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How a St. Patrick's Day DUI Can Impact Law Students

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on March 17, 2015 10:23 AM

For all you 3Ls out there, March is a confluence of events. You're two months into super not caring about law school anymore, as evidenced by the "Law and Shakespeare" class you're taking just to round out your credit hours. It's also time you started completing your moral fitness application (and truthfully, if you've waited until now, boy, are you going to be waiting for a long time to get the results).

Conveniently, today is also St. Patrick's Day, which means you may inevitably find yourself on the short end of a lot of green-colored beer. Whatever you do, don't drink and drive!

Fairly Serious Business

Not only is it a terrible idea to drink and drive, but you'll probably find your moral character application process come to a grinding halt.

Even after you've submitted your moral character application to the state bar, you're under a continuing obligation to update the bar if you get convicted of a crime. This includes DUIs -- and especially includes DUIs. State bars take substance abuse quite seriously, probably because it's among the top causes of lawyer malpractice suits. Failure to timely report a DUI to your state's bar is, in itself, a separate violation.

In addition to reporting just the fact that something happened, the state bar will want to know all about the conviction itself. A DUI with a fairly low BAC isn't likely to be as much of a problem, come moral character time, as a DUI with a high BAC. The state bar is going to look more closely, in other words, at a student who was completely wasted but still decided to drive.

How About Just Call a Cab?

Getting convicted of a DUI one time isn't likely to prevent your passing the moral character determination, but it will certainly increase the time it takes to get the OK. You'll also probably have to provide the state bar with copies of relevant documents. So, at the very, very least -- as far as the state bar is concerned -- getting a DUI could delay getting your license by a few months, assuming you pass the bar exam and the MPRE.

At worst? If your DUI -- or multiple DUIs -- show a pattern of questionable judgment, the state bar might decide you're not fit to practice law. This determination will surely haunt you for the rest of your life, as disgraced journalist Stephen Glass found out when he tried (and failed) to get licensed in California after being denied a license in New York.

Of course, all of this won't be a problem if you just don't drink and drive on St. Patrick's Day. You might be inconvenienced if you have to park your car on the street and call Uber -- or even if your car gets towed. But those are one-time inconveniences that are pretty puny compared to having a DUI on your record.

Oh, and lest we forget, driving while drunk endangers everyone around you and is a really dumb idea. Just don't do it.

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