I am currently applying to pharmacy schools and have a few interviews lined up, but I am also looking at a felony charge for possession of sales of a controlled substance.
In the last few years, California professional schools have responded to the cut-throat competition for admission by attempting to weed out those who are unlikely to be eligible or successful in obtaining a State license. However, the school is not required to deny admission based on the applicant's criminal history or perceived licensing problems, and State licensing agencies do not attempt to control the schools' admission decisions. Admission of a student with a problematic criminal history is a matter within the school's discretion. But, where a student is not successful in applying for admission to a professional degree program, there are very few grounds that will enable successful legal recourse. Courts will not ordinarily interfere with schools' admissions decisions absent a strong showing of a basis for decision that is in violation of public policy, such as race-based admissions policies. Denying admission to a person facing drug charges will not meet the public policy violation standard. If the school is a private university, the prospects for meaningful legal recourse are negligible. You know you are competing for a seat in a school that has many more applicants than openings, and most of the competition does not have the burden of a potential denial of license for reasons of drug violations.
But if you can obtain admission to the program:
California's Board of Pharmacy, like all State licensing agencies, has the statutory right (Bus & Prof Code §490) to refuse a license to any person convicted of any crime substantially related to the licensed work. This statutory provision is specifically NOT limited to felonies, and even many infractions will meet the §490 standard. More critically in your circumstance, §490 also allows the Pharm Board to deny the license for improper conduct NOT leading to a conviction, although the procedure for denial on that basis is more cumbersome and effortful for the State agency.
Virtually all crimes are held to meet the statutory standard of "substantially related," on one ground or another. But, of course, for potential pharmacist licensing any drug history is a very steep obstacle.
When you apply for license, it will not be dispositive if the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. If you were by then convicted, it won't be dispositive that you have obtained California's weak-tea version of "expungement", a post-conviction dismissal. The State agency is concerned with the underlying facts of the charges, and not just with the disposition that was obtained. You will be required to provide a full narrative account of all of the facts and circumstances underlying the arrest and charges, and it is this narrative that will determine the licensing agency's position.
I know this message is at some odds with the other attorney responses here, but I am a former California State Administrative Law Judge who presided at licensing hearings for years, and professional and occupational licensing law is my primary area of legal practice. College/university administrative law makes up the balance, so I'm not guessing here on these issues. It is a fact that the felony-misdemeanor distinction is not the big or critical issue, and neither is "expungement" much of a benefit, although the failure to obtain it can be troublesome. There are no methods or remedies that will allow you to avoid disclosing the fact of the criminal charge and the underlying facts and circumstances when you apply for license.
In all events, if you obtain admission to pharmacy school, there are a number of things you can do over the next years to make the ultimate licensing effort more likely to succeed. It may be wise for you to invest an hour and a few hundred $$ for consultation with a specifically experienced attorney who can chart your best course for obtaining the license. Spend some time with the Pharm Board's website and you will get a lot of what you need to know and to use over the next few years. Good luck.
It will absolutely affect your application if you were convicted. If you were convicted, you will surely need the assistance of private counsel to determine your eligibility for an expungement. Hire a lawyer.
If the case is ongoing, the arrest will still show in your criminal records. In this case, it would be wise to hire an attorney to assist you with the case. Should you have to plea to the charge, your lawyer should get you the best possible outcome and then determine when and if the charge can be expunged.
I have had clients go through this and have assisted them. It can get complicated, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer right away.
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