Getting a California RN License with a Criminal History: Misdemeanor

  1. Disclaimer:

    This topic is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This is simply an account of my experiences with the California Board of Registered Nursing. Individual situations will vary depending on:

    1. The nature and severity of the crime
    2. Evidence of any acts or crimes committed subsequent to the crime under consideration
    3. The time elapsed since the crime
    4. The extent that you complied with parole, probation, restitution, or other lawful sanctions
    5. Evidence of rehabilitation

    Background Information:

    I'm a 26 year old male applying for my RN license from the California Board of Registered Nursing in December 2012. I attended a California State University for 4 years to get a BSN degree. I have been working in the emergency department of a hospital for 1 1/2 years; great place to get experience and references.

    Prior convictions include:
    1. Theft of personal property in 2004 at the age of 18 (8 years ago)
    2. Open container in 2004 at the age of 18 (8 years ago)
    3. Basic speed law in 2010 at the age of 24 (2 years ago)

    I expunged my theft of personal property charge in 2008 after a three year probation. I highly recommend expunging your record after you serve probation even though you have to report it to the BRN and any government agency. This is because it looks good to the board and after you get your license you usually don't have to report the crime when applying for a job. For California expungement information go to:

    I got my speeding ticket dismissed after completing a trial by written declaration. I also highly recommend trial by written declaration for tickets because all I wrote was "I am not guilty" and because the cop didn't write a response, I got back all my money and got the ticket dismissed.

    The Application Process:

    Applications are relatively straightforward for the California Board of Registered Nursing until you get to the prior convictions section. You got your work cut out for you if you have any convictions and this includes tickets over $300 and yes...even things that were expunged or dismissed.

    When completing the California BRN prior convictions section it is on you to get all the documentation needed and organized so I suggest starting early so that you can have things ready before you graduate and so that you don't postpone your application too much. For this section I organized it in the same order as it is listed on this guideline on the California BRN website. Enforcement Applicant Desk

    Prior Convictions Section of the Application:

    1)Letter of explanation: This must be very well written so make sure it is proofread (unlike this post) and make sure to include: circumstances surrounding the arrest(s), convictions(s), and/or disciplinary actions(s); the date of the convictions, the specific violations (cite the law if convicted...i googled it and cited it as a footnote), court location, sanctions or penalties imposed and completion dates. Also include what you have done since then regarding your rehabilitation and why you want to be an RN. I also included the roles of an RN to show that I know what my roles will be. Make the letter sincere and show how you have grown out of this experience.

    2)Arrest/Incident reports: These are NOT court documents and you cannot get these at the court house. You literally have to go to the police station and request one; even then, they may not give you one. It cost like $8 for mine. Make sure it is stamped and/or signed

    3)Certified Court Documents: You have to go to the court house in the county you were arrested/cited and get the documents from the office of records: It cost me $25 for each one (x3) plus a charge for the paper used to print them; so, this cost me like $79. Ouch

    4)Evidence of Rehabilitation: Here I just put my documentation that I completed my probation, I got my record expunged, and some volunteering experience.

    5)Reference Letters: These will take a while to get depending on the people you ask. I included 3 letters. One from a trauma nurse, one from my nursing supervisor, and one from a dentist that I know and that I have volunteered with in the past. Someone suggested that I get one from a nurse, one from a clergy member, and one from a political figure if possible but, I didn't really know the latter two people. I didn't need to include alcohol related letters because I didn't get a DUI, I only got an open container ticket. I wasn't actually drinking and driving but my friend was drinking in the car so that is how I got the ticket.

    6)A work performance evaluation. This will take a while to get depending on your supervisor. This doesn't need to be nursing related but mine was because I've been working in a hospital for 1 1/2 years.

    Waiting for a Reply:

    I sent my completed application in on 12/5/12.

    I got a letter 15 days later that said "An evaluation of your application for examination indicates that the following items and/or information are required to complete you application. Due to your disclosure of previous discipline or conviction, your application will require additional processing time. A FINAL DECISION REGARDING AN ENFORCEMENT CASE FILE CANNOT BE MADE WITHOUT THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS - REFER THE ENCLOSED NOTICE FOR DETAILS. If you have already addressed the checked item(s) above, please disregard this letter." Enclosed notice was this link: I thought I turned everything in. Well, actually I did but I guess they just sent this to confuse me.

    I got a letter 15 days after that that scared the oop: out of me at first but it turned out to be a good letter. It read:
    "The board of registered nursing (Board) has completed its review of your conviction history. The conviction(s) you sustained is/are considered substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a registered nurse. Business and Professions 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 for licensure. 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 you practice as a registered nurse may result in disciplinary action against you license."

    I got my eligibility notice to take NCLEX 4 days later. YAY!!!

    I took my NCLEX-RN and just found out I passed first try.

    I hope this helps somebody out there. I know from experience how nerve-racking it can be to have prior convictions but, if you stick with it you can become a nurse. I wish you all the best of luck because nursing is truly the best profession in the world. Oh..and thanks Board for giving me a chance to be a Real Nurse.

    Useful links:

    California BRN Website: California Board of Registered Nursing go to "Applicants" at the top, then go to "Licensure by Examination", then go to "Click here for additional information for applicants with criminal convictions or discipline"
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 2, '18 : Reason: formatting
  2. Visit cheethaj profile page

    About cheethaj, BSN, RN

    Joined: Aug '10; Posts: 55; Likes: 32
    Public Health Nurse; from US
    Specialty: 2 year(s) of experience in Public Health Nursing


  3. by   Sun0408
    awesome.. That is great news, congrats !!!
  4. by   kaydensmom01
    Thanks! It certainly does help me, the process of gathering required paperwork has been very confusing to me. I will be graduating in May, but the Board of Nursing said that I can turn everything in now so they will only have to wait on my letter of completion. When I called them, I could not find out exactly what I needed, especially about the court documents and letter of explanation. The application it states
    "If you answered “Yes” to a box above, you are required to provide the Board with a written explanation of the events
    including the date, county and state in which the events occurred (attach a separate sheet to this application), and a
    certified copy of the indictment(s) or criminal complaint(s), plea(s), journal entry(s) from the appropriate court. A copy
    of the court docket or case summary does not meet this requirement."

    I am still not sure if I need a certified arrest record, but I guess gathering one and sending it can't hurt. On the letter of explanation I had no idea what to put, I did not know if they just wanted the circumstances in black and white, or if they wanted a genuine answer of the circumstances and how it has changed me as a person and how it will relate to my nursing career. I am going to do the later one, so hopefully they can feel my honestly. It also does not say anything about references, but I am thinking about turning in one or two from my instructors who are aware of my situation. I am nervous about sending in things not asked, because the application specifically states not to do this, but I think the benefits outweigh the risk in this situation.

    I did not find anything like there is on the California BON website about what to turn in if you have a criminal history (I am applying in Ohio, and am aware that the paperwork may be different). I will hopefully have everything in by February 12th, and then graduate on May 10th and am so anxious as to whether or not I will be licensed because my case is much more complicated than yours.

    Congrats on getting your license and thank you for the tips!!!
  5. by   hunnybunches
    First of, congratulations on your well deserved accomplishment! Second of all, thank you so much for this information! I am sure it is
    going to help and give many people inspiration!
  6. by   cheethaj
    Maybe Ohio has a different system in how they report arrests/incidents. I would agree that it can't hurt to send in what you can in an organized way so that they have all the information they will need to review your case. This will ensure that your application is processed in a timely manner. I wish you the best of luck with your case and I hope the board is able to realize that people do want to improve their lives even though they made a mistake or two, or three in the past. Don't give up hope and remember that you can always appeal a BRN decision.
  7. by   JustBeachyNurse
    Threads merged and moved to Nursing License with a Criminal History Forum
  8. by   cheethaj
    Thanks. I was looking for the appropriate place but I didn't think to look under career.
  9. by   DavidKarl
    I received the exact same letter from CA. I cried halfway through it, until the tone changed, and that no action was being taken. Whoever writes their templates, does so with flair, and the knowing they are causing trauma...Gotta give them credit for their craft.
  10. by   blueorchid981
    Do all applications with criminal record require letters of reference?
  11. by   db2xs
    Quote from blueorchid981
    Do all applications with criminal record require letters of reference?
    Blueorchid, I don't know what state you're applying to, I called the California BON and they said to include two to three letters. I am including seven!
  12. by   cheethaj
    Hi jmira,

    I am sorry about the late response; I've been out of country. I gave a purpose statement then I mixed the facts about my convictions with lessons learned for each one. Finally, I wrapped it up at the end. If you send me your e-mail then I can send you the actual letter that I wrote. I can't send it via private message because I haven't posted 15 times yet.

  13. by   cheethaj
    The California BON does indeed require letters of reference for all applications with a criminal record; I am not sure about other states. I am also applying for my Hawaii license by endorsement and because I already have my California license, they did not require letters of reference. I am not sure if it is just because I already have a license in California or if it is just the state of Hawaii policy, but Hawaii only requires court documents for convictions that have not been dismissed or expunged in the last 20 years and a letter explaining the circumstances regarding the convictions. That made things much easier but Hawaii is taking their sweet time sending me my license.
  14. by   txbluebonnett
    I received deferred adjudication in Tx 10 years ago for a felony possession charge which was discharged in 2006. I've never been convicted, however it still shows on a background check and Tx law doesn't allow for expunction. I have worked in the medical field most of my life. I have gotten a determination from another state board in another medical profession that would allow me to sit for licensing, but have really been considering nursing. I'm fairly sure the Tx BON would grant me a declaratory order and I could get into a nursing program, however; my concern is with the clinical sites and whether they would let me do my clinicals? If anyone has any experience on this I'd really appreciate the feedback. Thanks.