Basketball Coaching Decision Drives Home Long-Term Impact of DUI Convictions

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Last week, University of Delaware officials withdrew an offer to Kevin Willard to join the men's basketball coaching staff at the University. The offer was withdrawn not because new information came to light, and not because the University doubted Willard's skill or ability to do the job, but because Willard had pleaded guilty to a DUI in 2004. Willard had disclosed the DUI in his interview, before the offer was extended.

If you've been charged with, or convicted of, a DUI, you probably know that a drunk driving conviction can impact your employment options. Many of the limitations created by a DUI conviction are logical and unsurprising. For instance, restrictions on your driver's license may preclude you from jobs that require driving, at least in the short-term. And, of course, your ability to drive affects your work options in terms of location and transportation.

Even after your license is restored, many employers will not hire someone with a DUI conviction for a job that requires operating a vehicle-or even machinery like a forklift. In some cases, state or federal law may even create limitations on driving-related employment. In addition, some employers simply won't hire employees with certain types of criminal convictions.

The Delaware decision, though, shines a spotlight on a much broader and higher-stakes risk to future employment prospects. This was a high-profile, highly skilled position for which Willard was one of a small pool of qualified candidates. Willard probably never thought, when he pleaded guilty to the charge more than two years ago, that it would haunt his career prospects. But Delaware's administration took an entirely different view.

A local sportswriter quoted Edgar Johnson, the school's athletic director, as suggesting that the interview committee might not even have invited Willard to interview if its members had been aware of his arrest in advance. Johnson also made it clear that, in the future, if he learned that a candidate had a DUI conviction, the process would end right there.

While it was once a certain sector of employment opportunities that were limited by a DUI conviction, the force of public opinion has clearly expanded that risk, so that no matter what your field, employment prospects must be factored in to your decision as to how to confront DUI charges.


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