Do You Have to Disclose Your Entire Criminal History When Applying for a Professional License in Florida?
Feb. 15, 2021
One of the biggest risks you can take when applying for some type of professional licensing in Florida is not disclosing prior convictions. Unfortunately, many professionals must even disclose convictions that have been sealed or expunged. This often applies to applicants looking to obtain employment in law enforcement or the public sector (including those running for public office). Those applying to be teachers must also be thorough when disclosing prior arrests and convictions.
In other professional fields, applicants are subject to permanent bars and long disqualifying periods depending on the crime for which they have been convicted. For instance, applicants dealing with the Florida Department of Financial Services will be asked, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime or pled guilty or no contest to a crime or completed a pretrial diversion program?” Applicants who mark “yes” will receive a notice that compels them to submit to a more extensive background check. Specific crimes — even when the conviction has been sealed or expunged — will earn the applicant a permanent licensure bar.
‘Permanent’ is Not Always What it Seems
A handful of crimes in the Florida Statutes, Section 626.207 are designated as permanent-licensure-bar crimes. These apply for any guilty convictions, guilty pleas, or nolo contendere (no contest) pleas. They are as follows:
Any felonies associated with money laundering;
Felony embezzlements; or
Felonies “directly related to the financial services business.”
After disclosing your criminal history in an application to the Department of Financial Services, you might receive a letter that notifies you of your application rejection. What the state department probably won’t tell you is that a permanent bar might not end up being permanent. A recent case ruled that permanent licensure bars are unconstitutional. So, it is possible that you have a workaround for a rejection letter, but it is important to have the help of an attorney to successfully appeal.
Each state administration or agency has unique rules around disclosure requirements for applicants, but nearly every licensee must first disclose prior criminal activity. In many cases, applicants must include convictions that have been expunged or sealed. If you are worried about being rejected due to your criminal history, know that you still might be able to obtain a professional license. Conversely, not disclosing otherwise-forgivable convictions could sink your application.
To the dismay of many who assumed their sealed or expunged convictions were history, certain license applications compel applicants to disclose these events. However, this does not mean that all is lost. If you’re dealing with this situation, Attorney Barry M. Wax can advise you on the best way to disclose your criminal past while positioning you for success on your application. Our firm offers free consultations to all prospective clients. Call to schedule yours today.