Nursing is one of the most sought-after careers in both the state and the country. Hospitals are critically understaffed, and the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse. But one thing is fairly certain, the state wants and needs more nurses to sustain a stable healthcare system. Just like many other professions, nurses also have to undergo in-depth scrutiny from the California Board of Registered Nurses to determine their fitness for the job. This also includes getting subjected to numerous background checks that reveal a history of criminal convictions, which can sometimes discourage applicants.
There’s a common misconception that having a criminal record is an automatic ground for disqualification. However, the Board is guided by laws to consider many factors before it can deny an applicant licensure. A criminal conviction can have an impact on an individual’s application and licensure, but it shouldn’t necessarily keep anyone from their dream career as a registered nurse.
How a criminal record can impact your nursing license
When registering or renewing your nursing license, the Board requires that every licensee or applicant declare whether they faced any disciplinary actions from a government agency or if they’ve been convicted of a crime. Registered nurses are also required to provide documents for each license discipline, or conviction sustained, including arrest reports, court orders, or any proof of rehabilitation. The Board reviews each application on a case-by-case basis. In severe cases, it might suspend or revoke a nurse’s license.
The Board can also deny licensure to applicants whose criminal conviction was within the past seven years and was substantially related to the functions or duties of being a nurse. Additionally, the Board may disqualify applicant’s at any time if their criminal conviction involved either:
- a crime that requires registration as a sex offender
- or a serious felony offense as defined in Penal Code 1192.7
In the legal sense, a criminal conviction can include a plea of no contest or any conviction that has been deferred or dismissed under Sections 1000 and 1203.4 of California’s Penal Code.
How to clean up an old conviction
Expungement/sealing arrest records
According to our professional Defense Attorney, Don Hammond, the most effective way of clearing your record is through expungement or sealing arrest records. You can begin by filing a petition in court with the help of your attorney to seal the records of arrest that didn’t lead to a conviction. If you also have a criminal conviction, you might be eligible to have it expunged. Read our article on expungement to find out more about the eligibility criteria.
The Board might still require you to disclose the conviction, but saying “I have an expunged conviction” sounds a lot better than just “I have a conviction…period.”
As an applicant with a criminal history, it is in your best interest to present to the Board with as much truthful information as possible. To reiterate, there is no criminal conviction which is an absolute bar from licensure. The Board reviews individual criminal records to determine if the underlying violation is related to the licensee’s qualifications.
Certificate of rehabilitation
A court-issued certificate of rehabilitation can provide strong and positive evidence of your rehabilitation to persuade the Board. You may only be eligible for a certificate of rehabilitation if:
- you were convicted of a misdemeanor that required registration as a sex offender
- you were convicted of any felony offense that doesn’t include violation of Sections 269, 286, 288, and 289 of the Penal Code
- your conviction led to a state prison sentence
- it has been more than 7 years since your release from prison
Apart from the certificate of rehabilitation, the Board will also consider a number of factors before it can determine whether an applicant is successfully rehabilitated. This may include looking at:
- the severity of the crime
- the actions of the applicant post-conviction
- the time passed since the conviction
- and how the applicant complied with the terms of his conviction
How Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. can help
If you plan to apply as a registered nurse in California, you should consult with an attorney experienced in professional licensure. Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. extensive experience with expungements and can guide you through your application for renewal or registration. Making this application with a criminal record can be tedious and draining as the process typically includes the following:
- An investigation of your criminal history
- Filing a formal action
- Resolution of the case by an agreement
- Resolution of the case by an Administrative Trial
We can’t stress enough how crucial it is to submit completely accurate and transparent details about your criminal history. This is why it is imperative to have a skilled and proactive attorney to complete your paperwork and represent you during the Administrative Hearings. If you have a criminal record and wish to continue practicing as a registered nurse, we invite you to contact the Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. at (323)529-3660 to schedule your first consultation.