Clients often have an inaccurate picture of their own eligibility for a professional license. If a client has suffered a misdemeanor conviction in recent years, almost all state agencies will use the conviction to justify denying the application. However, as the conviction becomes extremely old, the agency becomes less and less likely to use it against the applicant.
However, our clients often forget that no matter how old the case is, no matter how much post-conviction relief the client has obtained (rehabilitation certificates, dismissal, expungement, etc.), under the law of California licensing law the crime still happened and it has to be explained to the state agency. I often see clients make statements about their criminal background that make very little sense, such as “the conviction was so long ago I had forgotten about it, and I didn’t know expunged cases had to be disclosed.” Both of these statements are often true on their own—clients do very often forget about very old cases, and clients are often given wrong advice about disclosing expunged convictions—but they can’t both be true. Either we recall something or we do not.
More damaging, though, is when a client attempts to explain their old behavior by insisting that they really didn’t commit the crime they were convicted of. When someone is convicted of a crime, that conviction stands as conclusive proof that they actually did the crime. If a license application (or license holder) tries to explain their conduct as though they were really innocent of the crime, the agency assumes they are lying. Typically, the assumption is that they are covering for themselves now in order to look better. However, a licensing agency also won’t be amused at the thought of a licensee entering a false plea—agreeing they were “guilty” even when they weren’t guilty.
The vast majority of our clients are not liars, and they have great stories of recovery and rehabilitation to tell. However, they sometimes sink themselves, to their detriment, before we can help them, by making statements to their licensing agency that do tremendous damage to their cases. These clients would be well served by a meeting with qualified, experienced counsel to discuss each statement carefully before placing it in writing to the government.