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Criminal Convictions & Professional Licenses

Sept. 23, 2021

A criminal conviction isn't just a matter of having a criminal record that pops up whenever a background check is conducted – quite possibly for the rest of your life – it is also about the quality of life you can live after you have paid your debt to society. Regardless of whether you are actually guilty or not, a conviction can cause irreparable harm. Here's what you need to know so that you understand why fighting the charge(s) against you is so important.

At Bryan J. Jones, LLC, we are committed to informing our clients of the impact a conviction can have on their future. At the same time, each case is different, and though most are defensible, some clients may best benefit from a plea deal so long as it is in the client's interest. We will review your case thoroughly, investigate it, and advise you each step of the way.

Below, we outline what you need to know if you have or intend to obtain a professional license in Virginia but have been charged with a crime.

Overview of Professional Licenses & Allegations of Criminal Activity in Virginia

A professional license is a credential that a state government requires a person to possess as a prerequisite to working in certain occupations. In the United States, one in five people needs a license to work. These licenses include but are not limited to:

  • medical licenses

  • nursing licenses

  • pilot's license

  • CPA license

  • real estate license

  • teaching license.

At the same time, one in three adults has a criminal record. A criminal record or specific crimes can call a person's professional license into question and can lead to denied issuance of the license, denial of renewal, license suspension, or license revocation. Issuance or maintaining a professional license is often contingent on a broad condition that you remain of "good moral character." A criminal conviction is often viewed (but not always) as a violation of this condition.

Without the license, the person loses his or her livelihood. This is bad for any otherwise law-abiding citizen who makes a mistake one time in his or her life, like having one too many drinks but still thinking he or she can drive.

In Virginia, however, a person cannot be refused a license "solely because of" a prior conviction unless it "directly related" to the occupation or profession. A regulatory board can, however, refuse a license based on the totality of the circumstances, including prior convictions. If a license is denied, the regulatory board must inform the applicant.

According to Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-204(B):

In determining whether a criminal conviction directly relates to an occupation or profession, the regulatory board shall consider the following criteria:

1. The nature and seriousness of the crime;
2. The relationship of the crime to the purpose for requiring a license to engage in the occupation;
3. The extent to which the occupation or profession might offer an opportunity to engage in further criminal activity of the same type as that in which the person had been involved;
4. The relationship of the crime to the ability, capacity or fitness required to perform the duties and discharge the responsibilities of the occupation or profession;
5. The extent and nature of the person's past criminal activity;
6. The age of the person at the time of the commission of the crime;
7. The amount of time that has elapsed since the person's last involvement in the commission of a crime;
8. The conduct and work activity of the person prior to and following the criminal activity; and
9. Evidence of the person's rehabilitation or rehabilitative effort while incarcerated or following release.

According to Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-204(C):

If an applicant is denied a registration, license or certificate because of the information appearing in his criminal history record, the regulatory board or department shall notify the applicant that information obtained from the Central Criminal Records Exchange contributed to such denial. The information shall not be disseminated except as provided for in this section.

Below is a summary of the more common types of professional licenses in Virginia and how a criminal record can impact them.

Medical License

If you are a physician, physical therapist, physician assistant, physical therapist assistant, or any other medical professional, you will need a medical license. The Department of Health Professions Board of Medicine is the regulating agency for the medical profession. For most medical professionals, the Board may deny the right to practice in Virginia if you are convicted of a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude. In addition to going through the criminal process, you must also undergo an administrative process. You can appeal any decision made by the board.

There are additional restrictions specific to the occupation. For instance, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, according to § 54.1-3480:

[m]ust not have a conviction of an offense in another state, territory or foreign jurisdiction, which if committed in Virginia would be a felony. Such conviction shall be treated as a felony conviction under this section regardless of its designation in the other state, territory or foreign jurisdiction.

An experienced attorney will be able to identify specific regulations corresponding with your medical professionals.

Nursing License

All nurses, including licensed nurse practitioners who are authorized to prescribe medication, are issued their nursing licenses through the Department of Health Professions Board of Nursing. A nursing license can be denied if the nurse was convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude. In addition, according to 18VAC90-25-110, the nurse:

  • must never have had a finding of abuse, neglect, or misappropriation of patient property entered on the Nurse Aide Registry; and

  • must have not had any disciplinary actions taken by the board within the five years preceding application for advanced certification.

According to 18VAC90-25-80, if the person was previously found to have been abusive or neglectful or to have misappropriated property, he or she is not eligible for reinstatement of certification, except if a finding of neglect was made against a certificate holder based on a single occurrence.

In addition, a registered nurse, according to § 54.1-3007, must not:

  • have been convicted of any felony;

  • have been convicted of any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude;

  • have used alcohol or drugs to the extent that such use renders him or her unsafe to practice; or

  • have a mental or physical illness rendering him or her unsafe to practice.

There is the opportunity to appeal any of these findings via the administrative process.

CPA License

A certified public accountant (CPA) is issued a license through the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Board for Accountancy. A CPA license is restricted if the person lacks good moral character, which means according to 18 VAC 5-21-10 he or she has a history of dishonest or felonious acts. The ultimate decision of suspending, revoking, or denying a license is up to the board.

Real Estate License

Real estate brokers and sales agents are granted licenses through the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Real Estate Board. To be granted a license, you must not have been convicted of:

  • any felony;

  • any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude;

  • any sex offense, drug distribution, or physical injury; or

  • a violation of fair housing laws.

According to 18 VAC135-20-30, the real estate board also requires that the individual:

  • have a good reputation for honesty, truthfulness, and fair dealing;

  • be competent to transact the business of a real estate broker or a real estate salesperson in a way to safeguard the interests of the public;

  • be in good standing in every jurisdiction where licensed;

  • must not have had a license suspended, revoked, or surrendered in connection with any disciplinary action; and

  • must not be subject to disciplinary action in any jurisdiction.

The board makes the determination of whether an individual is unfit or not to be licensed and engage in this profession. Any denial may be appealed to a circuit court via the administrative process.

Teaching License

A teacher who is employed in elementary, secondary, or special education requires a license issued through the Virginia Department of Education Office of Professional Licensure (Board of Education). To obtain the license, according to § 22.1-296.1, teachers must:

  • possess good moral character;

  • not possess a personal condition detrimental to the health, welfare, discipline, or morale of students or to the best interest of the public schools;

  • be free from a conviction of any felony;

  • be free from a conviction of an offense involving the sexual molestation, physical, or sexual abuse or rape of a child ;

  • be free from a conviction of a crime of moral turpitude; and

  • not have been the subject of a founded case of child abuse and neglect.

Teachers have the right to file a grievance with the board and a right to counsel and transcript of the hearing before the board.

Contact a Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Who Defends Your Rights & Your Future

If you have a professional license, the above of which are just examples of the most common, and you are charged with a crime, contact Bryan J. Jones, LLC today. Bryan J. Jones, an established criminal and DUI defense lawyer, understands how professional licenses can be impacted by specific crimes. He works with you to build the best defense and can help guide you through any administrative process, too. Call his office or complete an online form today.