Can a DUI Stop Me from Getting Security Clearance?

Earning a security clearance from the United States government can be the key to keeping or advancing in your dream career. But sometimes, good people make regrettable mistakes, like having too much to drink before driving home. In Florida, a DUI conviction can have a powerful impact on a driver’s life, including their security clearance and employment. 


This blog post will explain how a DUI conviction can jeopardize a driver’s holding or acquiring a security clearance. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, in Tampa, we understand how important avoiding a DUI conviction is to a driver who needs to keep their security clearance. While a first-offense misdemeanor DUI will not necessarily cause the government to revoke or deny your security clearance, it will become a factor in the government’s decision-making process.  


When a DUI arrest threatens your security clearance or jeopardizes your obtaining a clearance, contact the Stechschulte Nell Law Firm for board-certified criminal defense representation. 



How Does a DUI Affect Your Security Clearance? 


The United States National Security apparatus maintains a strict protocol for the initial assessment and periodic review of whether a person should be granted access to classified information or hold a sensitive position. The process is detailed in 32 C.F.R. § 147.1 et seq., entitled Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.  


There are 13 guidelines used to weigh the various factors of what the government calls the “whole person concept.”  


Of the 13 factors considered during a person’s security clearance assessment, a candidate’s DUI would trigger a focus on five of these guidelines: 


  • Personal Conduct 
  • Alcohol Consumption 
  • Drug Involvement 
  • Emotional, Mental, and Personality Disorders 
  • Criminal Conduct 


How Adverse Information or Bad Conduct Affects Your Security Clearance 


The federal regulations describe how each of these factors will be weighed by the person assessing whether to grant or continue your security clearance. The purpose of the assessment is to decide if the candidate is appropriate for security clearance as a whole person. 


A single incident or event may not result in an unfavorable determination, you may be disqualified if “available information reflects a recent or recurring pattern of questionable judgment, irresponsibility, or emotionally unstable behavior.”


The agency involved is encouraged to further investigate concerning information but to stop the continuing investigation if faced with “reliable, significant, disqualifying, adverse information.” 


These are some of the factors the agency will consider during a review of a person currently holding a security clearance with access to classified or sensitive information: 


  • Did the person voluntarily report the information? 
  • Were they truthful and complete in responding to questions?  
  • Have they sought help and followed professional guidance, where appropriate? 
  • Did they resolve or do they seem likely to resolve the security concern favorably?  
  • Does the person already demonstrate positive changes in behavior in and out of work?    
  • Should their access be temporarily suspended until the completion of the adjudication? 


The main objective of the entire evaluation is to determine if the candidate’s access to classified or sensitive information is clearly in the national interest. In the context of a DUI, does the incident indicate that the person’s character includes these features: 


  • Questionable judgment,  
  • Untrustworthiness,  
  • Unreliability,  
  • Lack of candor,  
  • Dishonesty, or  
  • Unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations? 


Alcohol Consumption, DUI, and Security Clearance Revocation   


As with other personal misconduct, alcohol consumption is a serious concern in a government security clearance investigation because it implicates questionable judgment, unreliability, and impulse control problems. If these characteristics are persistent, they increase the risk that classified information will be disclosed carelessly.  


A first-offense misdemeanor DUI would be viewed more seriously and could lead to disqualification for security clearance if it was accompanied by other events related to alcohol use, like habitual binge drinking or reporting for work when impaired.  


A diagnosis of alcohol dependency could also raise serious concerns because the disorder is a continuing condition.  


However, cooperating fully with clinical professionals who recommend treatment and demonstrating a commitment to sobriety over time can rehabilitate a driver who has lost a security clearance due to alcohol use. A second alcohol-related event after being diagnosed as alcohol dependent and commencing treatment would likely lead to the termination of your security clearance. 


Mitigating Factors that Could Help Protect Your Security Clearance 


Some circumstances and behavior can weigh heavily in your favor with an agent adjudicating your security clearance after a DUI. 


If the evidence indicated that the DUI was an isolated incident and not one more incident in a pattern of alcohol-related mishaps, the single negative DUI event would be less indicative of grounds for concern. This is especially true if the DUI was years ago with no reoccurrence when applying for an initial security clearance. 


If someone has been clinically diagnosed as alcohol dependent (Alcohol Use Disorder – AUD), their security clearance could be restored after they completed the recommended treatment regimen, attended supportive AA meetings regularly, and abstained from alcohol for at least 12 months. 


Get Board-Certified Legal Defense for Your DUI 


Presenting a DUI conviction to a security clearance adjudicator will invite different treatment than would a DUI acquittal, or notifying the agency that your case was dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.  


No matter what the outcome of your DUI case, the government’s protocol requires you to voluntarily report the alleged DUI to your superiors as soon as practicable after your arrest. But a driver whose DUI is resolved favorably and who has no prior history of alcohol-related misconduct may well escape any negative consequences from security officials.  


That is why contacting the most experienced and qualified DUI defense lawyer is essential if you want to increase the likelihood of retaining your security clearance. At Stechschulte Nell, our long history of representing accused DUI drivers enables us to energetically represent any driver charged in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  


Every DUI prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was in physical possession of a motor vehicle while they had an illegal level of alcohol in their bloodstream or that they were so affected by the alcohol or drugs that their normal faculties were impaired.  


But only lawfully obtained evidence that is collected in accordance with a long list of specific police procedures can be used against you in court. And there are dozens of opportunities for police officers to commit errors that are fatal to the prosecution of a DUI charge. 


Tampa DUI Defense 


Under arrest for a DUI? Contact our experienced DUI attorneys at Stechschulte Nell Law in Tampa at 813-280-1244. We are ready to defend you.  

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