I’m wondering if I can become a Police Officer with a DWI? DUI? OVI? OUI? DUID?– 27 emails and comments later, time to write this post…
The answer to whether you can be a law enforcement officer with a DWI or DUI hinges on many factors. First, let’s quickly go over the meaning of each offense.
DWI vs. DUI vs. OVI vs. OUI vs. OWI vs. DUID
- DWI — Driving While Intoxicated
- DUI — Driving Under Influence
- OVI — Operating Vehicle [while] Intoxicated
- OUI — Operating Under Influence
- OWI — Operating While Intoxicated
- DUID — Driving Under Influence [of] Drugs
Don’t they all mean the same thing? Yes and no…
- There are those that say that, except for DUID, all other are often classified as one and the same, but vary because of regional differences / legislature
- Or some who state that many police departments qualify a DUI, DWI, and so on as either an alcohol or drug related offense (sometimes both, if you were drinking while high or high while drinking)
- And then, there are some that say that a DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, prescription pills, etc.; while a DWI means driving while intoxicated with alcohol
- Also, a more realistic explanation of the difference between DUI and DWI is the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) in your system:
- if your BAC was 0.08 or below, it’s a DUI (in most cases resulting in a fine, jail for the day/night, and car being impounded)
- if your BAC was 0.08 or more, it’s a DWI (in most cases resulting in a stiffer fine than of a DUI, possible prison time, and car being impounded)
- this explanation varies from state to state; while some states and jurisdictions may not acknowledge the difference
Classification of whether it was an alcohol or drug related offense is one of the factors that may determine if you are eligible to become a police officer.
It Was Alcohol
How recent was the offense? Was this your first DUI? Did you cause bodily injury or death to others while intoxicated? Did you damage property other than your own? Did you have car insurance? Did you pay for the damages? Do you find yourself needing a drink often / once in a while?– These are only some of the questions you may have to answer during the interview; granted, the police agency will even invite you thus far.
Your chances of becoming a police officer with an alcohol related DUI or DWI, even when expunged, are statistically MUCH lower than of a person without such offenses or minor traffic violations. That’s still better than having to explain this…
It Was Drugs
On top of the questions in the alcohol section, you may be asked: What drug(s) were you on when committing the offense? Are you still using? – Of course, there may be way more questions.
Your chances of becoming a police officer with a drug related DUI — DWI — DUID, even when expunged, are way lower than of a person with an alcohol related offense and exponentially lower than compared with an individual without such offenses or minor traffic violations.
Your Life is NOT OVER
While in reality you may get drilled more about your DWI / DUI / OVI / OUI or DUID, than those without such offenses, you still have a shot. Yes, the chances are lower, but don’t write yourself off just yet.
- Some police agencies are much more lenient than others – they will consider all the circumstances surrounding your offense
- Others may be strict, but in dire need of police officers – usually they would deny your application, but this time they may give you a shot after diligent scrutiny
- And, of course, there are the absolutist police departments – zero tolerance policy for all applicants
All this varies through foreseeable factors, like the State the police agency is located in or simply legislature, to the not-so-foreseeable ones, like: individual perspectives and decisions of the panel on the day of your review
No matter what department you apply to, even the one borderline-lenient, you will be asked questions and will be scrutinized. Remember that all law enforcement agencies want the best applicants, so other factors will come into play such as your prior experience, morals, character, social skills, physical fitness, health, academics, and more.
- The more polished your resume is, the more of a chance you have obtaining a criminal justice career
- The more improved you and your life circumstances are, the higher the chance you may be considered
- The older the DUI / DWI is, the better
- You may need to consider moving to a city, county, or state that has more lenient policies — You won’t need to move or commute until you get the final offer in writing, granted you pass everything else; including the panel Q&A.
- Some agencies may take candidates with a DUI / DWI offense only on a case by case basis and consider further – more positive – attributes of the potential recruit (like some listed above). There are no guarantees.
- Some agencies will never consider you if you had a DUI/DWI/OVI
Find Out About DUI / DWI Hiring Policies
- The best and probably the most anonymous place to start is the website of the law enforcement agency. Many medium-sized, or larger, police agencies provide tons of info to potential recruits. DUIs and DWIs criteria may be explained there.
- Request a recruiting brochure from the agency. Usually you can find one on the website or by calling the agency.
- You might be able to find out by going to a career fair where the police agency has presence. You can ask a representative on the policies and still remain fairly anonymous. These career fairs or open houses do not happen often (once a year, usually) and are very often located at colleges and universities, police departments, although they may be convening in larger convention centers, too.
- Call the agency in question and try asking over the phone — don’t dial 911, like one of my readers did — you may also try contacting the human resources department of the agency if the general info line doesn’t pay off
- Ask a police officer next time you see him or her at a local diner; or next time you try to explain yourself from a speeding ticket; also consider going to the police department itself and flat out asking.
If you work for a law enforcement agency and know how alcohol and drug related DUI / DWI offenses are handled in your city, county, or state, — and how they may affect potential police officers — please shed some light in the comments section below. Thanks.
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