A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), or even just a DUI charge, can be difficult for anybody. However, if you're applying to go to law school, or to sit for the Georgia bar exam, feeling handcuffs on your wrists after a traffic stop can make your heart sink. It may feel as if all of your hard work is about to get thrown away because of one mistake.
If you're applying to go to law school, you'll have to pay close attention to how each individual application wants you to disclose your criminal history. They'll all ask for it, in their “disclosure” section. However, different law schools phrase their disclosure request differently, and this can be the difference between having to admit your past mistakes, or being allowed to remain silent. Some law schools only ask for past convictions, while others want you to disclose all of your past criminal charges. Make sure you know whether you were convicted for DUI, or whether you were just charged for it. You may not have to disclose your DUI, after all!
Applying to sit for the Georgia bar exam, however, is a little more rigorous. The Georgia Office of Bar Admissions requires that you provide an official driving record from any state where you've had a driver's license in the past year, in addition to your application and your Certification of Fitness Application. No matter what you say in the disclosure section of your Certification of Fitness Application, the admissions committee will likely have evidence of any recent DUIs that you have on your record. This makes it especially important to properly disclose your criminal history on your Certification of Fitness Application. Additionally, the instructions for the Fitness Application make it clear that the committee would rather have you include too much information, rather than leave some out: “If there is concern whether your situation falls within the scope of a particular question, it is best to assume it does.” When in doubt, disclose!
The good news is that, whether you're applying to law school, or applying to sit for the Georgia bar exam, both admissions committees are aware that people make mistakes. They know that it's a reality of life that some people have DUIs in their past, and want to move on. On the other hand, they want to make sure that the people that they're allowing to become lawyers are honest, upright people. These admissions committees, therefore, want to make sure that you're not covering anything up on your applications, and also that you do not have a drug or alcohol dependency. If you're caught not disclosing a DUI that you should have disclosed on your applications, this is often a more serious offense than the DUI, itself.
In the end, isolated DUI charges, or even convictions, are often seen by admissions committees as mistakes that they are willing to look past. However, if there is a trend of drug or alcohol related offenses in your past, then you may have more difficulty getting past the application stage, and may need to take additional steps to show that you're moving on from your past.
If you're still unsure of whether your past DUI will be a problem when you apply to law school or to sit for the Georgia bar, call me at my law office: (404) 816-4440.