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Criminal record is lower bar to professional licensing

On Behalf of | Oct 22, 2020 | Uncategorized |

A criminal record was a substantial obstacle to professional or occupational licensing in California. But a new law took effect on July 1 that restricts the use of criminal histories in state licensing.


At the beginning of July this year, AB  2138 took effect. This legislation was signed by Governor Brown in 2018. Several amendments were also made since its passage.

This law impacts 37 of the professional licensing boards in California’s Department of Consumer Affairs. Now, these boards may not deny, suspend, or revoke professional licenses because of past criminal records, including alleged misconduct under certain conditions.

AB 2138 is also designed to create transparency so there is predictability of licensure decisions. Three professional boards are exempt from this law.


California’s professional licensing boards may not deny applications or impose discipline on a person whose convictions go back seven years unless they were convicted of serious felonies. The conviction must relate to the licensing profession’s duties if it is used as grounds to deny an application or impose discipline.

For recently filed applications, denial will not count if the conviction was pardoned or dismissed. Boards may not deny an application if the applicant completed the rehabilitation conditions for a felony conviction.

Applicants are not required to self-disclose earlier convictions unless they do not need background checks through fingerprints for their specific license. When a license is denied, a board must track and report the appeal with the reason for denial.


This law could impact almost 30 percent of the available jobs in this state. Over eight million people with a criminal record will have an opportunity to obtain professional and occupational licenses.

These changes may also improve the handling of applications by the DCA which is responsible for 1,773 job roles and professions. Previously, boards made it difficult for applicants with a criminal record to begin a profession or occupation.

An attorney can help applicants deal with obstacles to professional or occupational licensing or a license holder facing disciplinary action. Lawyers can also provide representation in hearings and proceedings.