Licensed professionals and criminal records

Many of us are employed in regulated industries, and are required to be licensed to work in those fields. Lawyers go to law school, and then are required to pass a state bar examination before they can practice law.

Other professions, too, require specialized education and training before they can become licensed to work as a professional in a given occupation. For example, accountants, architects, private investigators and real estate appraisers are all licensed professionals. (A complete list of those professions regulated under Michigan’s Occupational Code can be found on Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website.)

Likewise, various professions and occupations are regulated by Michigan’s Public Health Code. These include nursing, optometry, dentistry, and social work, to name just a few.

Obtaining a license in any regulated field involves hard work and dedication. A license is an important asset, and maintaining your licensure can be critical to your employability and your earning potential.

If you work in one of those regulated fields, and if you have been charged with a crime, it is most important that you carefully consider how that may impact your ability to maintain your professional licensure or your ability to work in your chosen regulated field.

It will not be the charge or a conviction that will, in most instances, disqualify you from holding a professional license or working in a regulated industry (although that could happen in certain circumstances).  Rather, the regulating agency may take administrative action that arises out of the charge or conviction. These actions can result in fines or penalties to outright revocation of your license.

Michigan’s Occupational Code and the Public Health Code provide a specific list of criminal convictions that may—and often do—form the basis for administrative action and discipline.  Also, convictions of certain crimes that are not specifically listed may demonstrate (to the administrative agency) a lack of “good moral character” which can form the basis for administrative action as well.

The bottom line: If you hold a professional license and you find yourself the target of a criminal investigation or charged with a crime, it is vitally important to tell your attorney, and to ask her or him to look into how the charge or conviction could impact your license. Educate yourself, too, by calling the regulatory agency, or going on its website. This information should be factored into how you and your attorney negotiate with the prosecutor, and is absolutely critical to your decision to accept a plea offer or go to trial.

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