PA DUI, what to expect?

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by Whats next Whats next (New) New

Relatively new nurse here in PA. Please save me the rhetoric if your only response is going to be condescending, chastising, or otherwise abrasive. I simply want some understanding of exactly what to expect and i realize that i put myself into this position.

I got a DUI of .12 very soon after getting my license. I have been employed at a hospital as an RN, as i was hired/background checks were all done right before this issue. After checking the policy manual i found there was no policy mandating me to report this to my employer, so they are still not aware, though i suspect the BON will change that soon enough... I hired a good attorney who has a lot of knowledge about protecting professional licenses and i got into the ARD program for the criminal side of things. I went for a board mandated alcohol/drug assessment for the "voluntary recovery program" after they found me through JNET and i was found to be ineligible for participation as no diagnosis of impairment could be made. As they looked deeper into my past, nearly 9 months after the DUI arrest, i had to complete an evaluation with a forensic psychiatrist for an arrest almost 6 years ago r/t possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia. This arrest was long before i ever even considered being a nurse and it is a part of my past, not something that i have done since.

This meeting with the psychiatrist was nearly 4 hours long including the drug test which I'm sure i passed for alcohol and all drugs. He asked me about everything from my childhood and the career choices of family members to my drinking habits. As i'm still on probation for the criminal aspect of my proceedings, i'm not supposed to be drinking whatsoever. However, my lawyer never showed up for my ARD hearing, so although i signed a document agreeing to these terms i was unaware of them at the time of this evaluation, and as such, i admitted to drinking very small amounts very few times during these past number of months of probation.

Can anyone offer any insight on what to expect my punishment to be? Since the psychiatrist showed me the paper i signed saying i can't drink on probation i have been entirely sober and i just want to keep my license... Preferably without having to do 3+ aa's a week and a nurses support group and frequent/expensive random drug testing for years to come, etc, etc, yadda, yada...

dirtyhippiegirl

dirtyhippiegirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in PDN; Burn; Phone triage. Has 8 years experience. 1,571 Posts

Do you not have access to your contract at all? It should outline what happens with a first time violation.

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What contract??? I never signed any contract r/t this criminal violation or anything which it entailed. Contract of employment? All i have done is agreed to go to mandatory evaluations which have been designated by the BON. Please enlighten me though if you know of anything like that. From what i understand everything is totally individualized in everyone's case, which is why i tried to include as much pertinent information as possible.

crazin01

crazin01

Specializes in tele, ICU, CVICU. Has 12 years experience. 280 Posts

1) you hired an attorney and they just didn't show up for an ARD hearing??? Um, better believe i'd damn well be phone & internet stalking them 10 minutes after hearing over. If they had an emergency arise, that should have been made clear and attempts made to contact you or judge, requesting a continuance if a colleague of your attorney could not fill in (seen that happen occasionally, if it's a pretty straightforward type case).

2) I went for a board mandated alcohol/drug assessment for the "voluntary recovery program" after they found me through JNET and i was found to be ineligible for participation as no diagnosis of impairment could be made.

So, this means the addicionologist said you did NOT have an issue with addiction and therefore did not need the monitoring program? Who is 'they' finding you thru JNET? And, I've never heard of JNET before, doing a quick search indicates it's a 'justice network' where only authorized people can find court cases/hearings/records/arrests etc. And these authorized users does not include employers, regular/random citizens, but only 'criminal justice agencies'. (Am I understanding that correctly? If so, who is the 'they' that found you on JNET? The BON? Monitoring program?)

3) However, my lawyer never showed up for my ARD hearing, so although i signed a document agreeing to these terms i was unaware of them at the time of this evaluation, and as such, i admitted to drinking very small amounts very few times during these past number of months of probation.

The documentation you signed agreeing to not drink, was through probation. (which is no joking matter, just as the monitoring programs are). May i ask why you didn't review these documents/packets of paper, before signing them? Unfortunately, many monitoring programs do not accept the "I was unaware" answer.

Sorry to sound harsh, just wanting to make sure I'm understanding everything correctly, to see if I could offer any input. From what I've seen/heard here ( & another reference) if there is a 'relapse' (technically, to the program, this is just that, whether you were aware of this abstinence requirement or not) and they will probably extend your monitoring contract. If this is the first relapse (from what I've read, I think it is) then they will hopefully be less strict, but I've also seen programs revoke licensure for relapses/jail time/higher severity charges. But this is usually for at least the 2nd relapse. I think it depends on your case specifically even though many programs are following set stipulations and don't look at things as a unique case.

Also, I think most programs (with NO relapses) requirement healthcare provider support groups, AA meetings the entire length of contract, the frequency of which depends upon your position/time compliant with program and the random UDSs'. Were these not communicated to you in the monitoring programs contract? again, not to be mean, just trying to hone in on a few things for further clarity.

crazin01

crazin01

Specializes in tele, ICU, CVICU. Has 12 years experience. 280 Posts

(I only saw your 2nd post after I sent mine!)

But, what hippiegirl & I both (I think, right HG?) are referring to is the contract with the VRP of PNAP, under the PHMP. (Voluntary Recovery Program, PA Peer Nurse Assistance Program, Professional Health Monitoring Program) I got paperwork from PNAP/PHMP before anything from the BON, which is backwards from what you've had in your case.

Was the BON trying to determine if with you're fairly recent DUI, to dig further by sending you to psychiatrist? Upon his investigation, it was found about your remote history of marijuana) and then determined that you need to be in the PHMP? Even if you never signed & submitted paperwork to the BON or PHMP, you stated in your initial post here, that you DID sign papers agreeing no alcohol (for probation). But you were unaware of this, because your attorney wasn't at ARD hearing. That's the only situation I can envision that you would hear from BON before PHMP (the addiction specialist finds a history of substance issues- the pot). I'm not saying it's right, or that people don't grow up & leave things behind, but the BON is NOT the nurses friend. Their job is to protect the public from impaired nurses. So, once this psychiatrist found that marijuana, I sort of think the end result may not be the one you're seeking.

Lately it seems, I've read a lot of posts here where new grads are applying for the ATT NCLEX (or other nurses are renewing their license) and the questions ask about arrests, substance abuse/treatment etc. And even if charges from 30 years ago were completely expunged, the BON has it's ways. But people want to be honest, think the system is going to be there and don't want to deceive, so they admit to it, submit a brief explanation for it and it seems they are thrown to the monitoring programs.

Sorry to have more questions than answers.

dirtyhippiegirl

dirtyhippiegirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in PDN; Burn; Phone triage. Has 8 years experience. 1,571 Posts

Yeah like the poster above me I'm a bit uncertain of your timeline and where you are with your RN license (not in a monitoring program but also not being actively sanctioned by the board??) but you mentioned signing something where you agreed to certain terms including not drinking. You don't have a copy of this?

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Allow me to try to clarify some things for you... They did send me a large packet about 8 weeks after the arrest saying that i am being referred to the PHMP, and within that packet they said i would be assessed for eligibility in the VRP. This packet gave no information on the length of the monitoring, nor did it restrict me from drinking. I have absolutely no sanctions against my license from the BON currently. At this point i am just still being investigated and I'm sure they are trying to determine what, if anything, they would like to do to me. However, i am under criminal probation from the state for my DUI as a condition of ARD. The 6 months of probation i have through the state is entirely unrelated to anything the BON... I had no diagnosis of impairment after the VRP with an addictionologist. A few months after this meeting with the addictionologist i received a letter from a prosecutor with the BON saying i am compelled to complete a psychiatric evaluation with a board designated MD because of the combination of the recent DUI and a history of the marijuana charge. Whether they found out about the marijuana charge through their own research or took that information from when i admitted it to the addictionologist I'm not certain, nor is it really very important. Point being, with the combination of those two instances they saw a pattern and figured i am worth investigating further than simply the assessment with the addictionologist. During said investigation with the psychiatrist i admitted to the small amount of drinking while i was still on a criminally related probation... I don't understand how this could be considered "relapse". I was never diagnosed as having an addiction. It is clearly a violation of the terms of my ARD which the psychiatrist made me aware of, which in it's own rite i can see as giving the BON a cause for concern. Though at this point it's only illegal for me to drink through the state of Pennsylvania as a condition of my ARD. I am in no program through the BON which would restrict me from drinking, though obviously it IS an entity of the state.

Idk, this is all very confusing. I would refute my having had drinks while on probation a "relapse" though, as i have not been diagnosed, admitted to, nor do i believe that i have an addiction.

Any other questions that can help you narrow in on some sort of accurate hypothesis about the end result of these infractions? I hope this helps

crazin01

crazin01

Specializes in tele, ICU, CVICU. Has 12 years experience. 280 Posts

'I understand the whole 'it wasn't a relapse, never really had or officially diagnosed with a substance abuse problem' but that is probably not what the board will say. YBut upon review, the BON finds the pot in your past and just told you in that letter, they're referring you to PHMP. I've never had to meet a board approved doctor or addiction specialist but have read stories about the horrendous price and these professionals will often times receive a kickback from being on of a very small group of doctors approved by the BON, increasing their patient load.

Again, I think probation is fairly straightforward like PHMP and hate hearing what they refer to as 'excuses'. I'm not saying it is an excuse, to say you were unaware of this requirement but to the BON & PHMP, they usually see that as denial and shifting blame, lack of accountability.

I completely understand thinking things are such out of wack sometimes and the ludicrous requirements they enforce, but they have your license (and essentially, freedom!) in their hands and some people love the power they possess.

I still am curious why your hired attorney didn't come to the ARD hearing? Have you received any kind of explanation to that, or even spoken with said lawyer since then?

So, the BON sent you a letter referring you to PHMP/PNAP, which from what I've seen/heard, is an almost guaranteed to be 'forced to comply' as you would like to keep your license i imagine. If you are not agreeable to or non compliant with contract stipulations, (PHMP) may take action on your license such as probationary status, revoked, etc.

HOWEVER if you've already had an attorney represent you for ciminal court, will they also be willing to help with the PHMP stuff? Not all lawyers have experience or proper knowledge/exposure to be competent defending a license against the board. I imagine that your attorney would try to have you program a little less strict, shorter term, etc but I definitely would not hold my breath about that happening. I think this website is the correct one, that i often see quoted on here, to find an attorney well-practiced in going before the nursing board to save license holders' licenses.

TAANA Executive Office - Home

A big rule under the PHMP contract is to immediately cease working as a nurse, until therapist and case manager ok's you back to nursing work. Thus your employer will find out, one way or the other. Either thru the BON or you being strong-armed into it, because the PHMP contract states as such.

I'm still confused though on two things:

1) Why you would sign the probationary paperwork with a thorough understanding of all enclosed within. And the whole attorney not going to your ARD hearing.. something just isn't quite rite with that picture (at least to me)

2) why attorney didn't show up for that ARD hearing?

(sorry to keep dwelling, but those are both pretty significant things, at least to my line of thought). Give your post a few more days, as many others will have much more information and accurate input for you.

dirtyhippiegirl

dirtyhippiegirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in PDN; Burn; Phone triage. Has 8 years experience. 1,571 Posts

Yeah, I think you have two issues here. The first is actually the non-compliance with the ARD. When I took diversion for a DUI (eight years ago and in a different state fwiw) -- ANY non-compliance resulted in you getting terminated from the program and having to spend the weekend in jail.

The second is how the BON will see the violation of the ARD. I can't imagine how they would construe it as anything other than addictive behavior warranting extended monitoring. Not necessarily because it is addictive behavior but that's just how they see anything with a "pattern" to it. Like crazin mentioned, ignorance of your stipulations with ARD isn't an excuse for the behavior (shoot, I AM an alcoholic and my first DUI was enough to scare me into not drinking for a few months, lol) but might be an excuse to fire your lawyer...

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So to answer your questions... My attorney said that he delegates my hearing to one of his coworkers who then ended up not showing. When I called him after the hearing he was very apologetic and upset, he ended up refunding a quarter of his fee which wasn't inexpensive to begin with. He had already done all the leg work behind the scenes, I just needed him there to help make all the rules clear. It's a quick process where they usher about 150 first time DUI offenders through one judge, we all spent about 30 seconds in front of him before moving along. I have never made contact with my probation officer and I have no restrictions aside from drinking. No curfew or mandatory calls or drug tests. Idk, I guess I just thought the main issue with probation is that if you get in trouble during it you go to jail and forfeit your right to ARD through which you have a clean record after completion.

After talking to my lawyer and reading many testimonies on this forum I think there is no chance that I will avoid 3+ years of PNAP. I am young, no kids, I have options... Seriously looking into other careers at this point. I know no one on this site will condone this decision but if anyone can recommend any other fields to look into it would be seriously appreciated. Thank you for all your input thus far

elkpark

14,633 Posts

Seriously looking into other careers at this point. I know no one on this site will condone this decision ...

Why would any of us care? It's your life, you should do whatever is going to work best for you. Be aware that, with problems with your nursing license, you're likely to have a hard time getting into other licensed healthcare occupations (I don't know if that's what you had in mind when you asked about "other fields," but figured I'd just mention that in case ...). Best wishes!

hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life). Has 20 years experience. 4 Articles; 4,437 Posts

Allow me to try to clarify some things for you... They did send me a large packet about 8 weeks after the arrest saying that i am being referred to the PHMP, and within that packet they said i would be assessed for eligibility in the VRP. This packet gave no information on the length of the monitoring, nor did it restrict me from drinking. I have absolutely no sanctions against my license from the BON currently. At this point i am just still being investigated and I'm sure they are trying to determine what, if anything, they would like to do to me. However, i am under criminal probation from the state for my DUI as a condition of ARD. The 6 months of probation i have through the state is entirely unrelated to anything the BON... I had no diagnosis of impairment after the VRP with an addictionologist. A few months after this meeting with the addictionologist i received a letter from a prosecutor with the BON saying i am compelled to complete a psychiatric evaluation with a board designated MD because of the combination of the recent DUI and a history of the marijuana charge. Whether they found out about the marijuana charge through their own research or took that information from when i admitted it to the addictionologist I'm not certain, nor is it really very important. Point being, with the combination of those two instances they saw a pattern and figured i am worth investigating further than simply the assessment with the addictionologist. During said investigation with the psychiatrist i admitted to the small amount of drinking while i was still on a criminally related probation... I don't understand how this could be considered "relapse". I was never diagnosed as having an addiction. It is clearly a violation of the terms of my ARD which the psychiatrist made me aware of, which in it's own rite i can see as giving the BON a cause for concern. Though at this point it's only illegal for me to drink through the state of Pennsylvania as a condition of my ARD. I am in no program through the BON which would restrict me from drinking, though obviously it IS an entity of the state.

Idk, this is all very confusing. I would refute my having had drinks while on probation a "relapse" though, as i have not been diagnosed, admitted to, nor do i believe that i have an addiction.

Any other questions that can help you narrow in on some sort of accurate hypothesis about the end result of these infractions? I hope this helps

first things first - If you are an alcoholic and from what you describe I'm not sure you are - then any drinking no matter how small the amount would be considered a relapse. Still the BON's actually don't care if you are an alcoholic/addict or not what they care about is public safety.

Now me - I am an alcoholic - I have no problem admitting it or discussing it. I used the tools (Punishment) given to me by the BON to achieve lasting sobriety.

The BON must decide per their mandate if you are safe to practice nursing. So here's what I would do. Gather all the paperwork that has been sent you as well as getting copies of the addictionologist's report and papers you may have signed and hire an attorney who is experienced with these type of professional licensing issues. Do not have any other dealings with the BON or start a monitoring program until you know your rights and fully understand the terms and conditions of what you sign.

There are three things that will likely happen:

1. With the help of an attorney you may actually avoid being placed in monitoring but this would be a very rare outcomes.

2. You will be offered an opportunity to volunteer for a monitoring program of 3 to 5 years during which you will have to practice 100% abstinence from all mind altering substances and you will be required to submit regular random drug and alcohol samples to prove your compliance. Because you have volunteered when you are done there will be no permanent mark on your license.

3. and most like because you have a criminal charge - is that you will be placed on probation an=gain with a period of anywhere from 2 to 5 years of abstinence, monitoring AA/NA meetings and restrictions on your licenses.

In preparation for what's ahead stop drinking now - if as you say you are not an alcoholic - this should present no problem for you. Make sure you have valid current prescriptions for any medications you take. Expect that they (BON) will not let you take any Opiate, Benzo , and even some antihistamines during the length of your contract.

Keep copies of everything

Good luck to you

Hppy