Health Care Providers Non Work Related Substance Abuse Issues with Connecticut Department of Health Including DUI Arrest

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April, 2020

By: Attorney Richard Brown

As an attorney that deals with both criminal law and those with professional licenses, such as doctors and nurses, I periodically get calls from doctors and nurses, who ask if they need to report their arrest for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, DPH. On many occasions the caller or client will inform me that there have never been any incidences at work involving substance abuse, including alcohol issues.

The answer is not so simple or straight forward. Of course, under our Constitution, one who has been arrested (as opposed to convicted) has the "presumption of innocence" rule in his/her favor; innocent people as well as guilty people are occasionally arrested for crimes that they did not commit. So a person's arrest is not in and of itself "proof" of guilt. There is no doubt that any health care professional who is convicted of operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated is mandated to "self-report" to DPH (or HAVEN).

The concern that DPH has is with present suitability to practice one's profession; that is, it is a very important function of DPH to protect the public from health care professionals who are or may be suffering from addictions, including substance abuse or alcohol abuse. This, in part, means irrespective of guilt in the criminal courts, if a health care professional has a license overseen by DPH, including psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, dentists, et seq., and have issues with drinking or drugs, legal or otherwise, they are required to self-report to DPH or HAVEN; the failure to self-report is itself grounds for suspension or revocation of the license. People for cause are routinely put under the watchful eye of DPH through a "Consent Order", even those who never have been arrested for a crime.

Back to the case where the health-care professional is arrested but not yet convicted of any crime. Well, some such providers may participate in a court sealed diversionary alcohol/substance abuse program, which can cause the DUI charges to be dismissed. Should DPH learn of such charges, they may still prosecute your matter administratively, notwithstanding a dismissal of the criminal case; they are not bound by the criminal courts. One can still have a health care license suspended or revoked (permanent loss), again, with or without a conviction in the criminal courts.

Your solution should be to consult with an attorney experienced with dealing with DPH and the criminal courts so that your job, position and career are best protected.