Do you want to be a firefighter? Have you been arrested for a DUI? If convicted, you may have a hard time becoming a firefighter, but the possibility is definitely not out of the question.
Laws pertaining to the hiring of firefighters and determining their fitness to serve vary by county and state. Different departments also have their own policies in place regarding prior convictions, including DUIs.
Despite these differences, all firefighter candidates must “pass” a Bureau of Criminal Investigation background check. The good news is, however, that the decision often rests in the hands of the hiring manager, keeping alive the possibility of becoming a firefighter with a DUI.
While an understaffed department with a lower candidate pool may be willing to overlook a single misdemeanor DUI, there are certain automatic disqualifiers, such as:
• Felony Conviction
Getting a job after a DUI is tough enough, but becoming a firefighter with a DUI felony conviction is all but impossible. If you’re convicted of a felony DUI, you will not be able to pursue a firefighter career.
• Probation and Injury
Can you be a firefighter with a DUI? Not if your DUI resulted in injury to property or another person. You also won’t be considered for employment if you’re on court-ordered probation or have yet to have your driving privileges restored.
Most fire departments across the U.S. treat DUIs and certain other prior convictions as discretionary qualifiers. A discretionary qualifier may prevent you from becoming a firefighter, but the decision is ultimately made by the hiring manager.
Deciding to hire a candidate with a DUI conviction is no easy task for a hiring manager to make. However, there are some deciding factors that often play a large role in the hiring decision, including:
• Date of the Offense
The odds of becoming a firefighter with a DUI are much better the further in the past the offense took place. When deciding whether to hire or pass on a candidate with a DUI or DWI, nearly all fire departments consider the date of the offense first. If it happened five years ago and no other offenses have taken place since the department hiring manager may be more open to hiring the candidate.
• Pattern of Misbehavior
Like many employers, fire departments tend to look at patterns of misbehavior that may impact a candidate’s ability to adequately fulfill the duties of a firefighter. Therefore, many fire departments automatically disqualify any candidate with more than one DUI or DWI conviction.
• Ownership and Remorse
If convicted of a DUI, it’s important to take ownership of the lapse in judgment and show remorse for your actions. When conveyed sincerely, the hiring manager will be more inclined to overlook the infraction and offer you the job.
• Action and Change
It’s equally important to take actions demonstrating how much you’ve grown and changed as a result of your DUI conviction. By volunteering at a sober living facility, being an M.A.D.D. advocate, and showing how much your experience has changed you for the better, you’ll greatly increase your chances of landing the job.
What You Need to Know
Some fire departments operate via a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to DUIs and similar convictions. So, if you’ve been convicted of a DUI, you should contact your local department to learn about its official policy prior to applying.
As mentioned above, time is very important. The more time that has passed since your DUI conviction, the better your chances of being hired. Everyone, even the most decorated firemen in the department, has done things they’re not proud of. They’re people too, and most realize the fact that we all make mistakes.
If you have a DUI conviction on your background yet make it through to the panel interview, psychological exam, and the other later stages of the firefighter hiring process, consider it a victory won. This means despite your past mistakes, they’re potentially willing to add you to the team.
Nonetheless, it goes without saying that a DUI conviction doesn’t look good on your record and won’t do you any favors in your interview. That’s why it’s important to choose a DUI lawyer who will fight for you and your future by thoroughly examining the evidence and exhausting all possible options before advising a guilty plea.
Succeed as a Firefighter Despite a DUI
Getting a job after a DUI and succeeding as a firefighter means you must successfully navigate the interview process. If you’re not asked about your DUI, don’t make the mistake of bringing it up.
While you may feel like you’re being dishonest and hiding something, you’re not. If the hiring managers have performed a BCI background check, which they almost certainly have, they already know about your DUI. So, there’s no sense reminding them.
Your single objective during the interview is to make yourself appear as the best firefighter candidate for the department. Bringing up a negative aspect of your past they’re already aware of will not help you achieve your goal.
Although you shouldn’t freely offer damaging information, you shouldn’t lie about your DUI conviction when asked about it either. If you’re caught lying in your interview or throughout any part of the hiring process, you can say goodbye to your dream of being a firefighter as your chances of being hired will be slim to none. Remember, everyone has made mistakes in their past, and any reasonable hiring manager will understand this fact.
It’s also important to take action and ownership of your lapse in judgment and the mistake you made. The primary pillars of the firefighting community are responsibility and accountability. If you try to deflect blame for your mistake, you’ll erase any chances of making it past the interview.
Ask yourself, “What have I done to show I’ve learned from my mistake, and what actions have I taken to ensure I never repeat it?” While everyone makes mistakes, very few can show they have truly changed. Your ability to do so will determine whether you get hired for the job or get passed over.
For example, let’s say you’re 27 now, but you were arrested for a DUI when you were 23. Four years have passed with no other incidents, so time is working in your favor.
Now, consider what you’ve done during this time. Has it impacted your life so greatly that you quit drinking altogether? Do you now volunteer to help drunk driving accident victims? It needs to be your goal to convey what actions you’ve taken to demonstrate how much you’ve learned from your mistake. Simply saying, “I learned my lesson and no longer drink and drive” won’t cut it.
The bottom line is to admit your mistake, take ownership of it, and show the actions you’ve taken since to better yourself and your community. If you’re able to do this, your chances of being hired as a fireman despite your DUI will greatly increase. Even if you don’t get hired, it will be a huge step in the right direction and you’ll earn the respect of the person interviewing you.
Get Representation Today!
Can you be a firefighter with a DUI? Sure you can, but it’s much better to avoid being convicted of a DUI in the first place. To do so, you’ll need excellent legal representation. Contact a lawyer today for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.