Security Clearances and DUIs

Virginia and Washington, D.C., are hotbeds for federal jobs, and many of these jobs require security clearances. If your job requires a security clearance and you are facing DUI charges, you may be concerned that your career is in jeopardy. Or, if you are applying for a job that requires a security clearance and you have an old DUI on your record, you might wonder if this will ruin your chances of getting hired.

At S.L. England, PLLC, our attorneys understand the security clearance process and how a DUI can affect your career. We can provide you with the best legal advice and fight for you in any level court if you are facing DUI charges.


security clearance shows that you are “reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the United States.” The three levels of security clearance are Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret, and your level indicates your ability to access classified information. 

To obtain a security clearance, you must first get a job that requires one. Some government contractors may require you to obtain a security clearance, but only a federal agency can grant it.

Jobs that require security clearances are typically in one of four industries: federal law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic agencies, or civilian military agencies. Your job offer will be contingent upon obtaining your security clearance because the background check can only begin after you accept an employment offer and your employer fills out the paperwork. Your background check may take several months or more than a year to complete.

An investigator will contact you for an in-person interview, and they verify the information in your application, including your residences, education, and work history. They may contact your current or former neighbors, coworkers, and classmates as well as law enforcement agencies in all the places you have lived or worked. The investigator completes a report of their findings, and then adjudicators compare the findings in the report to the adjudicative guidelines for security clearances. You will then be informed whether your security clearance is granted or denied.

Once you are granted a security clearance, you must be re-investigated  periodically, depending on what type of clearance you hold. Confidential clearances must be re-investigated every 15 years, Secret every 10 years, and Top Secret every five years.


The background check to obtain a security clearance delves deep into your criminal history, and this includes any DUIs. Simply having a DUI in your criminal history does not result in automatic denial for a security clearance, nor do you automatically lose your current clearance. What happens depends on the details of your specific case.

Very few people have a completely spotless record. Background checks take a “whole person” approach. If you have a DUI on your record, the adjudicator considers your motivation, the seriousness of the offense, the circumstances and frequency of your conduct, when your DUI occurred, and the likelihood that you will get another DUI.

The decision to grant your security clearance is based on 13 criteria, but five relate to DUI: personal conduct, alcohol consumption, drug involvement, psychological conditions, and criminal conduct.

A first-offense misdemeanor DUI with a “reasonable” BAC at the time of your arrest will likely not affect your security clearance. If your BAC was two or three times the legal limit, if this is a second or subsequent DUI arrest, or if you have a history of alcohol-related offenses, your security clearance may be denied. This is evidence of ongoing judgement errors, and that your past behavior might be indicative of your current behavior.

If you currently hold a security clearance and have recently been convicted of a DUI, you can lose your security clearance for several reasons, including:

  • Conviction for a serious crime related to your DUI, or multiple lesser offenses
  • Giving false information regarding your DUI
  • Multiple alcohol-related incidents
  • Medical diagnosis of alcohol abuse
  • Relapse after successfully completing treatment
  • Pattern of high-risk or unstable behavior
  • Reports from previous employers or neighbors of alcohol-related unsavory behavior


Standard Form 86 (SF-86) is the form used to apply for security clearances. You should be completely honest when filling out this form, and do not leave anything out. Failing to disclose everything can subject your application to additional scrutiny, and this can delay your security clearance for up to a year.

The SF-86 asks you to disclose any arrests. You must disclose these whether or not you were convicted. Read the form carefully because some questions ask you to disclose incidents from the past seven years, while others ask if you “have ever” done something.

When you disclose the information about your DUI, you need to list the exact charge you were arrested for. Failing to report this may lead the investigator to believe that you intentionally falsified information.

In Virginia, you must complete the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) if you are convicted of a DUI. This program is not alcohol treatment. Listing this mandatory course as alcohol treatment on the SF-86 may delay your security clearance by creating the incorrect assumption that you have or had an alcohol addiction.

VASAP provides you with a specified number of hours of alcohol education based on your level of dependence. Treatment programs that must be disclosed on your SF-86 include diagnosis by a medical professional and substantial counseling. 


If you hold a security clearance or have recently accepted a job that requires one and are facing DUI charges in Virginia or Washington, D.C., you need aggressive, experienced legal representation from S.L. England, PLLC, to protect your future. A misdemeanor DUI arrest will likely not affect your security clearance, but facing serious charges along with a DUI, or if this is not your first DUI arrest, could jeopardize your employment.

A strong defense is imperative to protecting your future. Unlike most other attorneys, we have actual courtroom experience in front of judges and juries, and our attorneys can represent you in any level court. Call us today at (202) 489-0720 or contact us online.

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