Security Clearance and Criminal/DUI Charges FAQ

Getting arrested for a DUI in DC or another criminal offense can have a serious impact on an individual’s security clearance. In addition, someone who has past criminal charges applying for a security clearance may have issues obtaining the clearance depending on several factors. The purpose of this post is to answer some frequently asked questions about the impact of DUI or criminal charges on an individual’s security clearance.

What is a security clearance?

Military personnel, government employees, and government contractors may need access to certain classified information as part of their jobs. Accordingly, the federal government has devised a regulatory scheme to issue licenses for individuals to access this information. There are typically three types of security clearances. A confidential security clearance is the lowest level of clearance. Second, a secret clearance is the next level up. Finally, top secret is the highest level of clearance. Public Trust and Controlled Unclassified are lower designations that do not constitute security clearances but typically involve a background check. The level of access to information needed will usually determine what level of clearance the applicant needs.

What is the process for applying for a clearance?

To obtain a security clearance, an applicant must go through three phases. First, the applicant must submit an application. Second, the applicant must undergo a background check. Finally, the request is adjudicated, which can take 6 months to a year.

How often must security clearances be renewed?

People with security clearances who get arrested can run into a number of problems including trouble renewing their clearance. Top secret clearances must be renewed every five years. Secret clearances must be renewed every ten years and confidential clearances are renewed every fifteen years.

Will an arrest or conviction disqualify an applicant for a clearance?

The answer to this complicated question is that it depends. Security clearances may not be given to individuals who unlawfully use or are addicted to drugs. Accordingly, a drug arrest or DUI charges can adversely affect an applicant’s ability to obtain, renew, or keep a security clearance. In addition, crimes involving dishonesty like theft, embezzlement, or perjury can disqualify an individual for a security clearance. In addition, a felony conviction or a crime that makes an individual vulnerable to blackmail could disqualify or bar an individual from obtaining a security clearance.

Will a DUI affect my security clearance?

Getting arrested, charged, and convicted for DUI can have tons of adverse consequences. And, yes, one of them is potentially loss of security clearance or disqualifying someone from obtaining a security clearance. However, a DUI is not an automatic bar. Like most licenses, the security clearance review is a process. Government agencies responsible for issuing the clearance will typically review an applicant and consider all relevant factors in the person’s background, including any criminal conduct. In addition to the conduct itself, the agency will consider whether the individual was convicted, how long ago it occurred, and other mitigating factors. The applicant or security clearance holder will also have an opportunity to present mitigating factors and an opportunity to appeal an adverse decision.

Being denied a security clearance or losing a security can have a serious impact on a person’s financial situation. A government contractor could lose thousands or potentially millions of dollars from being disqualified for criminal conduct that adversely affects their clearance. An individual could lose a job if they lose their clearance. It is also possible, the decision on the clearance could turn on whether the individual gets convicted of the charged offense. Accordingly, if you have a security clearance and have been arrested, contact Scrofano Law PC immediately for a full case evaluation.

Additional Resources:

All About Security Clearances, United States Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

What are background checks and security clearances, USA Jobs.

Additional Blog Post:

DC DUI or DWI Conviction: Part II Collateral ConsequencesFebruary 16, 2014, No Papered: A Washington DC DUI Lawyer Blog.