California nurses may be prosecuted for after-hours behavior

State court confirmed nursing board's rights to punish nurses off the clock

The California Supreme Court this week reaffirmed an appellate court decision allowing the California Board of Registered Nursing to discipline a nurse for driving under the influence, even though the incident was unrelated to his job.

In August 2009, a licensed Silicon Valley nurse was arrested after he was involved in a car accident and found to have a blood alcohol level that was twice the legal limit. The nurse pleaded no contest to the charges, and a judge placed him on probation.

After the incident, the Board of Registered Nursing put the nurse on probation for three years, which also means he could lose his license for any additional misconduct.

A Superior Court judge overturned the Board's action, ruling that licensed professionals can only be disciplined for actions related to their work or qualifications.

Then a state appellate court reinstated the Board's order, saying state law allows disciplinary action of nurses who misuse alcohol on or off the job in a way that endangers other people.

The nurse then appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court's decision leaves the appellate court's decision intact and the ruling will be held as binding precedent for trial courts throughout the state (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8).



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