If you’re considering a career in nursing but have a criminal record, you may be wondering whether criminal charges will affect your ability to get your RN license. Typically, having a conviction expunged (i.e., having it legally removed) from your criminal record is a necessary step to pursuing a career as a nurse. Below, we’ll tell you more about how your criminal record may affect your career and when a license defense lawyer may be able to help.
Criminal Charges and Nursing School
Nursing schools have different policies. Some may conduct criminal background checks, and some may not. It may be difficult to be admitted to the program if you have a criminal background. If your school allows you to enroll despite your criminal background, it’s still a good idea to work toward having your record expunged while you are a student. The most reliable way to do this is to work with an experienced license defense lawyer.
The reason you want to expunge your conviction, as it is will expressly help in the application process to become a nurse.
Disclosing Your Criminal Record
If you have been convicted of a crime, you must report it to the California Board of Registered Nursing and the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians when completing your application. In most instances where you were arrested but not convicted, you do not need to report the offense. However, you should consult an attorney, as some arrests result in dismissals that are still reportable to the nursing Boards.
When it comes to convictions, it is best to proactively disclose them on your own, as the Board will be notified of your conviction regardless. In addition, if you already have your license and fail to disclose, it can be grounds for the Board to take disciplinary action against you. As a rule, even if your conviction has been expunged, always mention the conviction, but provide evidence of expungement within your application.
We recommend that when disclosing a conviction that you consult an attorney to ensure that you are sharing just the right information.
California Expungement Laws
As a progressive state, California law allows you to expunge most convictions. The law provides currently that once a conviction has been expunged, it cannot be the sole basis upon which a license is denied. However, the Board may rely on the underlying acts that led to the conviction to deny your license or bring charges against a licensee.
In either case, expungement serves as a criterion the Board requires to assess your rehabilitation. All licensing laws that speak to the criteria for rehabilitation speak to the necessity of expungement in weighing someone’s ability to get or remain licensed.
In total, the Board will assess whether the crime is substantially related to your job duties and qualifications. The truth is, just about any crime is considered related, as criminal conduct reflects on judgment, a trait integral to nursing.
The Board will also look at the severity and nature of the crime and also consider how recently it occurred. Some crimes, including assault, abuse, theft, dishonesty, fraud, and deceit, often result in denial of a nursing license. A conviction as a sex offender will also result in license denial. In these cases, you should plan to work with a lawyer to get the conviction expunged.
In addition to examining the specifics of the crime, the Board will look into whether you have taken steps to rehabilitate yourself, as discussed above. Sometimes rehabilitation is literal, such as visiting a treatment center after a drug crime, but other times the Board simply wants to see evidence that you have learned from your mistake and have taken action to improve yourself as a person.
In the end, you want to show the cleanest record you can and paint the best picture of yourself. Thus, expungement is important!
How to Expunge Your Conviction
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, a license defense lawyer can petition to expunge it from your record. If you have been charged with a felony, a lawyer can also potentially help you reduce and expunge the conviction. In the case of a successful expungement, your original guilty plea will be withdrawn and replaced with a not guilty plea, after which your case will be dismissed and removed from your record. You must then present the letter of expungement to the Board when you apply for your license.
In addition, it is a good idea after a conviction to gather evidence of your rehabilitation. The Board accepts a variety of evidence types when it comes to rehabilitation, including:
- A letter describing steps you have taken toward rehabilitation or self-improvement.
- Letters of reference from employees and colleagues describing your rehabilitation efforts.
- Letter or certification of rehabilitation, recovery, or counseling program.
- Copies of positive job evaluations.
- Certificate of rehabilitation or expungement.
When to Seek Legal Help
If you are worried about how your criminal record may affect your RN or LVN licensure, license defense lawyer Scott J Harris can help. We have helped many clients over the years receive expungements and get back on track with their careers, and we would be happy to advise you on your case.
Contact us today at (323) 894-1095 for a free consultation of your case.