I'll start out by saying that if you are worried about getting your license because of a criminal record and feel like giving up, don't!
When I was 18 years old I was arrested and was charged with 5 felonies and 1 misdemeanor in California:
-(F) Possession/Sales of marijuana
-(F) Transportation of marijuana
-(F) Possession/Sales of an illegal substance (psilocybin)
-(F) Transportation of an illegal substance (psilocybin)
-(F) Furnishing to a minor
-(M) Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
When I bailed out of jail after about a week (my parents made me sit and think about what I did, I'm glad they did) I immediately started out-patient rehab. I was still in high school when this happen so it was a youth program.
I had a good lawyer and it was my first offense so the DA dropped 4 of the five felonies and the misdemeanor. I pled guilty to Transportation of Marijuana and was placed of felony probation. In California, at the time, we had a probation called Proposition 36. It was a state sponsored probation that was 18 months. If you completed the probation after the 18 months you went back to court and they dropped all the charges (including the charge you pled to).
Well I wasn't that smart. I violated probation by shoplifting and was arrested for petty theft (a misdemeanor). My probation was reinstated and I payed a fine and restitution. I still didn't learn because a short time latter I was charged with forging/altering a narcotic prescription (a misdemeanor). I was never arrested because I just turned the prescription in to the pharmacy and never went back to get it.
I need to mention that this whole time I am deep in my addiction. At the time I didn't realize it or maybe I didn't want to accept it but today I know that I am an addict.
That last charge was the toper. I got a letter in the mail for violating probation and was summoned to court. I knew I was in big trouble this time. I gave up. I realized I had a problem that I couldn't fix on my own. I needed help.
I turned myself into the hospital for detox where I spent 5 days withdrawing from opiates. I took a cab from the hospital to a 30 day inpatient treatment facility, where I did really well. I graduated that program before my first court date. When I went to court I admitted everything to the judge and told her that I needed help. I told her that yes I had just finished a 30 day inpatient program but that I needed more help to stay clean. She kept me on probation, instead of sending me to prison, and I went into a 6 month inpatient treatment facility. I graduated that program and have been clean and sober sense. I went back to court graduated Prop 36 probation and my charges were dismissed.
By the way, I had 3 speeding tickets too...
Fast Forward 7 Years
I'm about to graduated nursing school, I'm 26, and I'm scared to death that the last 5 years of school were for nothing.
But sense my last charge I have been clean, I attend 12 step meetings on a regular basis, I lead groups, I volunteer, I was the president of my nursing class, and I have completely changed my life around.
When I started nursing school I got a live scan done on my own to get a copy of my state (DOJ) and federal (FBI) criminal record. EVERYTHING showed up, even the charges they had dismissed, all the felonies and all the misdemeanors. I thought I was screwed but I pressed on because I had the support of all my instructors and the dean who I had pulled aside at or orientation to school and told her everything before school had even started.
I spent 2 years gathering case records and minutes, police reports, getting character references, and working on getting all my convictions dismissed. In my last semester of school I had everything ready. Every court appearance minute stamped and official, every police report, letters from the court saying my convictions had been dismissed, a letter I wrote explaining what happened, a letter from my PCP who has seen me sense I was a boy, a letter from my psychiatrist (with a mental health evaluation), letters from every single one of my instructors and my dean, letters from my counselors from the rehabs I had gone to, letters from other nurses that were family friends, letters from prerequisite instructors, letters from my employer, and from people that went to 12 step meetings with me. I put it all with my application the BRN and sent it off.
I didn't keep my hopes up. I would have been lucky if I got a restricted license and was put on probation with the BRN.
I sent my application to the BRN in April. I got a letter from them 9 weeks latter that read:
"The Board of Registered Nursing (Board) has completed its review of your conviction history.
The conviction(s) you sustained is/are substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a registered nurse. Business and Professional Code Section 480 authorizes the Board to deny a license for conviction of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a registered nurse. However, when considering the denial, suspension or revocation of a license, the Board considers criminal history, mitigating or aggravating circumstances, evidence of rehabilitation and other criteria to evaluate the licensee's or applicant's present fitness or eligibility.
The Board will not pursue any disciplinary action against you at this time. Your conviction history information has been reviewed and returned to the Licensing Unit to continue the licensure process.
A licensed registered nurse is responsible for being honest and ethical. Future substantiated reports that you have engaged in similar behavior, been convicted of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a registered nurse or otherwise violated the law or regulations governing your practice as a registered nurse may result in disciplinary action against your license."
I was in shock and still didn't believe it. I got my authorization to test one week later, and took the NCLEX three days after that. I just recently got the good news that I passed and am licensed to practice as an RN without any restrictions or probation!
1) I never lied. If you lie you can count yourself out of the running. You must be transparent from the beginning, and that means with the nursing faculty at your school too. If you let them know from the beginning they are much more willing to help you than if you hide it till your about to turn your application in. Honesty is truly the best policy with the board. No matter how bad your convictions are, don't sugar coat them in your letter, be blunt. This is what I did and this is what I've done to better myself.
2) Time. It had been over 8 years since the first convictions and 7 since the last. All the charges happened within 1 year of each other and I was 18 when they first occurred and 19 when I got clean.
3) Preparation. I spent 2 years gathering all the necessary documents from the court and getting my record cleaned up. To this day if you run a "live scan" background check on me everything on my record shows up. If you run a standard private background from a company or internet site, I'm clean as a whistle. Make sure ALL your fines are paid with the court and with restitution. Get every court document and make sure they are certified from the court. It is not cheap. My local court house charges $25/certification. I had a lot to get done! Get every police report. If they don't have them anymore request a certified letter stating so.
4) Lifestyle changes. It is the responsibility of the applicant to prove rehabilitation and changes to lifestyle/character. How do you do this? Your word isn't good enough, neither is your mom's. You need people they can trust to attest to your transformation. That means Doctors, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Nurses, and Instructors. If you can get a mental health evaluation from a psychiatrist. You can not have too many character references. If you can, bombard the board with letters. I had 15 sent with my application in all. Make sure the letters are signed in ink and dated within the last 12 months. Get your employer to give you a work evaluation. I had mine write a letter and include a work eval.
5) Volunteering. If you harmed society by violating its laws you need to make it write. I volunteer still to this day with 12 step groups, by taking meetings into a local psych ward, and by mentoring high school students who are interested in the healthcare field.
6) I never gave up. Even when I wanted to, I didn't. Even when they said I might not get to sit for the NCLEX, I pushed forward. You have to keep going! Every time I was alone at night and felt down I'd go on the BRN website and read the case files of people that had their applications approved to test after fighting to test for sometimes a year or more. I'd read what charges they had against them or I'd come on here and I'd feel better knowing that I wasn't alone.
There isn't any one charge that can bare you from becoming a nurse. I've seen case files of people that had manslaughter and sex with a minor convictions or DUI's days before graduation and after the proper amount of time and rehabilitation THEY were even allowed to test.
If you have any questions please feel free to respond or send me a private message. I would love to help in anyway I can.
Jul 18, '13
Honestly, I am shocked and surprised that you were licensed! However, I never sit in judgment of anyone. Congratulations on making such a remarkable turnaround. Good luck in your new life/career and of course, you know that they will be watching your every move. Transparency is an ideal choice and a must in nursing with us all. Again, congrats and good luck!
Jul 18, '13
Congrats on your license!! Just shows that accountability and honesty can make a difference!!
Jul 18, '13
Congrats! You are an inspiration :-)
Jul 18, '13
Congrats you deserve it!!!!!
Jul 18, '13
I think you did two other things that you didn't mention that probably helped your case --
you got the sort of intensive addictions treatment that BONs seem to favor (often to the detriment of folks who are not addicts or cannot see that they are addicts)
it appears that you've stayed *in* some sort of treatment since your sobriety, with documentation to back that up. A lot of people come here stating that they've been sober for years but haven't kept up with AA or formal therapy.
Your thorough preparation is definitely an inspiration! Congrats.
Jul 18, '13
Thank you. It should be noted too that the "minor" in question was in my grade. I had just turned 18...
Jul 18, '13
Congratulations! I actually just got back from a SBON meeting today where they were trying the cases presented to them by nurses here. It kind of scared me a bit, just because of how real and, sometimes, easily a license can undergo disciplinary action. I'm sure that your tenacity, hard work, and willingness to comply with the system, along with the charges being from back when you were still a teenager, have helped you out substantially. It's always nice to hear good news, especially after all the bad news I was hearing today for other nurses/nurse hopefuls in my state. So, your post actually kind of helped to lighten and brighten the mood a bit for me in regards to the SBONs. Thanks
And again, Congrats on your RN! You deserve it
Jul 18, '13
What a testimony of a changed life. Too often we count people out, and regulate them to nothingness. You proved that where there is a will, there is a possiblity, and where there is a possibility, success can be achieved. What was most powerful in your writing is the section entitled "Why". It details the concept of righting a wrong, i.e., doing the transformative work. You might even consider taking your story and actions to another level. It would be a great course/lecture! I'm a psych nurse with plenty of patients who could benefit from hearing about your story, your motivation, and your tenacity. Hope your sharing this with those in need.
Conratulations on your GREAT Accomplishment!!
Jul 18, '13
Congrats this is really inspiring!
Jul 18, '13
Are you going to be able to get a job with that record? I'm curious.
Jul 18, '13
Lying and having the legal right to omit information (WHICH VARIES GREATLY BY STATE) is not the same thing. If the judge gives you the right...you have the right. The BON does not have any special privileges when it comes to the operation of law.
The OP's experience was his own state's BON, in accordance with this own state's rules, policies, and order of law. You cannot translate that to any other state's experience but your own.
I'm glad this worked out for the OP.
Jul 18, '13
Congrats man. You're gonna be a great nurse.
I'm also a nurse in recovery with a 'sordid' past.
Looking back, life changes pretty quick once I made those first steps.