Written by attorney Christine C McCall

Calif. License Applicants: Avoiding the Most Common Reason for Denial of the Occupational License

The single most common ground in California for the denial of a license for any of the 800+ professional and occupational categories that must be licensed or credentialed by the State is omission of information on the application relating to past criminal offenses. This is a regrettable fact because in many (maybe most) cases, disclosing the information -- even if it is highly unfavorable to the applicant -- would not have resulted in denial of the license.

Here are a few of the most typical reasons license applicants give for having omitted information called for by the application:

  • I forgot about it.
  • I forgot about it because it was so long ago.
  • I forgot about it because I have so many convictions I can't remember them all.
  • I forgot about it because the only thing that happened is that I was on probation.
  • I forgot about it because that conviction has been expunged.

And then there are those who left the information out because they "knew" it would not turn up because... - My name has changed since then. - It was in a different state. - I got a copy of my criminal history and it wasn't on there. - It was so long ago, there are no records. - That conviction didn't turn up when I got my other kind of license a few years ago. - I didn't think they meant this kind of conviction.

The staff at the licensing agencies has heard all of these "reasons" thousands of times. But the fact is, it doesn't matter whether they believe the excuse. California law provides that a license may be denied for an omission of such information from the license application, whether that omission is on purpose, which tends to show, in the State's view, a lack of integrity and respect for the law, or by mistake, which tends to show, in the State's view, a lack of care and sense of responsibility that licensees need. The sad fact is that many of the denials on this ground would not have been inevitable if the full information had been disclosed. Many occupational licenses can be obtained, even where there is a past criminal record, if the criminal matter has been fully resolved (including completion of any probationary terms) and if the applicant can demonstrate that he or she is now rehabilitated. There are many many ways to make a good showing of rehabilitation at a fair hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. There are not as many ways to make a good demonstration to the Judge at the hearing as to why a colorful and memorable chapter of the applicant's past was omitted. The licensing departments, boards and commissions make a vigorous effort to prevent this kind of circumstance from causing a denial. Their Websites all stress the importance of full disclosure, even as to ancient and expunged convictions. The license applications themselves include printed warnings about omissions. These facts make the licensing agencies less than understanding when their investigation reveals an undisclosed prior criminal offense. A license applicant who has genuine reason to be concerned about the potential effect of a prior criminal conviction may want to obtain the advice of an experienced attorney to discuss the situation with the Department in advance of the application. And applicants who have been denied licenses because of omissions of information called for by the application should also seek the advice and assistance of experienced and specialized counsel. If a timely challenge to the decision of denial is made, a result better than outright denial can often be obtained.

Additional resources provided by the author (most licensing agencies have an individual homepage that can be accessed from here)

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