We represented a health care provider who had already entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor for driving while intoxicated. The provider not only was drunk but also caused property damage to another car in the process and left the scene of the accident. The result of this event was truly unpleasant and this article should serve as a warning that you never want to drive a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
The first thing that happened was that a criminal defense attorney had to be retained and paid for. There was no option but to plead guilty as there was no defense to be utilized and a guilty verdict by a jury would have led to a more severe punishment.
The sentence set down by the court required the following: a fine of about $900.00, a restricted driver’s license for six months, the health care provider had to attend, and pay for, a Drunk Driving School, and then attend and pay for a series of sobriety classes with a therapist. To make matters even more painful from the economic point of view, the auto liability insurance company skyrocketed the yearly insurance premium so that over time the cost will be about $7,000 more than it should have been.
After all of that financial and emotional trauma, the letter from the New York State Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct, (OPMC) arrived. That letter advised that OPMC intended to charge the provider with misconduct unless an agreement was reached as to punishment. (Please note that when you are convicted of a crime there is no discussion about whether you are guilty of misconduct, the only issue is the degree of punishment.)
I was retained as counsel. I contacted OPMC and discussed the case. I knew there would be a sanction and my job was to decrease the severity of the sanction. The usual punishment is a Censure and Reprimand, a fine, usually between $1,000 and $2,500 and a requirement that the provider continue to attend a sobriety clinic for a lengthy period of time, at the provider’s expense, with random testing for substance abuse. This last part can be very expensive.
I negotiated with OPMC and to help my cause I obtained a letter from the therapist my client saw as part of the criminal court requirements. That letter praised my client and on the strength of the letter I was able to convince OPMC that further counseling and random testing were not necessary for this particular person.
Also, because this was a first offense and the alcohol level was not extremely high, I was able to negotiate a fine of $1,000, the low-end of the scale.
Please note that if you have two or more such offenses your very license might well be in jeopardy and certainly the punishment will be severe.
The moral is that if you are going to drink, take a cab to get home. You do not want the financial and psychological trauma of going through the criminal law system and then dealing with OPMC. The experience is expensive and extremely stressful.