If you are facing a criminal charge in California and are the holder of a state-issued professional license, a conviction could have major impacts on your future career.
You cannot afford to simply ignore these potential impacts until it is too late. You have worked too hard for your license, both as to fulfilling prerequisite training and as to going through a tedious, expensive license application process.
At California License Attorney, we have deep experience in defending a wide variety of California professional licenses against all manner of allegations. We understand both how the administrative process works and how a court ruling can affect your license for good or for ill.
Our team of experienced license defense lawyers can help guide you through the entire process, step by step, of counteracting both criminal charges and formal accusations brought against your and your license.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation on the details of your case, feel free to contact us 24/7 at 888-959-0068.
When Will a Criminal Conviction Result in Professional Discipline?
Although facing a criminal charge, whether misdemeanor or felony, or even a mere infraction, are certainly "bad publicity" (if the case becomes known to potential clients) and carry their own penalties if you are convicted, not all criminal charges automatically lead to an action being taken against your professional license.
And the same basic principal applies to past criminal convictions. If and in what way they affect your license depends on the nature of the offense and other relevant case-specific details.
The basic rule is that the criminal charge/conviction must bear a "substantial relationship" to the duties or standards of professional conduct expected of someone holding your type of license. But prosecutors will seek to expansively interpret the term "substantial relationship," so you will need to counter their legal moves with a skilled license defense lawyer fighting in your corner.
Other factors that may come into play at an administrative hearing by a licensing board or in the board's private assessment of your case (and which may lead them to administer professional discipline or not) include:
- The offense's classification as felony, misdemeanor, or infraction. Any of these can lead to discipline, but the more egregious the offense, the more likely discipline is and the more severe it will be if administered.
- The status of the charge. If you were arrested or given a citation by a police officer but never formally charged by the D.A., you stand a better chance of avoiding professional discipline.
- The nature of the specific crime and whether or not it counts as a crime of "moral turpitude," which indicates a particularly vile, reckless, or morally depraved offense. A mere regulatory violation would not be as egregious as a crime of moral turpitude, though breaking regulations can still lead to discipline.
- The type of professional license you hold and which board you are dealing with is also a huge factor. Some licensing boards/agencies are harsher than others. Medical licenses, for example, are suspended for any and all felonies and often even for a misdemeanor allegation that has not even been proved.
- Whether or not the license holder was already on license probation or on probation to the court when the new alleged violation took place.
- How long the license holder has conducted his/her practice without any formal discipline before the crime was charged.
- Whether the licensee has taken any substantial rehabilitative efforts (this especially though not exclusively applies to drug and alcohol rehab).
- If the case has already been resolved, how it was resolved is relevant. Possible case resolutions include: plead guilty, was found guilty, sentenced to jail and/or probation, charge was reduced and sentence lightened based on mitigating factors, alternative or "diversion" sentencing, deferred entry of judgment, dismissal of the charges as unsubstantiated, and found innocent at a jury trial.
What Kinds of Professional Discipline Could I Face?
The licensing board may react to a criminal conviction or proceeding against you in various ways. It is possible they will wait for the result of the trial or that they will not find the case against you compelling or not see the crime as substantially related to your practice.
If, however, the board does decide to take disciplinary action, here are the main possibilities:
- Private censure. This is a letter of warning that is not made known to the general public.
- A public citation and fine. The citation is by far the worst part as it can cause prospective clients to steer clear of your practice, though the fines can sometimes be heavy as well.
- License suspension or revocation. In this case, you would lose the right to legally continue your practice for a specified period of time (with suspension) or indefinitely (with revocation). This is the most severe form of discipline, and one which we at California License Attorney have often helped our clients to avoid. However, it is possible for a suspended/revoked license to be reinstated after a designated wait period and completion of the required paperwork and possibly attendance at a special hearing.
- License probation with stay of suspension. In many cases, the licensing board will allow your suspension to be stayed (possibly after a brief actual suspension) and allow you to continue your practice on probation and under supervision. You will be limited and monitored, but by adhering to the terms of probation and completing your probationary period, you can get your license fully restored.
How Will the Board Find Out About My Criminal Charge?
You are required to self-report any arrest, formal criminal charge, or conviction to your licensing board. When this must be done varies from board to board, but it may be every quarter or year, upon receiving a criminal citation or being formally charged with a crime, or both.
You would need to contact your state licensing board to review what are the reporting requirements and time-frames. We at California License Attorney can check on that information for you, however, for added convenience.
Besides self-reporting, your licensing agency likely checks regularly with the state DOJ's criminal record department. This allows them access to records on arrests, tickets, and convictions. Upon discovering a criminal allegation or arrest on record against you, the agency will send you notice by mail of that discovery and require you to divulge all relevant information concerning the incident.
Finally, the DOJ may take the initiative and contact your licensing agency about the criminal arrest or charge.
Note that you should cooperate with your licensing board but not give out critical information to them before first consulting with an experienced license defense attorney. As anything you say to investigators can be later used against you, it is critical to first get sound legal advice.
Saving Your License in Spite of a Criminal Charge
At California License Attorney, we understand the ways that a criminal charge/conviction can be deemed "substantially related to" your profession and how to defend against such an assertion.
That is one line of defense, to argue that the crime, citation, or infraction is not going to affect your ability to carry out your duties or to uphold high professional standards.
Simply winning a dismissal or acquittal in your trial is also key, of course, but winning a sentence that lets you keep your license is also a victory of sorts and the best possible outcome in certain situations.
Another thing to consider is that if you are convicted of a crime, even if you plead guilty (whether or not in a plea deal), you will almost certainly need to exercise your right to have an administrative hearing. It is possible even if you are not convicted, however, that such a hearing may have to happen.
If you can avoid such a hearing by negotiating with the board or getting them to drop the formal accusation, well. But if you do go to an administrative hearing, that is an opportunity to clear yourself or to reduce the form of discipline you receive by presenting mitigating factors in your favor. Once convicted in court, the hearing will not rehearse the trial but will only focus on mitigating factors.
Mitigating factors that can help save your license by, for example, turning a license suspension into license probation, include:
- Lack of actual harm done to any clients/patients.
- Lack of any previous disciplinary or criminal record.
- Cooperation with the licensing board's investigation.
- Making early rehabilitation efforts and voluntary restitution to any victims or persons affected. (But this should not be done in a manner or at a time that implies guilt and leads to a needless criminal conviction.)
- Having self-reported the incident early to the board without being forced to do so.
Finally, we will mention some other factors that can help save you license in a criminal case. First, it is sometimes possible to pre-file a litigation letter to the D.A. and prevent a criminal charge from being formally filed.
Second, there are certain (legal and ethical) "delay tactics" that can help in some cases. These may be able to delay reporting to the board in some cases while a plea deal is being negotiated, for example.
Third, if a conviction in the criminal trial cannot be avoided, then the best plea to negotiate for is normally one that allows deferred entry of judgment or gets you into a diversion program. These results would keep you out of jail, though you would be on probation or have to complete a rehab or other program. This at least leaves the door open to your retaining your license and continuing your practice (since no one can do so while incarcerated).
Fourth, we can seek to keep any criminal probationary period as short as possible. The reason for this is not simply because it is a less severe sentence but also because any license probation period will typically last for the same amount of time as the criminal probation.
But note that the requirements of the court-ordered probation should not be made overly lenient to the point the licensing board thinks you are likely to commit a repeat offense while on probation. While we wouldn't seek overly severe probation terms, it is also true that terms that are meant to protect the public from a potential second offense can help alleviate the fears of your board and thus help you retain your license.
What About a Past Conviction?
At California License Attorney, we put into place all possible strategies that help to gain you a dismissal or acquittal of the charges brought against you and that protect your professional license even if you cannot avoid a criminal conviction.
However, all hope is not lost if you are convicted of a crime and lose your license. It is possible to get your criminal conviction expunged, your record sealed, your crime pardoned, or to gain a certificate of rehabilitation. Any of the above could help you in successfully petitioning for a reinstatement of a suspended license.
Note that if all crimes on your criminal record go through expungement, you cannot be legally denied a professional license in California on the basis of an expunged conviction (except for a few highly sensitive professions).
However, not all convictions can be expunged. In that case, a governor's pardon or earning a certificate of rehabilitation may be the best course to take.
Finally, note that if your criminal case is dismissed, you should still seek an official "factual finding of innocence" to improve your chances of keeping your license. Remember that administrative board disciplinary actions are independent of court decisions (even if they are influenced by them).
At California License Attorney, we know the best, time-proven strategies for defending your license. We have niche knowledge of numerous specific licensing board policies and of how different types of criminal charges/convictions are handled in that profession.
Defending your license in court and at an administrative hearing requires deep, hyper-specific legal expertise, an undying commitment to pursuing each client's best interests, and the wisdom to know when and how to fight for the best possible outcome to each case.
Contact Us Today For Immediate Help
At California License Attorney, we can assist you with criminal defense against charges that would negatively affect your license and your career upon a conviction.
We are intimately familiar with the California Penal Code as it relates to state-issued licenses, the rules and regulations adhered to by license-issuing agencies, and the legal and administrative processes and how they interrelate.
To learn more or to avail yourself of a free consultation, contact California License Attorney 24/7/365 by calling 888-959-0068.