Purportedly, the U.S. prides itself on giving individuals second chances and a “fresh start” for those who have been found guilty of a crime and subsequently paid their debt to society. The reality is that arrests or convictions can cause issues for those seeking a professional license from a state or federal agency. Being granted a professional license is a privilege, not a right, and is subject to review by the specific agency which receives the application for licensure. Those who need a license to perform their line of work may experience difficulty obtaining a professional license with a prior criminal history. This blog will explore some general considerations for people in that situation.
If you have been arrested, pleaded guilty or nolo contendere, or been found guilty of certain types of crimes in Florida, you are eligible to have the corresponding arrest and court records eliminated from public view. While sealing and expunging records permits a person to lawfully deny ever having been arrested or found guilty, there are limitations which may require disclosure of the records anyway. In certain situations, government and law enforcement agencies may still disclose the sealed or expunged records in very limited cases.
A difficulty arises in determining if you should disclose a sealed or expunged record on an application for a professional license. If an arrest or finding of guilt is not disclosed, these records might still show up in a background check for various reasons. For example, the FBI maintains a record of all criminal cases from the United States in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Although the information is not accessible to the general public, it may be discovered during a background check. Additionally, the internet is filled with reports of arrests and convictions which never disappear. For these reasons, it might be in your best interest to disclose your arrest or guilty plea even if the records have been sealed or expunged.
Tip: Be aware that for many crimes, the risk of having your application for a professional license denied lies in the failure to disclose it—not because of the arrest or finding of guilt.
To illustrate applying for a professional license with an arrest or criminal record, we will take a look at the application process to be a real estate broker or sales associate. On the license application, you are asked to provide information on any convictions, plea of guilty or no contest or completion of a pretrial intervention program. Your answers are checked against databases maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI, respectively. The information you provide is sent from the Florida Real Estate Commission to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
In addition to providing this information, you will be fingerprinted for the purposes of another background check. Ultimately, the DBPR makes a recommendation to the FREC. You may have to provide further information or appear at a hearing while your application is being considered. If you have a criminal history – whether or not it has been sealed or expunged – it is in your best interest to consult with a lawyer experienced in this area. You should seek legal representation if you are at all concerned about your application being approved.
Over one million individuals and businesses in the state of Florida must have professional licenses to work at their chosen professions. A failure to disclose an arrest or finding of guilt can become a serious issue if it is discovered in a background check.
Attorney Barry M. Wax is well-versed in this area of the law and is available to provide professionals with effective legal services when applying for a license or defending against complaints. Call the firm at to protect your livelihood today.