Subscribe to LexTalk to stay on top of today’s legal issue and trends.
Catapult Your Career |
Industry Insights & Trends |
Product Training & Tips
For people whose jobs require a security clearance, a DUI arrest or conviction can pose a significant problem. The White House has published Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information and “alcohol consumption” is included as a concern to be addressed when determining security clearance eligibility. Guideline G states that “excessive alcohol consumption often leads to the exercise of questionable judgement or the failure to control impulses, and can raise questions about an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness.” The Guidelines go on to list “Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying” and have included “alcohol-related incidents away from work, such as driving while under the influence, fighting, child or spouse abuse, disturbing the peace, or other incidents of concerns, regardless of whether the individual is diagnosed as an alcohol abuser or alcohol dependent.” Clearly, the United States government would consider a DUI as something that could disqualify someone from a obtaining a necessary security clearance. This can potentially be devastating for those who require a security clearance for their employment.
A criminal background search will be conducted anytime someone is applying for a security clearance. A DUI conviction can be something that would potentially jeopardize an applicant’s eligibility for a security clearance. The Guidelines list several mitigating factors that can be taken into account when making a determination regarding security clearance eligibility. Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include if a significant amount of time has passed since the incident, if the applicant has acknowledged the problem and taken steps to overcome his or her issues, if the applicant is a current employee in a counseling or treatment program and does not have a history of relapsing, and if the applicant has completed inpatient or outpatient counseling or rehabilitation and has made good progress.
This means that having a DUI conviction on one’s record, especially one that may have occurred years or decades ago, may not prevent a person from obtaining a security clearance in all cases. If the applicant has a prior conviction, it may be helpful to have the conviction expunged although the background check conducted for a security clearance would likely show that there once was a conviction even if it was subsequently expunged. It also would be helpful to show that the applicant has completed an alcohol education program. In Los Angeles, completion of a program is required for anyone convicted of DUI. The California DMV also requires this as a prerequisite to having one’s driving privileges restored.
Interim security clearances can be denied when a DUI incident is discovered or disclosed by the applicant. The issue can be mitigated by other information obtained during the security clearance investigation. This mitigating information must be provided before an investigation has been completed. While a DUI conviction may jeopardize a person’s current security clearance or eligibility to obtain a security clearance, mitigating factors are taken into account and the security office may be willing to grant the security clearance if there are compelling mitigating factors.