How do criminal charges impact a professional license?

If you are charged with a felony in Nebraska, the loss of a professional license is one of the collateral consequences you may face. Most of the nearly 200 Nebraska professions that require a state license are managed by licensing organizations that can suspend or revoke a license on the ground of unprofessional conduct.

There is no overarching statute that prescribes administrative action against licensure in the event of a criminal conviction in Nebraska. Instead, different licensure penalties are addressed in many individual statutes depending on the conviction.

Licensed professionals are compelled by law to report their conduct to their professional licensing Loss of a professional license can be devastating to a career, future and reputation.

Private employers have a legal right to ask about your criminal record on job application forms. Public employers cannot ask about criminal history on job applications, due in part to the “Ban the Box” law. In 2014, it was signed banning the box on job applications asking if the applicant had a criminal history. This began for jobs in state government, and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert took steps to do the same for city government jobs.

However, criminal records are easy to find online.

What does the law say about felonies and licensing?

State and federal laws apply in cases of professional licensure. There are two federal laws deal with the disciplining of individuals who hold professional licenses:

  1. The Uniform Regulation of Business and Professions Act
  2. The Regulation of Health Professionals-Uniform Disciplinary Act

Under these acts, the “commission of any act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption” that relates to the person’s profession or business operations constitutes “unprofessional conduct,” whether the act constitutes a crime or not.

Under Nebraska state law, a professional license can be revoked for “…any departure from or failure to conform to the standards of acceptable and prevailing practice of a profession or the ethics of the profession, regardless of whether a person, consumer, or entity is injured.” This means that any action construed as “unprofessional conduct” can lead to licensure being revoked.

What is good moral character?

But it’s not exactly the law that puts professional licensure at risk. Many Nebraska licensed professions, while not specifically banning convicted felons – or even people whose charges didn’t result in conviction – require license applicants to be of good moral character. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that standards such as “moral turpitude” or “being of good moral character” have the potential to lead to a dangerous instrument for arbitrary and discriminatory denial of professional licenses.

What if you have a criminal record and you want to apply for a license?

If you have a criminal history, your application can be denied or your existing license can be suspended or revoked. Meaning you may not be able to perform the occupation you studied, trained and pursued.

It is important to understand that there are many professionals – not only medical professionals and teachers – are at risk of professional license loss. This list from the ACLU is not exhaustive, but gives a range of examples of occupations who can have a license revoked with a criminal conviction, and the particular statute that would impact the profession.

Which felony offense penalties most likely lead to a loss of professional license?

Penalties for serious felony convictions require revocation of certain categories of professional licenses. Examples of serious felonies include sex crimes, domestic violence, assault and drug offenses. If you’re convicted of one of these crimes, you will lose not only that license, but also other basic rights of citizenship such as the right to vote, and you will serve prison time.

Can a professional license be restored?

For some felony convictions, license revocation is for life. For others, a license may be suspended. In rare cases, a person may be pardoned, restoring civil rights lost due to a felony conviction or expunging their criminal record – thus restoring the license.

Where can I get help?

Criminal and administrative charges create a two-pronged threat that may require assistance from an experienced professional licensing and criminal defense attorney. The criminal defense attorneys at Berry Law Firm are experienced in addressing loss of professional license and defending criminal cases. If you or someone you know is facing a threat to their professional licensure, contact Berry Law Firm.

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