Friday, June 28, 2013

A Criminal Conviction Can Impact Your Professional License

Individuals who require a professional license for their livelihood need to understand how a criminal conviction may lead to disciplinary actions by the licensee's governing board, which might include (1) denial of license, (2) suspension of license; (3) probationary status; or (4) revocation of license.

California’s various regulatory boards have the authority to deny, suspend, or revoke a license based upon a licensee's conduct. A license can be denied, suspended, or revoked on any of the following grounds set forth in Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 475(a):

(1) "Knowingly making a false statement of material fact, or knowingly omitting to state a material fact, in an application for a license." [Comment:  This can include failing to disclose an arrest or conviction in the application.]

(2) "Conviction of a crime." [Comment: This includes crimes that were expunged and dismissed after completion of probation.]

(3) "Commission of any act involving dishonesty, fraud or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit himself/herself or another, or substantially injure another." [Comment:  This can include activity for which a criminal action was filed but dismissed without a conviction.]

(4) "Commission of any act which, if done by a licentiate of the business or profession in question, would be grounds for suspension or revocation of license." [Comment: This means commission of any act specifically prohibited by the profession's governing statutes and regulations.]

Even though the above language in Section 475(a) seems very broad, there are some limitations. A licensing board can discipline a licensee's conduct only where there is a "substantial relationship" between to licensee's fitness to practice his or her profession and the licensee's conduct.  Hughes v. Board of Architectural Examiners, 17 Cal. 4th 763, 788 (1988).  Nevertheless, the conduct does not need to have occurred during the licensee’s work in order to be subject to discipline.  See, e.g., Windham v. Board of Medical Quality Assurance, 104 Cal. App. 3d 461 (1980) (tax evasion). In Windham, the court found there was a substantial relationship between the physician's conduct (dishonest tax reporting) and his professional duties: "there is the relation between doctor and patient. It is unnecessary to describe the extent to which that particular relationship is based on utmost trust and confidence in the doctor's honesty and integrity." Id. at 470.

You should assume that any criminal conviction will be considered “substantially related” to your practice. 

If you are licensed, you should be prepared for your licensing board to institute an investigation into the underlying conduct.  A conviction will almost assuredly lead to an Accusation being filed.   You will need competent representation in order to put yourself in the best light possible to minimize potential discipline.

If you are applying for a license and disclosing your background to the licensing board, take care to disclose all convictions, even if they have been expunged.  Lying about your criminal history might be viewed more negatively than the criminal conviction itself.  A competent attorney can help you demonstrate your rehabilitation and fitness to enter the profession.

Posted by Ann C. Schneider, Law Office of Ann C. Schneider.  Ms. Schneider provides representation to licensed professionals throughout the State of California.  Any questions or comments should be directed to Ms. Schneider at; (626) 789-1980.  Ms. Schneider’s website is located at

Ms. Schneider focuses her practice on the representation of licensed professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and family law proceedings, as well as mediation. 

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