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Is driving with an open non-alcoholic beer illegal and are there specific ramifications for nurses who do so?

Wednesday April 16, 2014
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Dear Nancy,

Is driving with open non-alcoholic beer illegal and are there specific ramifications for nurses who do so?

Merideth



Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Merideth,

Your question is well-beyond the scope of this column, but a few general comments can be made. One thing to keep in mind is that open container laws are state-specific, so what might be OK in one state may not be in another.

Many state open-container (meaning the seal of the bottle has been broken) laws often are based on federal guidelines, which apparently differentiate between low alcohol, no alcohol and alcohol-free liquids. Clearly, the specifics of the law would have to be met if one was stopped and had a non-alcohol, open container in the car, including if it was in reach of the driver, what the percentage of alcohol the beverage contained, and so forth.

Since you are a nurse licensee, it is best not to place yourself in a situation where you have any open alcoholic beverage, including a low, no or alcohol-free beverage in your car. You may be ticketed with a DUI and/or face other criminal charges.

Being convicted of a DUI and/or other similar charges can create problems for you with the state board of nursing. More and more states are looking at DUI convictions of licensed health care professionals as unprofessional conduct. Because you are a professional, you don't leave that status at the door of your facility or your home. You are expected to be a professional at all times, even when not at work. Drinking and driving places the public at risk and is not consistent with professional conduct. Based on the state nurse practice act and rules, such a conviction can be problematic for the nurse licensee.


Cordially,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.