Can a Criminal Record Prevent You from Being Licensed Professionally in Virginia?

July 10th, 2017 by JBWK

Submitted by Matthew D. Meadows

It begins with a dream. You want to start a trade, business, or practice in order to earn a better life for you and your family. You know Virginia is a great place to work and thrive, potentially allowing you to provide for yourself, your home, and your community for years to come. You set your goals high, gain the practical experience, take the required classes, and do the necessary legwork to set yourself up for success.


However, there is one problem: you have a felony or misdemeanor criminal conviction on your record. Is your dream over?


In order to become licensed in Virginia for any one of the trades regulated by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (“DPOR”) you must, by law, first disclose any conviction of any misdemeanor or felony, in any jurisdiction. Examples of the numerous professions regulated by DPOR are architects, real estate agents, brokers, nurses, and contractors. What does this mean? It means that the regulatory board for your aspiring profession may take any past criminal history into account when reviewing your license application and could deny your application because of such.


But why? You’ve done the work and put in the time to get to this point. Why are licenses potentially granted or denied solely on past events? What factors is the licensing board looking at when determining your eligibility?


Denial is not absolute!


DPOR is not allowed to prevent you from becoming a licensed professional solely because of a prior criminal conviction. However, DPOR may consider past criminal history to deny your application for a license for specific, valid reasons; for example, a determination that the criminal conviction relates directly to the occupational and/or professional license being sought. Alternatively, should DPOR determine, based upon all the information available, that you are unfit or unsuited to engage in this specific occupation or profession, it may deny your application.


What is DPOR looking at?


In determining whether you are unfit or unsuited to engage in a chosen profession, or whether a prior criminal conviction directly relates to that chosen occupation, DPOR uses a multi-factor guideline to evaluate an applicant with a criminal conviction. The nine factors include, but are not limited to, (1) the nature and seriousness of the crime, (2) the relationship of the crime to the purpose of the license, (3) and the extent and nature of the person’s past criminal activity. No one single factor is determinative. DPOR must also show what evidence was considered to support its conclusion on each factor. In addition, DPOR cannot add to or ignore the statutory list of factors, but rather is limited to these enumerated factors.


If you have a criminal conviction but want to obtain a professional license, our firm stands ready to assist you in navigating this process.

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