DWI jeopardizes security clearance

DWI is a serious misdemeanor offense in North Carolina. You will face harsh penalties and long-term consequences in your life if you are convicted, including your ability to obtain or keep the security clearance you need for your job.

What Is a Security Clearance?

A security clearance is required to work for some federal government agencies and departments or the military. Certain contractors working with the government or the armed forces must also have a security clearance. The security clearance allows the individual to obtain access to specific classified information they need to perform their job duties. The three main types of security clearances are:

  • Confidential clearance (the lowest level of security clearance)
  • Secret security clearance (a middle level of security clearance)
  • Top-secret security clearance (the highest level of security clearance)

How to Obtain a Security Clearance

There are three stages in the process of getting a security clearance. They include:

  1. Submitting an application for a security clearance
  2. Undergoing a background check
  3. Deciding whether to grant a security clearance

Once the application is submitted and the background check is complete, it can take six months to a year to receive a decision on the request for a security clearance.

How a DWI Can Affect a Security Clearance Application

If you are convicted of a first-offense DWI, it may not affect your ability to obtain or renew a security clearance. The decision would be based on several factors surrounding your arrest and criminal history. The guidelines that could be considered when reviewing your application include:

  • Personal conduct. Guideline E considers your conduct and whether you are trustworthy and can keep secrets. If you try to conceal your DWI or are not truthful when discussing it, this could become a problem for you.
  • Alcohol consumption. Under Guideline G, alcohol consumption can be grounds to deny a security clearance because it can cause poor judgment and a lack of reliability if consumed in excess. Mitigating factors might be considered, such as how long it has been since the DWI conviction, whether you completed an alcohol treatment program, and whether there have been any subsequent DWI arrests.
  • Criminal conduct. Guideline J is concerned with your ability to follow the law and considers whether you regularly are involved in criminal acts. You could be denied a security clearance if you have multiple DWIs.

While DWI is often charged as a misdemeanor, it can be charged as a felony. A felony conviction can make obtaining or renewing a security clearance much more difficult, especially if you are trying to get a secret or top-secret clearance. 

A DWI can also affect your ability to have your security clearance renewed. Each level of security clearance has a different renewal date. A top-secret clearance must be renewed every five years, a secret clearance every ten years, and a confidential clearance must be renewed after 15 years.

Contact a North Carolina DWI Attorney Today

Have you been arrested for DWI in Mecklenburg County? Are you worried about how a conviction would affect your security clearance? You need to retain an experienced DWI lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest. You may have strong defenses to the charges you face—even if you are guilty.

At Browning & Long, PLLC, we understand the severe consequences a DWI can have on your job and other aspects of your life. We will mount an aggressive defense strategy given your circumstances and help you achieve the best outcome in your case. To find out more about how we can assist you, call our Charlotte office at 980-207-3355 or fill out our online form to schedule your free initial consultation today.

Are You Looking for a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charlotte, NC?

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charlotte office directly at 980.207.3355 to schedule your free consultation.


C. Todd Browning
Connect with me
Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer