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Professional License & Criminal Convictions

A criminal conviction in California can lead to an adverse impact on a person's professional, occupational, or business license. An adverse impact can include any or all of the following: a verbal or written warning, administrative probation, suspension of the professional's license to practice in a profession, or even a revocation of a professional license.

There are many variables that are taken into account when analyzing to what degree a negative impact, if any, will be suffered by the professional. No two cases are ever exactly alike. This articles serves to inform the reader of broad general concepts, rules, and guidelines that are applied to a person who holds a professional or occupational licenses and is accused in California of criminal conduct. 


Factors considered in professional licensing disciplinary hearings regarding criminal conduct (whether charged in criminal court or not):

To begin with, whether or not the defendant (licensee) will suffer disciplinary action in his or her profession depends on several factors, including:


  • The classification of the charge (infraction, misdemeanor, or felony)

  • Whether or not the licensee (defendant) was actually charged with a crime by the district attorney (as opposed to being cited or arrested by the police with no subsequent criminal filing by the district attorney

  • Whether or not the alleged offense is a crime involving moral turpitude

  • When the crime was committed (how distant in the past)

  • The type of professional or business license held by the professional (or occupational license)

  • The reporting requirements of the particular profession or occupational license (i.e. self-reporting, annual, only upon an incident such as an arrest or citation, etc.)

  • The disposition of the criminal case (how the case was resolved). For example, by plea of guilt, by a finding of guilt after a criminal trial, by a dismissal of the criminal charge against the licensee, with a sentence of jail commitment, with any relevant probation terms ordered, by any reduction of the classification of crime, by diversion or deferred entry of judgement, by motion to seal and destroy an arrest record, etc.

  • The status of the licensee at the time of the criminal charge (such as whether or not the licensee was already on probation and the length of time the licensee has practiced in his or her profession without prior discipline)

  • Any rehabilitation measures taken by the professional after the incident that lead to criminal charges

  • The underlying facts that lead to the criminal allegation and whether or not there is a substantial relationship between the professional license and the alleged facts. A substantial relationship between the professional license and the alleged facts means a nexus between the two

The factors listed above are the factors that licensing agencies look to in determining what, if any, type of discipline to administer to a licensed professional after he or she is arrested or charged with a crime. However, without a doubt, some CA Boards, Bars, and Commissions, discipline licensed professionals more harshly than other professions.

For example, the medical profession in general will usually suspend the professional's license (doctor, dentist, nurse, psychologist, pharmacist, psychiatrist, etc.) for any felony criminal charge; they will also seek to suspend the professional's ability to practice in the medical field for even one misdemeanor conviction or allegation.

Reporting Requirements: Different professions have different reporting requirements after a person is arrested or charged with a crime. The reporting requirements may be quarterly such as for nurses, elder care providers, and medical field professions; some professions are self-reporting such as the reporting requirements for lawyers. Most professions have a hybrid reporting requirement, which is to self-report upon an arrest or citation for any criminal allegation and also to report quarterly or annually.

How Arrests Are Discovered: Most licensed professions have an established agency that regularly checks the California Department of Justice's criminal records. The DOJ records include records of arrests and citations (not just criminal convictions). Once the licensing agency discovers that the licensed professional has been cited or arrested for a crime the relevant agency will usually notify the licensed professional in writing of his or her duty to disclose all pertinent information about the citation or arrest. Of course, another way a licensing agency discovers that the licensed professional has been cited or arrested for a criminal allegation is through self-reporting.

Note: Reporting should only be accomplished with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney or administrative hearing attorney due to the fact that the statements from the licensed professional can be used against the professional in criminal court and at the administrative hearing.

Probation & Discipline: Criminal probation should be kept to a minimum length of time by the criminal defense attorney as discipline through a Board, Bar, or Commission that oversees the licensing of professionals will usually suspend, if at all, the professional's license for the same term as the criminal probation term. Also, criminal probation terms designed to protect the public from a repeat offense by the professional by use of his or her license can be helpful in mitigating the discipline that might be suffered by the professional from his or her respective licensing Board, Bar, or Commission. 

Note: taking rehabilitation-style classes or paying restitution to a victim before entry of plea in criminal court could be considered an implied admission of guilt in a criminal proceeding. This strategy may have huge benefits with the professional's licensing agency as far as mitigating any discipline, but, admitting guilt by implication may lead to huge detriments to the professional's criminal liability or other concerns, such as family law matters. Therefore, this strategy should be assessed by a criminal defense attorney after a review of all of the facts of the licensed professional's criminal case.

Expungement & Discipline: If the defendant's (licensee's) only crime is expunged, or the defendant's arrest is sealed and destroyed, the defendant cannot be denied a license to practice in a profession in California (with a few exceptions for certain professions). This does not mean that the licensee applicant may misrepresent the fact that his or her criminal arrest or conviction has been expunged or sealed and destroyed.

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in California and you have a professional, occupational, or business license, including a license to practice medicine, law, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, therapy, accounting, law, or other licensed profession, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Call today! 


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Professions & Related Agencies (Partial)


  • Phlebotomists: California Department of Public Health

  • (Doctors) Medicine: Medical Board of California

  • Psychologists: California Board of Psychology

  • Lawyers (Attorneys): State Bar of California

  • Dentists: Dental Board of California

  • Cosmetologist: California Board of Barbering & Cosmetology

  • Nurses: Board of Registered Nursing

  • Accountants (CPAs): California Board of Accountancy

  • Veterinarians: California Veterinary Medical Board

  • Pharmacists: California Board of Pharmacy

  • Boxing (Boxers): California State Athletic Commission

  • Therapists: California Board of Occupational Therapy

  • Ophthalmologists: California Board of Optometry

  • Liquor Distributors: California Alcohol Beverage Control

  • Teachers: California Commission on Teaching Credentialing

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