Getting convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) in Georgia is an important life event, for all the wrong reasons. However, there are some circumstances that could make a DUI even more serious, because the criminal charge or conviction could have a negative impact on other areas of your life, as well. One of these circumstances is when you are applying to go to law school, or to take the bar exam in Georgia.
On your applications to law school or to sit for the bar, the general rule of thumb is to make it clear that you are being honest, and to avoid looking like you are trying to cover things up. In the eyes of many admissions committees, covering up your past criminal activity is a much more serious offense than the crime itself.
If you have a DUI on your record, pay attention to how a law school phrases its “disclosure” section of their application. Nearly all law schools have these sections, calling on the applicant to disclose his or her past criminal history. However, few of their disclosure sections are the same. Make sure that you read the entire prompt, because the exact wording that they use on their application might make a huge difference. Some will ask whether you have “ever been charged of a crime,” but others are only interested in criminal convictions. If you were charged for DUI, but acquitted at trial, then you would have to say “yes” to the first, but would be able to say “no” to the second.
If you have finished law school, or are about to finish, then you will have to worry about the application for the Georgia bar exam. This application includes the Certification of Fitness Application, which tries to determine if your character is up to the rigorous demands of being an attorney. The instructions for this Application expressly states that you should err on the side of over-inclusion of your past criminal history: “If there is concern whether your situation falls within the scope of a particular question, it is best to assume it does.”
Additionally, the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions requires that you send in, along with your application, an official driving record from any state where you had a license in the past year. These records will likely include any DUI infractions that you have had, so any nondisclosure on your Certification of Fitness Application would easily be found out.
Again, nondisclosure of a past DUI is often seen as more telling of your character and fitness than the DUI itself. Admission committees are aware that people make mistakes, and are often willing to overlook those that happened deep in the past, as long as it is clear that you have moved on from them. With that said, one of the things that the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions looks for in its Certification of Fitness Application is drug or alcohol dependency. An isolated DUI will likely not pose much of a problem, in this respect. However, regular drug or alcohol infractions will likely raise red flags.
If, after reading this post, you are still worried about whether your past DUI would prevent you from successfully enrolling in law school or sitting for the Georgia bar, call me at (404) 816-4440.