A licensed nurse involved in a one-car collision while driving home from a party was subsequently convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit.
Based on this conviction, the Board of Registered Nursing (Board) found that the nurse had acted unprofessionally pursuant to a statute defining as unprofessional conduct the use of alcohol in a manner dangerous to him or herself or others, or the conviction of an offense involving the consumption of alcohol. The nurse’s license was revoked, but the revocation was stayed subject to three years probation.
The nurse filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate in the superior court, which granted the writ. Due process mandates that a professional license is a property right which cannot be taken away in the absence of a nexus between the conduct upon which the discipline was based and the licensee’s fitness to practice the profession. The trial court held that because the Board specifically found the nurse’s single conviction was not substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a registered nurse, imposing disciplinary action would violate due process.
The Board appealed, arguing that the statute in question establishes a conclusive presumption that certain types of alcohol-related misconduct warrant professional discipline. The appellate court agreed, holding that the state legislature could authorize professional discipline based upon an alcohol-related conviction or the use of alcohol in a dangerous way. The court noted the nurse's conviction of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher related to the practice of the nurse’s particular profession and demonstrated an unfitness to practice that profession. Thus, use of the conviction as a basis for revocation of the nurse's license satisfied due process, even if the nurse's “conduct was not substantially related to [the] professional qualifications” for purposes of the licensing statutes, where a statute created a conclusive presumption that the nurse's conviction and use of alcohol in a dangerous manner amounted to unprofessional conduct.
See: Sulla v. Board of Registered Nursing, 2012 WL 1605986, 12 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 5089 (Cal.App. 1 Dist. Apr 19, 2012) (not designated for publication).