Professional licensing agencies may suspend or revoke a license issued for reasons enumerated in the California Business and Professions Code (BPC). For many who have criminal convictions, whether they are doctors, nurses, contractors, they will be served and must defend against an accusation that impacts their careers and livelihood. I had a client come in recently who is a pharmacist and had an underlying drug-related arrest. I did not represent him in his criminal case and he represented himself in his administrative hearing.
The outcome of the hearing meant probation for 5 years with terms that are extensive and very rigid. It is critical to hire an attorney who is experienced in direct and cross-examination, gathering evidence and highly skilled in conducting hearings. In California, the Attorney General (AG) is the representative of the various professional licensing boards. Even prior to the date of the hearings, I worked with the Supervising Deputy AG in providing her mitigating evidence such as character letters and evidentiary documents lessening the culpability of my client.
Even though an early termination of probation and a criminal expungement may not be conclusive in getting the Board to withdraw the accusation, it is an important factor that enables the judge and the board to reconsider the gravity of the charges.
If the board or its designee asks a licensee to provide criminal history information, a licensee shall respond to that request within 30 days. The licensee shall make available all documents and other records requested and shall respond with accurate information.
As a condition of renewal for a license that expires on or after April 1, 2009, a licensee who was initially licensed prior to 1/1/98, or for whom an electronic record of the submission of fingerprints no longer exists, shall furnish to the Department of Justice (DOJ) fingerprints for the purpose of conducting a criminal history record check and to undergo a state and federal level criminal offender record information search through the DOJ.
A licensee shall disclose whether, since the licensee last applied for renewal, he/she has been convicted of any violation of the law in CA. or any other state, the United States, or other country, omitting traffic infractions under $300 not involving alcohol, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances.
I have just mentioned some of the general criminal background checks that are in effect. It is critical that if you have been arrested of a crime, a review of your employee manual is necessary since reporting it to a supervisor may be mandatory. For example, for nurses, sections 2520.4 and 2520.5 of the Vocational Nursing, California Code of Regulations, both the licensee and the employer must report of any act listed in the BPC, Sections 2878, 2878.1 and 2878.5. The report shall be made to the board within a required time period a violation had occurred.
For licensed individuals, in all sorts of professions, if you have been arrested and subsequently convicted of a crime it means facing both the criminal and administrative consequences. It is important that the attorney that you hire for the administrative hearing be aware of the rehabilitation criteria. The Board has the final decision to revoke, suspend, or place the licensee on probation. Keep in mind as well that the facts of the underlying criminal case must be adequately explained to the board and the witnesses for the administrative hearings are generally the same for the administrative hearing.
Having the same criminal and administrative attorney represent the client in both venues is a benefit. I find that since I have knowledge and information about the criminal case and the reasons for the disposition and other critical information are available to me, it is more advantageous to my client. Frankly, to some of my clients, the board hearing is more stressful for them since it ultimately means their livelihood is at stake. While the criminal case if of equal importance, to many they know there is a conclusion to the criminal case. But if their license to work is taken away, it means their professional life is destroyed.