There are few things more embarrassing than getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Not only do you have the shame of your own poor judgment, but you’re forced to think about how that lack of judgment could have affected others.
That said, a DUI is a common charge – and not necessarily a sign that you have an alcohol problem. In the state of Virginia alone, there were roughly 27,333 convictions in 2016, according to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). That’s roughly one of every 220 adults. Depending upon the size of your company, a DUI is likely something your HR department has seen dozens of times before. If that wasn’t reason enough to come clean, here are five reasons it’s always a good idea to report a DUI to your employer.
1. If you currently hold a security clearance, it’s a requirement.
If you hold an active federal security clearance, know that reporting a DUI isn’t a matter of embarrassment, it’s a requirement. Self reporting guidelines dictate security clearance holders report arrests. Even if you weren’t put in handcuffs and hauled away by the cops, a DUI is something you need to report to your security officer.
2. Your boss will likely still find out if you don’t pony up the info.
Consider the follow-on steps to a DUI. You’ll need to meet with a lawyer (likely during work hours). You’ll need to make a court appearance (almost assuredly during work hours). You can weave a tangled web of lies as to why you need to miss those days of work – or simply come clean. Keep in mind that judgment and trustworthiness are key aspects of holding and maintaining a security clearance. If you can’t be forthcoming about the relatively minor criminal charge of a DUI, what will happen if you’re faced with an even greater moral dilemma?
3. Continuous Evaluation.
Wondering if you’re one of the nearly one million security clearance holders whose actions are currently monitored under continuous evaluation? Try hiding a DUI charge, and you may find out. Continuous evaluation scans a variety of online databases to find potentially adverse information, which is then reported back to your agency. If you think your employer will be mad about you coming clean with your DUI arrest, consider how much more upset they will be if the government comes to them with that information first.
4. You can provide context.
The problem with your employer finding out about a DUI arrest is it will be hard for them to not consider the worst. There is a huge difference in being slightly over the legal limit (particularly depending on your body type and the type of alcohol consumed), and your blowing double over the limit while behaving biligerantly toward a cop. Even if the facts aren’t on your side, showing your remorse for what was clearly poor judgment is always the best course. And you can also tell your employer the steps you’re taking to remediate the issue – from community service to alcohol awareness training.
5. It’s the right thing to do.
Generally, a single DUI will never pose issues for a security clearance holder or applicant. Multiple DUIs point to an issue with alcohol abuse, and may be an issue. But a single charge, like almost all other issues, can be mitigated. With that in mind, even if you have a clearance, it’s always best to come to your employer early on. Too many applicants wait until after a court appearance to tell their security officer or employer. That’s problematic. It looks like you were trying to hide the charge, and hoping you could get it to disappear in court. Even if the charges were flat out wrong, trying to hide it is like falsifying information on your SF-86. The thing you try would likely not result in clearance denial; trying to hide it most certainly will.