Effective January 1, 2014, under Title 16 California Code of Regulations section 37.5, all certified public accountants who have not previously submitted fingerprints to the California Board of Accountancy (CBA) must do so as a condition of their license renewal. At least since 2011, the CBA has required fingerprints with applications. However, thousands of CPAs will be subject to the new requirement.
The CBA requirement will be met by in-state licensees by submitting to the Livescan process. Livescan uses a platen glass fingerprint scan that is sent to the California Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain the licensee’s criminal records. If a criminal conviction is revealed, it could be grounds for license discipline. Furthermore, CPAs have had a mandated disclosure requirement for certain convictions under Business and Professions Code section 5063 – basically, all felonies, all convictions related to the qualifications of a CPA license, and any conviction involving theft or fraud. Failure to previously disclose a reportable conviction can be another basis for license discipline.
Based upon my experience, if you have a conviction unknown to the CBA and are considering “coming clean” with the CBA, some research and professional analysis is needed. Some licensees with certain types of criminal convictions can expect the CBA to have a response to certain misconduct committed by a licensee and any subsequent failure to self-report. Steps can be taken, however, to anticipate possible disciplinary action to minimize the harshness of such action or perhaps to avoid discipline completely. This includes building a case of mitigation and rehabilitation evidence. Mitigation evidence is particularly important, but with the passage of time, can be hard to come by. The decision whether to make a late 5063 disclosure to the Board before inevitable discovery from fingerprinting requires a case-by-case analysis, particularly since not all convictions mandate disclosure, and not all records are accurate.
I would strongly advise anyone who has concerns about their criminal background to request their own background check now from the Department of Justice (and FBI if federal or other state convictions are thought to exist). Obtaining accurate information about what appears in one’s criminal record is a great starting place to help a professional license lawyer decide what damage control measures may be appropriate. The next logical step would be to contact our firm to decide upon a strategy.