You don't need an attorney to tell you that getting pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) is stressful. Knowing that you could be facing fines, a license suspension, and even jail time makes it difficult to focus on anything else. However, if you're applying to law schools, or are about to graduate and are applying to take the Georgia bar exam, then the thought that a DUI conviction on your criminal record might prevent you from becoming an attorney can make you go insane.
Before you jump off a bridge, though, you should know that having a DUI conviction will not automatically doom you from ever becoming a lawyer.
If you're applying to law schools, and are worried about whether a past DUI will make it more difficult to enroll, you'll have a big decision to make when you come to the law school application's disclosure section. Pretty much every law school has one in their application form, but they all phrase the question slightly differently. Read the question closely. Some ask whether you have been charged with a crime, while others might only ask if you've ever been convicted. If you were charged for DUI, but were never officially convicted, you're in the clear. However, if this doesn't help you, then you should disclose your criminal past: You'll have to go through this whole disclosure process again, if you apply for the Georgia bar exam, and you wouldn't want to go through three years of law school only to find out that you can't sit for the bar when you're done. Additionally, it's much better to come clean at the beginning, and confess to having a criminal background, rather than try to hide it, only to have someone discover your secret. Because then you'll have a DUI on your criminal record, and you'll have lied about it.
This same rule of thumb also applies for the Certification of Fitness Application, which is part of your application to sit for the Georgia state bar exam. The Georgia Office of Bar Admissions is interested in making sure that everyone that passes the bar is an upright citizen. This means that you would have to be honest, and means that you don't have a drug or alcohol addiction. Lying about a past DUI can be very damaging to your reputation of being honest, and can lead to a denial of your application to sit for the Georgia bar. Additionally, admitting to your past DUI does not mean that you have a drug or alcohol addiction. The people at the Office of Bar Admissions knows that DUIs are often little more than mistakes. If you only have one DUI, and it's clear that there is not a trend of substance abuse in your past, then the Office of Bar Admissions is unlikely to make a huge deal out of it. Also, part of your application to sit for the Georgia bar includes official driving records for any state where you've had a driver's license in the past year. Any DUI on your record will likely be found out, regardless of whether you disclose it in your bar application.
If you still have doubts as to whether you'll be able to pass these application processes because of a past DUI, call Lawson and Berry at (404) 816-4440 and set up an appointment. Even if you have a bad-looking criminal history, there are still opportunities to make it clear that it's all behind you, and that you want to be a steady member of the legal community.