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How to Explain a DUI to an Employer

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Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, some mistakes aren’t so easy to move past, especially if they give you a criminal record. A DUI doesn’t have to hurt your career, as long as you handle it correctly. Being upfront about your past when asked, keeping a clean record moving forward and looking for opportunities to repair your record can be great ways to ensure your past doesn’t affect your future.

Discussing DUIs With Current Employer

If you’re currently employed, it can be tempting to keep your DUI to yourself. The problem is, if your employer finds out, you could be terminated simply for withholding the information. The first thing you should do is check both local laws and your employment contract to determine if you can be fired for the DUI.

In some states, employers can’t fire workers for after-hours conduct. However, getting behind the wheel while impaired is different from firing you for drinking on a random Saturday night, especially if your work requires you to drive while on duty. Before you start looking for a sample letter explaining DUI to employer, make sure you fully understand what the consequences are, as well as any legal protections that apply.

DUI Arrest Versus Conviction

A DUI arrest doesn’t necessarily mean a conviction. They’re two totally different things. An arrest without a conviction won’t show up on your criminal record, which means there’s no reason you’d need to disclose it to future employers or create a DUI explanation letter for employment for a current employer.

But if you’re presently employed, your reason for telling your employer may be more practical. You’ll need to take off work to go to court. You’ll have to ask for time off in advance, and your employer may want to know the reason for your absence. If you lie about it and your employer finds out later, there could be bigger consequences than if you’d been honest from the start.

Explain DUI on Job Application

A DUI can seem like a deterrent if you’re looking for work, but don’t assume it automatically disqualifies you. Many employers hire employees with criminal backgrounds, and about half of those surveyed said they don’t see it as a deterrent at all. But with so many employers now conducting criminal background checks, the most important thing is that you’re honest about it if asked.

Since some applications ask if you have a criminal history, it can help to be prepared to explain, in writing, what the situation is. Attaching a letter explaining your DUI can go a long way toward stating your case, and you can find templates online. If part of your sentence involved going through a rehab program, a sample letter of criminal rehabilitation can also help you provide documentation.

Handling DUIs in Job Interviews

Before you agree to your first interview, get a copy of your criminal background report and find out what shows up on it. You’ll be better able to address it if you’ve actually seen it. Once you’ve determined what shows up, prepare a response.

A DUI on your record can actually demonstrate that you made a mistake, learned from that mistake and put it toward becoming a better person moving forward. Emphasize the personal growth you experienced as a result of your horrible mistake and, as a result, you’ll inspire confidence that it will never happen again. If you can have someone in authority write a DUI explanation letter for employment to serve as a witness to your transformation, you’ll have an even better chance of landing the job.

Sample Letter of Criminal Rehabilitation

An important part of preparing for your job search is gathering the perfect documentation to get around any concerns a potential employer will have. You can find plenty of sample letters explaining DUI to employers. Simply customize these and attach them to any application that requests information on your criminal background. If the application process doesn’t ask for that data, take the letter with you when you go for the interview to present if questions arise.

If you’ve undergone any type of rehabilitation, ask someone who worked with you on it to provide a letter stating the work you put into learning and growing. You can also find sample letters of criminal rehabilitation that you can customize. Offer to write the letter for the other person and allow them to edit it before signing it.

Passing Criminal Background Checks

With 72 percent of employers conducting criminal background checks on potential hires, your concerns that they’ll pull a report on you are definitely legitimate. But it’s also important to know about "Ban the Box" laws, which are in effect in 35 states and more than 150 cities. These laws are in place to ensure employers get to know a candidate before pulling a background check.

If your area is covered by Ban the Box protections, make an extra effort to impress during the interview process. Stress the many positive qualities you bring to the job. If, after pulling your record, the employer asks about your criminal history, you’ll hopefully be able to provide a DUI explanation letter for employment to answer those questions.

Clearing Your Criminal Record

Before you draft a sample letter explaining DUI to an employer about why you have a criminal record, it can help to first see if you can clear that record. Unfortunately, that isn’t so easy. Although a DUI will typically come off your driving record within five to 10 years, it will remain on your criminal record for life.

That said, you may qualify to have your record expunged. Check your local laws relating to expungement. If your situation applies, you’ll merely need to get the proper documents from your local courthouse and file.

Circumstances where records can be expunged vary from one state to the next. If you were a juvenile when you were arrested, you’re more likely to qualify than if you were of age. If you don’t qualify for expungement, check to see if you can have the offense pardoned or downgraded to a misdemeanor.

Requesting Sealed Records

In some states, DUI records can be sealed after a designated time period or if certain qualifications are met. If the statute of limitations on your DUI has passed, in Nevada you can apply to have your record sealed. In Arkansas, if it was a first-time misdemeanor DUI, once probation is complete, you can apply to have the record sealed.

A sealed record means that the record is closed from public view. Future employers can’t see the record, although law enforcement officials can access a copy of the record if future issues arise. If you keep a clean record, it can give you a chance to get a fresh start.

Fresh Start Pledge Businesses

For those who have difficulty finding work after a DUI, there’s a government-sponsored program that can help. The Fair Chance Business Pledge is an agreement businesses sign that they will give members of the community a “fair chance” at a job by hiring those who have criminal records.

Companies that participate in the Fair Chance Business Pledge include Starbucks, FedEx, Allstate and Google. With so many businesses now part of the program, you should be able to find an employer who’s more than happy to bring on a skilled, eager-to-work employee who has learned from past mistakes.


Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.

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