In addition to dealing with the stress of a pending criminal case any professional charged with a crime in California you must also consider how the case will affect their livelihood. If you hold a state license you must anticipate that the board regulating your profession will learn about your situation and monitor it. This means it is important for you to understand your duties and responsibilities to the board as well as the board’s typical practices. Armed with this knowledge you can plan for any board action or inquiries.
Most agencies in California receive a notice from the California Department of Justice whenever a license holder is arrested or convicted for a criminal offense. Boards will often monitor a case from their offices in Sacramento while your case is pending and, depending on the severity of the charges, a board may be required to suspend a license while a case is pending. For example, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is required to suspend a teaching credential when a teacher is charged with a sex offense. Under California Penal Code section 23, many boards possess the authority to intervene in a pending criminal case if it determines the case is serious. For example, the Pharmacy Board can ask a court to suspend a pharmacist’s license while a case is pending if it believes the public is at risk. Some boards also have other options available. The Medical Board possesses the authority to seek an interim suspension order from an Administrative Law Judge or a temporary restraining order in civil court. These types of actions should only be handled by an experienced attorney familiar with the practices of that particular board. If you receive notice that a board is attempting to suspend your license while a criminal case is pending, work closely with your criminal defense attorney and contact an administrative attorney immediately.
As a professional you will also need to look into what your self-reporting duties will be. Because every board has slightly different reporting requirements it will be essential to confirm what you are required to do. Any response to a board should be prepared with the assistance with an experienced attorney. Some professionals may be required to report a pending criminal action or a conviction. Within 30 days, an attorney must self-report any felony charges by indictment or information, all felony convictions and certain misdemeanor convictions. Likewise a physician has 30 days to self-report a felony indictment or information or a misdemeanor or felony conviction. In a slightly different twist the Department of Insurance requires license holders to report any misdemeanor or felony conviction or the filing of any felony charge within 30 days.
Separately, all license holders will be required to report convictions on license renewal applications. Some agencies also require the reporting of pending criminal actions and investigations. Renewal application questions are not always easy to understand and it is easy to make a mistake. The best practice is to have an attorney review the questions and advise you about how to answer the questions. State agencies take the reporting requirements on renewal applications very seriously and can easily be more upset by the perceived failure to disclose a criminal conviction than the underlying conduct. A mistake on a license application will be considered an act of dishonesty and will be added as an additional allegation if a board decides to begin a disciplinary action against a professional.
It is fundamentally important to renew your license well in advance of your renewal deadline when your criminal case is pending or if you are required to report a conviction to the board. In most cases you have a vested property interest in your license and the board has a duty to renew your license while your case is pending. However, you lose that vested property interest once the license expires and the board may not renew your license until it has determined your fitness to continue your chosen profession, a process that can take many years.
Paying attention to these issues and working with an attorney to prepare for them if and when they come up can mean the difference between continuing to work while a criminal action is pending and not working until the board determines you are safe to go back to work. At a minimum it can help you plan your finances if there is a possibility a board will not let you work. It also means you give yourself an early opportunity to begin planning the defense of your professional license alongside the defense of your criminal case.