Will I be granted a professional license in New York if I have a prior criminal conviction?

Deciding to attend medical, nursing school, or a school for any similarly licensed profession such as massage therapy, social work, pharmacy, clinical laboratory sciences, or chiropractic medicine, is a costly and time intensive investment to make. You want to be confident that upon completion of your program you will be able to obtain your New York State license and begin working in your profession. But what happens if you have a criminal conviction from before entering your educational program, encountered a criminal issue during your schooling, or have been subject to professional discipline in another state? We will answer questions regarding the potential impact on a future New York Nursing license.

Can I obtain a New York professional license if I have been convicted of a crime?

There is no automatic disqualification from licensure based on a conviction. The New York State Education Department is responsible for the licensing of numerous professions in New York.  The Education Department looks at each application on a case-by-case basis.

What is the process for determining if I will be licensed If I have a prior criminal conviction?

An application for a nursing license or similar professional license will ask if you have any criminal convictions (felony/misdemeanor) or open criminal cases. It is imperative that you be honest in answering this question, as a failure to answer this question truthfully could subject you to professional discipline if you do become licensed.

Since a licensee must be of “good moral character” to be granted a license, upon answering this question regarding a conviction in the affirmative, the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions will commence an investigation as part of their assessment of your “moral character”. You are permitted to submit information regarding your conviction which should be carefully crafted to explain the circumstances of your conviction as well as all remedial and rehabilitative measures that have occurred since your conviction. An assessment may end at the investigation phase or be referred on to be reviewed by members of the New York State Board of Nursing. The assessment of your moral character can end upon review by the Board members or be referred for a “moral character hearing” where it would ultimately be determined whether you possess the good moral character to be granted a license.  It is always a good idea to hire an attorney that handles professional licensing and misconduct matters to help you when applying for your license if you previously had criminal conviction or disciplinary matters in another state.

What types of convictions should be disclosed on my professional license application?

You do not need to disclose information about any sealed conviction, youthful offender adjudications, juvenile delinquent matters, or arrests that did not result in a conviction. You do not need to provide information about charges that are currently adjourned in contemplation of dismissal (“ACOD”). It is important to be mindful about possible traffic infractions which are considered “violations” and not technically speaking a misdemeanor or felony, such as the charge of “driving while ability impaired”. If you are unsure, you should consult with a New York attorney that is experienced in professional licensing issues.

Do I need an attorney to assist me with my professional licensing application?

Given the amount of time and money you may have invested in your education, the application process to obtain your nursing or professional license is a critical point in your overall goal to work in the profession. There is a saying that “an ounce of planning is worth a pound of cure”. Investing in the assistance of a trained and experienced advocate such as a nurse attorney who can help guide you through the process and optimize your application to give you the best shot at licensure may be one of the most priceless investments you will make in your journey to licensure. An attorney will not only understand your conviction but also how to best present this information to the Board of Nursing or NYS Education Department. If your matter proceeds to the point of Board review or a “moral character hearing”, it is advisable to seek legal counsel. With a hearing comes many procedural rules that you may not be aware of. A lack of understanding regarding those rules could ultimately prejudice rights that you are afforded during the hearing process. Engaging an attorney who handles and regularly has cases involving professional licensing and discipline matters can protect your rights and also present and question witnesses on your behalf is an important role in a moral character hearing.