relates, the SBEC takes into account the following factors, including but not limited to:

  • If there was a conspiracy involving the possession of controlled substances or felony charges concerning your DWI.
  • If the DWI involved the distribution, sale, transfer, or planning of any of the aforementioned actions related to a prohibited substance.
  • If the DWI incident occurred partially or entirely on school grounds or during a school-sponsored event.
  • Should school funds or property be involved in a DWI.
  • If the DWI is considered a felony.

The SBEC will notify the candidate in writing about their decision to pursue disciplinary action once they have finished deliberating. Candidates whose certification is refused may request an appeal hearing. After that, you will have the opportunity to gather evidence, seek reliable legal counsel, and present your case before the board.

Find a Fort Worth DWI Lawyer Near Me

Opting to take your DWI case to trial could be an ideal option to secure an acquittal, especially considering that a conviction could potentially jeopardize your teaching certificate. If you are a licensed Texas teacher who has been arrested for driving while intoxicated, you can reach out to the Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer.

Our DWI lawyers are board-certified and specialize in both criminal defense and DWI defense. With our extensive legal knowledge and expertise, we will provide valuable assistance as you navigate the criminal court system. Call us at 817-470-2128.