Can You Get a Security Clearance With a DUI? - Ervin Kibria Law

May 13, 2019by Chris Lovos

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The largest sectors of employment in the Washington DC and surrounding metro area are the federal government, government contracting and the armed forces. A large majority of the DC metro population is employed in the government sector, in the three specific areas we have just mentioned. As such, almost all those who work in the government sector are required to obtain and maintain a security clearance in order to obtain and retain positions in the government sector.

Being arrested for a criminal offense or driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington DC can seriously affect your security clearance, if you have one or are seeking one. If you have been arrested for committing a crime or have a criminal history, many issues may arise with regards to government sector employment, whether you already have a security clearance or are trying to obtain a security clearance. This post is designed to answer frequently asked questions regarding the effect of criminal offenses and DUI charges on the security clearance application of an individual.

What Exactly Is Security Clearance?

Individuals who work for certain government agencies, departments, government contractors and the military/armed forces are normally required to obtain a security clearance in order to access information that is classified, where access to such information is a critical aspect of their specific job or position. To facilitate access to classified information, the government has put in place regulations for the issuance of licenses which permit only specific people access to this classified and sensitive information. These licenses are known as security clearances. There are three main types of security clearances.

First, there is the Confidential Clearance of security which is the lowest security clearance available. Above this, there is the Secret Security Clearance. At the very top is the Top-Secret Security Clearance designation.  There are also the Controlled Unclassified and Public Trust designations. However, these two designations are not technically designated as security clearances, but to obtain a Controlled Unclassified or Public Trust designation, one usually, still, must undergo a thorough background check, just as one would when seeking one of the designated security clearances described above. The classified information that one needs to access or allowed to access is usually determined by the level of security clearance that one must obtain and maintain.

How Does One Go About Getting A Security Clearance?

There are three stages to obtaining a security clearance. The first stage requires the submission of an application for clearance. The next phase requires undergoing a background check. The final phase is the actual adjudication of the application. The adjudication can take around six months to one year.

How Long Does It Take Before A Security Clearance Has to Be Renewed?

Individuals who are in possession of security clearances can face varying difficulties when trying to renew their existing clearance. Clearances designated as top secret have to be renewed after five years. Secret security clearances have to be renewed every decade and confidential security clearances must be renewed after fifteen years.

Can One Get Disqualified from Getting Clearance If They Have an Arrest Record or Criminal History?

This is a complicated question and the answer usually depends on several different factors. Addicts or users of prohibited drugs may not be denied the chance to get clearance solely based on their use of such drugs. However, actually being charged with a DUI or arrested for the use of drugs by law enforcement can negatively affect the chances of one obtaining, renewing or keeping their current security clearance designation. There are some crimes that involve dishonesty and/or moral character/integrity, better known as crimes involving moral turpitude, that can immediately disqualify an individual from getting a security clearance. Some of these crimes include theft, perjury and embezzlement. Additionally, crimes or felony convictions that make one susceptible to blackmail can bar or disqualify one from getting a security clearance.

Can A Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Charge Affect an Individual’s Security Clearance?

An arrest and/or conviction of driving under the influence (DUI) can have grave consequences for those with security clearances or those looking to obtain a security clearance. Some of these consequences include the potential loss of an existing clearance designation and/or total disqualification from receiving clearance. Keep in mind, though, that a DUI charge or conviction does not lead to automatic disqualification. Like other licenses, before losing the privileges associated with a security clearance there is a review process afforded to the holder of the clearance. The government agencies charged with carrying out the review process, when examining an individual with a DUI charge on their record, must look at other pertinent factors in an individual’s history, including whether they have a criminal history beyond the DUI charge. The specific time when an individual was convicted is also considered (i.e. were they very young and in college? Or were they a fully informed adult who should have known better?) as well as other factors relevant to the case. The individual whose clearance is being reviewed is also given an opportunity to argue/defend their position. If an adverse verdict is reached by the review body, one is also given the chance to appeal.

The denial or loss of security clearance designation can have grave impacts on the financial status of an individual. If one is working as a government contractor, the loss of security clearance can potentially lead to monetary losses which, many times, can be calculated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The loss of a security clearance can also lead to one losing their job/position in the government section altogether. Whether or not a security clearance will be terminated depends on many factors, but one of the main factors is the outcome of any pending criminal charges leveled against an individual. For this reason, if you have a security clearance and have been arrested on the suspicion of committing a crime, immediately contact the expert and experienced attorneys at Ervin Kibria Law in Washington, DC to get an expert evaluation of your case and the options available to maintain your security clearance while defending a criminal or DUI charge. Ervin Kibria Law has successfully represented, and continues to represent, hundreds of individuals, annually, who hold confidential level, secret level and top-secret level security clearances.


Chris Lovos