Saturday, October 22, 2011

Law Enforcement Officers and DUI Arrests

by Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS)

The impact of an off-duty DUI arrest of a law enforcement officer (LEO) could have far more serious consequences than what ordinary citizens face after such an arrest. For ordinary citizens, a DUI arrest could result in higher auto insurance rates, monetary fines, license revocation, or minor jail time. For LEOs, a DUI conviction could mean serious consequences to your career. In most cases, federal LEOs can expect to face some formal disciplinary action (i.e., reprimand up to and including removal from federal service). There is clearly a nexus between your federal LEO status and this off-duty violation of state law.

The severity and/or disparity in discipline for a DUI offense(s) is based on the facts and circumstances of each case, as well as the mission of the employing agency. For example:

Were there aggravating circumstances (conditions that worsen the offense) or mitigating circumstances (conditions that lessen the offense)? The consequences of a DUI arrest will lead to far greater repercussions if there is an accusation of trying to badge out of the arrest. Any attempt, even the subtlest of hints, to use official status to try and avoid the issuance of DUI will most certainly lead to an aggravated penalty, including termination. Also, a more serious penalty -even removal - is likely if the arrest was made while in your GOV or while on duty. Obviously, removal from federal service and potential criminal charges can be expected with fatalities, injuries or property damage resulting from a DUI conviction.

Was this your first offense? This could be the deciding factor remaining a federal agent or officer. After a first offense, a supervisor may recommend counseling and minor discipline. It is likely, particularly after a second offense or an offense while on probation, to be directed to undergo an alcohol abuse assessment or a fitness-for-duty evaluation (FDE) to determine fitness to carry a firearm and/or perform the essential functions of the LEO position.

Was there notoriety associated with the offense and your position in your agency? Many states have taken a "name and shame" approach to drivers who are convicted of DUI. If an officer is arrested in connection with a DUI offense, it makes the lead news within 24 hours of the arrest. In fact, this notoriety could lead to an aggravated penalty, as can the level of your position in the agency.

Whatever the circumstances of a DUI, it is likely to have a serious impact on the career of a federal LEO. As is true in most other aspects of off-duty misconduct, DUIs for a federal LEO could be a career changer. So stay safe and be smart whether on or off duty.

FEDS provides professional liability insurance for the entire federal law enforcement community. For information on your specific exposures, how professional liability insurance protects, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, visit our website at and choose the position or agency that best describes your job and professional responsibilities: 1811's & Special Agents, Law Enforcement Officers, Probation and Pretrial Officers, Bureau of Prisons Officials, TSA Employees and Federal Flight Deck Officers.