The flashing of squad car lights behind you as you drive home after having a few drinks.  The knock at the door announcing the police.  A hand on your shoulder as you leave the store.  And then, that sinking feeling.  Will I lose my nursing license?  Here are some tips for California nurses for saving your license after an arrest on suspicion of a crime:

  1. Focus on Fighting the Charge with a Great Lawyer

It is possible that weeks or months after your arrest, you might get a letter of inquiry from your licensing agency.  At that point, you will want to reach out to a professional license lawyer for help.  But right after an arrest, hire a top-rated criminal defense attorney who regularly appears in the court where your case will be heard.  A highly-rated lawyer whose office is in the same area as the courthouse is often a good choice.  You can ask your lawyer to call Ray & Bishop, PLC, for advice, we don’t mind.  We give advice to criminal defense attorneys all the time.  If your lawyer says they handle criminal, licensing, and other legal matters, don’t hire them!  No one lawyer can do many areas of law well.  If you need a referral to a good criminal defense attorney, we can help with that too.

  1. Don’t Call Your Licensing Agency, Call Us

Sometimes terrible worry and guilt will drive a nurse to call the Board of Registered Nursing or the Licensed Vocational Nursing Board to ask about the effect of a criminal case on their nursing license.  Don’t do it! First, the staff members at the boards who pick up the phone often don’t know the answer and, in our experience, may give out incorrect information.  Also, don’t be put in the position of telling your licensing agency about your problem – they’re not on your side.  Call Ray & Bishop, PLC, for advice, not the board.

  1. If You Get a Letter, Respond

The Department of Justice sometimes lets the nursing board know that one of its nurses has been arrested or has a criminal case.  When that happens, the board sends out a form letter asking for more information.  The right response depends on whether your case is pending or has wrapped up and what the case is about.  However, it is important to respond – don’t ignore the letter.  A calm, cooperative and cautious approach to the agency sets the best tone for getting the best resolution out of your case.  A professional licensing attorney can help you determine the best message for the situation.

  1. After a Conviction, Disclose

Board rules require that nurses let their licensing board know about any criminal conviction within 30 days.  A conviction includes a plea of guilty (before sentencing), so even if someone pleads guilty only to be sentenced later, a report must be made within 30 days of the guilty plea.  Also, renewal forms ask about convictions, so there is a “yes” box to be checked.  Failure to disclose a conviction can be unprofessional conduct, which is grounds for discipline.

  1. Don’t Lie to the Board

When a nurse is asked about a conviction, her answer must be truthful, and any written explanation or disclosure must be consistent with the facts of the conviction.  Lying about a criminal conviction can be worse than the conviction itself.  A good professional licensing attorney can make sure that an accurate picture is painted that also includes all of the positive mitigating and rehabilitative facts.  Lying to a board can destroy the trust between the nurse and the board, and make license discipline, if it comes, much more severe.