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When a Nursing Student Has a Prior DUI -
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When a Nursing Student Has a Prior DUI

When a nursing student has a DUI...what to do

When a Nursing Student Has a Prior DUI

Recently it seems there’s an increased number of nursing students and new graduates who are experiencing a delay in receiving their ATTs from the CA Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) and other state boards.

When a nursing student has a prior DUI

When a nursing student has a prior DUI

Some of these delays are due to prior convictions, including DUIs, combined with a stricter CA BRN response. Some attorneys maintain the CA BRN is now denying all applications for initial licensure from student nurses with a DUI in their background.

Most likely you passed a background check before being accepted into your nursing program, but now you have to apply to the BRN for your Authorization To Test (ATT) for the NCLEX and…. you’re worried.

Or maybe you’ve already applied, and your classmates have received their ATTs…but you haven’t.

The BRN-conducted background check delves deeper than other background checks and will reveal a DUI as well as any and all previous charges.

You may feel both embarrassed and frightened at the idea of not being able to take the NCLEX due to a past DUI when you’ve worked so hard to get through nursing school (and mended your ways).

Here’s a look at the facts regarding what a nursing student with a prior DUI needs to do:


What do I have to report on my application?

When a nursing student has a prior DUI, it must be reported to the Board of Nursing (BON). Nursing students applying to take the NCLEX must report all misdemeanor and felony convictions, including DUIs. The only reporting exceptions are minor traffic violations, fines, or infractions under $1,000.00 (CA).

Indicating “yes” to any questions about convictions, past actions, or possible impairment does not mean your application will be denied. It means more information must be gathered and considered before a decision can be made, which delays the usual application and testing process.

But what if my DUI conviction was expunged?

When a nursing student has a prior DUI...what to do

When a nursing student has a prior DUI…what to do

“I’m a responsible nursing student now, and my DUI is way behind me!”

Convictions must be reported even if they have been:

  • Expunged under Penal Code Section 1203.4.
  • Dismissed
  • Adjudicated

The BRN will discover all records, even if they have been sealed or dismissed. Failure to report can result in denial of licensure.

 I completed a court ordered diversion program and my charges were dismissed..?

The charges must still be reported even if a court ordered diversion program has been completed and all charges have been dismissed. Failure to report can result in denial of licensure.

 Can I obtain a license as a registered nurse if I have a misdemeanor, felony, or DUI conviction on my record?

Yes, each case is reviewed on a case by case basis related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a registered nurse.

The BRN considers the nature, severity, and recency of the offense, as well as rehabilitation and other factors. How old were you when you committed the offense or had the DUI? How much time has elapsed since then?

 Is there any specific conviction that will automatically disqualify me from receiving my license?

According to the CA BRN, there is not any one specific type of conviction in and of itself that will disqualify an applicant. Each applicant is considered on an individual basis. (Other states vary, and do stipulate certain offenses as automatic disqualification for licensure).

What type of documentation do I need to submit in support of my application if I have a prior conviction or DUI?

In addition to the documents required for licensure, the BRN will require:

  • Certified court documents
  • Arrest report from arresting agency, to include the Blood/Breath Alcohol Content (BAC)
  • A letter of explanation from you- this letter is extremely important. Once it’s submitted, you cannot change it or retract it. Take care in composing it.
  • Evidence of rehabilitation
  • Evidence of professional treatment and counseling you may have completed, with discharge summary
  • Letters of reference from others
  • Proof of community work, schooling, and/or self-improvement efforts
  • Court-issued certificate of rehabilitation, evidence of expungement, proof of compliance with criminal probation or parole, and orders of the court

Can I receive an Interim Permit if my application is under review because of convictions?

when a nursing student has a DUI

I would love for you to check out my new book…..full of insider tips!

No, you are not eligible for an IP until the review has been completed, and a final decision has been made regarding your application.

How long will this take?

It can take several weeks, and in some cases, even much longer.

When you apply, be fully prepared with information regarding your background prior to making application to the BRN. Otherwise, your request for an ATT will be delayed. Enclosing all of your supporting documentation will expedite the process and the review.

Again, be sure to send everything that is requested. If you have completed everything to the best of your ability, and taken care with your letter, then it is now out of your hands.

Try to relax and let go.


Writing a Letter of Explanation to the BRN for DUI 


Good luck!


Until next time,

Nurse Beth

This does not constitute legal advice. Please contact your BRN for more information. 



About Beth Hawkes (141 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.
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