Occupational Therapists (OTs) Arrested for DUI in California Face Investigation by the Board of Occupational Therapy Within Days of Arrest

California Occupational Therapists (OTs) arrested for DUI can now expect investigation letters from the Board of Occupational Therapy (CBOT) within days of arrest. CBOT receives notice of the arrest from the California Department of Justice, which cross-references criminal records against professional licensing records.  Occupational Therapists can expect a letter from the Board requesting a detailed description of the events that led to the arrest under penalty of perjury along with case information for the pending criminal case.

Traditionally, California licensing agencies have waited for a conviction before requesting information about a criminal arrest or conviction.  The reason may be that, in the past, agencies did not receive notification of arrests.  In any event, an arrest is not grounds for disciplinary action.  Criminal convictions, on the other hand, may be cause for suspension or revocation of a professional license, but only if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession.  See Business and Professions Code section 490 (b). 

As to the question of whether one conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol is substantially related to the qualifications of an Occupational Therapist, there are no precedents; however, this author has litigated the issue in the Superior Court against the Medical Board and the Board of Registered Nursing.  In the Medical Board case, the Superior Court overturned the denial of a medical license based on one DUI conviction.  In the Board of Registered Nursing case, the Superior Court overturned a disciplinary order of probation against an R.N. based on one DUI conviction.  

The Board of Occupational Therapy's request for a statement prior to completion of the criminal case creates a trap for the unwary.  Assuming the possibility of dismissal of criminal charges or acquittal after trial, admitting guilt would be a mistake. On the other hand, proclaiming innocence would be a mistake for an OT who is eventually convicted.  The Board of Occupational Therapy cannot compel a licensee to make a written statement, however, it may be advisable to cooperate by stating undisputed facts such as the date of arrest, charges and blood alcohol concentration.  An OT should obtain legal advice prior to responding to the Board's inquiry.