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Can I go to nursing school and become an RN if I am a registered narcotics offender?

El Cajon, CA |

I have misdemeanors, that I am going to try to expunge from my record. However, I am I registered narcotics offender. Will that still show on a background check? I was told it only is for police record. Is that correct? Also, if it does show me as a registered narcotics offender am I eligible to go to nursing school? And to get my RN license?

Attorney Answers 8

  1. I'm confident that you can go to nursing school but they do a background check your registration will show. But to be absolutely sure call the nursing school and ask.

    This answer is not intended to give you any legal advice as the information provided by you is insufficient to provide any legal advice. You must seek the services of a qualified and experienced attorney before acting on any advice from this website or any other place. Please call my office for a Free Initial Consultation by calling (909) 481-5350.

  2. It will be possible but not easy. Yes you will want to take care of the case as much as the law allows and you should get an expungement as soon as possible. Even with an expungement you will still have to report this.
    Robert Driessen

    Mr. Driessen is a former Deputy DA in Orange County with over 8 years of criminal law experience. Nothing stated on this site shall in anyway be construed as legal advice, or as creating any attorney client relationship. If you would like to hire Mr. Driessen, feel free to contact him at

  3. Whether you will be admitted to school due to your convictions will likely be up to the individual institution to which you apply. Your potential licensing as an RN is regulated by the CA Board of Registered Nurses. I have had multiple clients who were nurses or were awaiting their license while facing criminal prosecution and they were allowed to enter or continue in the RN field but did have to go through some hoops with the nursing board. Check their website for further information.

  4. While it would definitely be advisable to proceed with the expungement process, you absolutely want to inquire of one of the advisors from the program that you will be attending about the difficulty that you may experience down the road in terms of licensing. It will most definitely come up when you apply for the license.

  5. An expungement for ALL of your cases is a very good idea. However, this will not change the fact that you are a registered narcotics offender. I suggest you meet with one of the counselors or admissions officers at the school and discuss this with them.

  6. Relief under PC1203.4 is the most realistic relief you can seek. Best bet is to research the licensing requirements for nurses which will likely require you to report the convictions, irrespective of the "expungement."

    Law Offices of David Shapiro 3555 4th Avenue San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 295-3555

  7. I am an employment attorney who has represented a number of clients in medical licensing cases who have similar backgrounds to yours. You should not have any problem with the school, but your license, at least initially, may be marked in a way that makes it difficult to get a job. The nursing shortage may work in your favor, however.

    In one case (not an RN but a different non-physician medical license), my client had multiple convictions for drug possession and prostitution. I don't recall all the details of this particular case: I do not think the client was ever convicted of drug sales. The client was at the very top of her graduating class, had "found religion" and had numerous letters of support from her church and school, passed through all the licensing hoops, and then found herself facing a board that refused to license her. Through my intervention, the licensing board agree to grant her a license but required her to attach to it, and show all prospective employers, a document called an Accusation. The Accusation was a summary of my client's criminal history and stated that her license was conditioned on her showing the Accusation to prospective employers. The form of the Accusation was just that -- accusatory -- and would have been a huge obstacle to my client finding a job in her field.

    In another non-physician licensing case, my client had a criminal history of theft and embezzlement. The licensing agency granted my client a probationary license but did not require him to show any documentation to prospective employers.

    So my suggestion is that before you spend the time an money on pursuing this field, you speak with an attorney who represents clients in licensing matters. Spending $1,000-2,000 now is wiser than spending years of your life and even more money pursuing a career that is out of your reach. I suggest an excellent licensing attorney who is a frequent contributor on Avvo: Christine McCall . Her area of practice is licensing. She is located in Pasadena, not too far to drive to find out what you really need from a highly-respected, experienced attorney in field.

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

  8. I practice professional and occupational licensing law in California and, at times, as much as half of my case load is comprised of BRN (Board of Registered Nursing) cases. BRN underwent a major transformation about three years ago when our prior governor declared war on R.N.'s after an "expose" in the Los Angeles Times about lax procedures and a backlog of many years in RN disciplinary matters. Overnight, all of the BRN Board members and the Executive Director were fired. New appointees saw the handwriting on the wall and BRN has been a very different agency ever since. Then, 2 years ago, BRN was allowed by the state legislature to expire ("sunset") -- literally fade from existence on 12/31 at midnight -- because of some administrative and power-struggle issues. Non-existence lasted only a few weeks but, again, BRN quickly that the political arms of state government are willing to play "chicken" for real, and BRN has been among the most rigid and unyielding of state licensing agencies ever since. I tell you this history so that you will understand why I do not put much stock in the experience of attorneys who do not regularly practice before BRN (and other state licensing agencies, especially Dept of Consumer Affairs agencies). Plainly put, BRN is a wholly different institution over the last 3 years, and the differences are very unfortunate for licensees and license applicants.

    The introduction of BRN "diversion" is likely the most conspicuous, significant, and draconian "accomplishment" of the new BRN, and I encourage you to read about it on BRN's web-site. My law firm does not EVER recommend BRN diversion, but for persons with a history such as yours, it is exceedingly unlikely that diversion can be avoided. BRN diversion can last as much as 10 years and then still fail. It is expensive, time-consuming, Sisyphean, and leaves the nurse utterly powerless in the effort to repair, re-start, and re-shape the R.N. career.

    Your post is silent on most of the critical factual issues that bear on whether you can be licensed. How long ago were your narcotic offenses? Have you succeeded at in-patient rehab? How long ago? What is you on-going treatment? Without these kinds of details, I can't assess whether you can ultimately obtain the RN license (and neither can any other responders here). The decision is always based on the applicant's specific circumstances. But I must tell you I am pessimistic for your prospects, and it is my expectation that you will inevitably be forced to accept a probationary restricted license to begin with -- if BRN will allow even that. That can make RN employment very hard to come by because the major health-care facilities are covered by insurance that precludes hiring employees with restricted (probationary) licenses. And irregular employment such as home health care is prohibited to probationary RN's. And regular RN employment is required of probationary licensees. Yes, it is a genuine Catch-22.

    Lesser nursing schools will admit you no matter what your record. 2 mercy-killing murders? No problem! But permission to take the NCLEX (national exam) and then obtaining the RN license is based strictly on BRN judgment and has nothing to do with what the for-profit nursing schools will tell you. Do not rely on ANY info from ANY of the schools. The record is abundantly clear that they cannot be relied on to fairly advise potential students of the hurdles that will be faced by those whose history will have problems in obtaining the license.

    In your case it would be wise to schedule a consultation with an attorney who practices before BRN and other DCA licensing agencies (Dept of Consumer Affairs). That consultation will cost you about $500, but it may save you years of effort and thousands in tuition that may not deliver what you want. Or it may show that your plan is sound and your educational/career path is clear, requiring only determination and persistence.

    In all events, best of success to you.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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