In California, a charge of domestic abuse can disrupt your life in many ways. You may be subject to a protection order prohibiting communication with your spouse and sometimes also your kids. You may be compelled to leave your house. You may need to alter your everyday practices to avoid the individual. You might risk fines and imprisonment. However, the effects might stretch further than these issues, even to your job. There are many licensed professionals who have learnt through bitter experience that the deleterious effects of a conviction for domestic violence that may lead to the suspension or revocation of one’s professional license.
In order to protect patients, physicians must maintain a flawless record of honesty. Without favoritism or bias, attorneys must maintain justice for all parties participating in a judicial action. Nurses must offer professional, empathetic care while maintaining strict confidentiality at all times. And so on. All of these occupations, as well as a great number of others, require practitioners to uphold high ethical standards and display professionalism in their behavior on the job and off duty. Because domestic violence is regarded a “crime of moral turpitude”–that is, a crime involving dishonesty or deliberate injury that bears heavier punishments than other sorts of crimes–it calls into doubt all of that integrity.
Every licensed professional in California, such as a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist or chartered accountant should be aware of the potential career repercussions of a domestic violence charge. Let’s investigate this topic in further depth.
How Do State Licensing Boards in California View Criminal Convictions, Including Domestic Violence?
California’s procedures for assessing someone is competent to obtain a professional license are quite stringent. Sections 480 and 490 of the Business and Professions Code (BPC) provide the guidelines by which state licensing boards may refuse license applications or cancel licenses based on criminal convictions. These rules provide that a licensing board may refuse a fresh license or suspend or revoke an active one if the crime committed is “significantly linked to the qualifications, responsibilities, or obligations of the business or profession for which the license was granted.” For example, if you have been convicted of a felony that displays dishonesty, such as forgery or embezzlement, you are likely disqualified for an accountant’s license. But, for convictions for crimes not related to a professional skill the licensing authorities are likelier to take a lenient view.
The majority of state licensing boards will be alerted automatically if you are convicted of a crime, and some will even be notified if you are arrested (based on fingerprinting records). Additionally, some licensing boards require you to notify them if you have been arrested or convicted of a crime (or to disclose this information on an application). Domestic abuse is one of the “crimes of moral turpitude” that are grounds for disciplinary action by the licensing board for the majority of licensed professions, particularly those whose work involves the public’s confidence.
Therefore, if you are found guilty of domestic abuse, your licensing board may take disciplinary action. The strictness of the censure will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of the offense, whether you have been convicted of other crimes in the past, whether there are other contributing factors to the violence (such as substance abuse or addiction), and whether you have made amends for your actions.
Will the Board Immediately Suspend or Revoke Your License After a Conviction for Domestic Violence?
No. According to the law, your licensing board cannot take disciplinary action against your license without first providing you with a fair hearing and a chance to respond to the complaint filed against you. Typically, the board will undertake a preliminary inquiry during which they may request a written explanation. If the matter continues ahead, you will have the opportunity to give context for the accusations at a formal hearing before the board or an administrative law judge.
Even if, after the hearing, the board determines that disciplinary action is warranted, having your license revoked remains the worst-case situation. The board may impose alternative sanctions that would enable you to retain your license, such as official reprimands, fines, probation, and treatment requirements. Keep in mind, however, that even these lower fines might eventually hurt your career, since they will become public knowledge. Any prospective patient, customer, or employer may perform an internet search to see if your professional license has been subject to disciplinary measures.
Recent legal reforms have altered the way in which licensing boards evaluate criminal convictions.
Effective a piece of good news for professional licensees, as of July 1, 2020, Assembly Bill 2138 has adopted sweeping revisions limiting how state licensing boards may punish certain criminal convictions, such as domestic violence charges. Under the new legislation, licensing boards governed by BPC Section 480 are prohibited from denying license applications or bringing disciplinary procedures against licensees under the following conditions:
- Numerous convictions that are older than seven years.
- Instances of convictions that have been erased.
- Deferred entry of judgment in criminal cases (e.g., defendants who plead guilty to enter into diversionary programs as an alternative to conviction).
- Arrests that fail to result in a conviction (i.e., infractions or citations).
The modifications apply exclusively to licensing bodies that operate under the Business and Professions Code, therefore teachers and financial/banking professionals are not covered. If your domestic violence accusations result in a criminal conviction, the improvements may not apply.
Defending Against Charges of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence charges in California are quite severe and far-reaching, so if you are facing these allegations, you may already be facing significant life disruptions and severe fines if convicted. If you are a licensed professional, your job may also be at jeopardy if you are facing domestic violence charges; this is another reason to have experienced legal counsel in your corner. If we are able to assist you in avoiding a criminal conviction, your likelihood of facing disciplinary action from the licensing board decreases significantly. Call our locations for a free consultation right now.