Background Check Reveals Arrest. Application to Sit Boards Denied

How to submit a Letter of Explanation to the Board of Nursing for prior arrests. Nurses General Nursing Article Magazine


Background Check Reveals Arrest. Application to Sit Boards Denied

Dear Nurse Beth,

I have recently graduated from school as an LPN. I just received a letter from state board of nursing saying my background reveals prior arrests, It states that they need a statement on why I fail to disclose the information. I have been in the health field now for almost 17 years. I have been in school for the last 7 years trying to obtain my nursing license from RN to LPN. It has been 20 years since the incident happened and I assumed I was under the first offender act and that I didn't have to disclose that information because for 17 years I have been putting no to this question and not once have I had any problems.

I've been working in the hospital for 17 years also sitting with clients, as well as long term facility. I am a licensed phlebotomist. I put no because I assumed that the information was expunged. Is all hope lost for me I have finally accomplished part of my goal being an RN is my passion and I have been fighting so hard? If I cant be a nurse I don't know what I will do. I need help and some understanding on if I still have a chance being because I told them no for that question.

If I knew I had to put yes, by all means, I would have put yes. I really didn't know and God knows I was never trying to hide anything. I don't know how to start my appeal or what to say. Could you please if you can give me some clarification on this process? I am lost and I feel like my life is doomed.

Dear Background,

You hoped if you ignored it, it would go away. You counted on the fact that you had concealed it so far.

You didn't count on the fact that state boards of nursing conduct FBI level background checks.

  • Nursing schools do not conduct FBI level background checks
  • Employers do not conduct FBI level background checks
  • Government agencies that protect the public do

Now you are into damage control with the state board of nursing. Here's what not to do:

  • Do not minimize it "It was 20 yrs ago"
  • Do not defend falsifying information "I answered no instead of yes because I thought no one would find out"
  • Do not claim innocence "I didn't know I had to answer truthfully"

Before you write your letter of explanation, STOP. Take a deep breath. Your future depends on it. Right now, you are your own worst enemy. You must do a complete 180. If you can get your emotions and defenses out of the way, you have a shot at this.

TIP: Your email address (not shown here) is cutesy and entirely unprofessional. Get a Gmail account with your name, such as [email protected]. and use it for any remotely career-related correspondence.

You must take complete responsibility for whatever happened and show that you have been rehabilitated. In other words, the letter you submit must be nothing like the one above.

Read "Criminal Infraction? Writing a Letter of Explanation to the BON".

You must show insight and remorse for your actions. Not just remorse for being caught.

You see, the state has one duty. To protect the public. They need to see you are not the person you were back then, and you would not repeat your mistake. How do you do that? Follow the steps in the article above.

Depending on the nature of the crime, your rehabilitation, and the length of time since the arrest, I would hope for the best. This can be salvageable.

It's likely that the board has also notified your school. Reach out to the head of your program. It's possible they will provide a letter of reference based on your performance during school and personal knowledge of your character.

Consider consulting an attorney. There's one on the allnurses site, Lorie Brown, and she has a column, Ask A Nurse Attorney. She's a strong nurse advocate. I hope you will contact her for recommendations.

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Nurse Beth is an Educator, Writer, Blogger, and Subject Matter Expert who blogs about nursing career advice at

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I seriously doubt that you are trying to go from RN to LPN. That being said, failure to disclose is grounds for refusing to grant you a license.

Specializes in New Grad 2020.

Rn to LPN? That is weird I am assuming you mean the other way around

There is information missing in the response.

The problem is that you "assumed" the arrest was expunged. Nowhere in your answer did you SAY someone TOLD you it was expunged. This had less to do with the FBI check and more to do with the fact your record was never expunged to start with. The questions on the application are clear....have you EVER been arrested, convicted, etc.

You can only answer "no" to this question IF you KNOW you have a clear expungement AND the BON application doesn't specifically ASK for you to disclose expunged records...California is one state that will.

General background checks by employers only typically go back 7 years for misdemeanors and 10 years for felonies...this is why it has never come up before.

When records are sealed, they are sealed at the state and federal level. An expungement never truly goes away..this is how they know you had a prior conviction if you ever get arrested again. When the report goes back to the BON (It has to be reviewed first before released), it is reviewed very carefully for charges that have been sealed. If it has been sealed, the BON never sees it...if it hasn't, the report goes back with whatever is on it.

The BON applications are very specific and tell you exactly what you need to disclose and not disclose.

Added note: You may have a bigger problem on your hands if this arrest happened after you became an LPN.

In my state, the nurse practice act, when you apply for license renewal, if you have ever had any arrests or convictions since your last renewal you are required to disclose it. You need to double check yours and see if it required the same disclosure.

I had a similar experience. I had an arrest but no charges were brought. The BON let me take the NCLEX but then came back and had me write the letters, get references and prove there were no charges ( a letter from the police department ).

The personal letter I wrote regarding the situation was telling the story of how I learned and grew from the arrest, how my life had changed, etc. I also put the part of the BON application that stated that you do not need to report arrests if there were no charges brought and no further actions taken.

Take a deep breath and go through and do every last thing they ask of you. Don't cop an attitude, don't get defensive, don't try to make excuses, just show the mature, responsible person you are now.

If you did have charges brought, and you were found guilty, that doesn't mean you cannot get your license, it just means you have a few extra hurdles.

Good luck. I know this how you are feeling, that depression that threatens to wash over you and the pit in your stomach. Just take one step at a time and you'll come out on the other side.

On 9/4/2019 at 6:33 PM, maddogatc said:

I seriously doubt that you are trying to go from RN to LPN. That being said, failure to disclose is grounds for refusing to grant you a license.

On 9/6/2019 at 1:04 PM, 0.5GPA said:

RN to LPN? That is weird I am assuming you mean the other way around

Being that the sentence in question would appear to be saying something pretty much unheard of, that is an invitation to consider whether the writer might have been trying to convey something different and not quite so absurd. I wonder if the OP used "from" to mean "between the two" and was trying to convey something like, "I have spent 7 years in school between pursuing [x] and also [y]."

From RN to LPN I've spent 7 years.

Between attending an RN program and now finishing an LPN program, I've spent 7 years trying to become a nurse.

"I have been in school for the last 7 years trying to obtain my nursing license from RN to LPN."

I don't know the facts of the OP's situation, but I suspect all three of these are trying to say the same thing, and would be true for someone who, for example, had some difficulty in an RN program so then applied for and worked their way through an LPN program; both pursuits were part of their journey to where they are now.