Criminal Convictions & Contractor License Suspension
in California

Perhaps you're an electrical contractor or a glazing specialist.  Maybe carpentry or fencing is your area of expertise.  If you're part of the California construction trade - one of the state's largest industries - this article is for you.

If you suffer a criminal conviction, your freedom is at stake.  But so is the contracting career you worked so hard to develop.

Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers might be able to help.1 We're former cops and prosecutors who now represent people accused of crimes.  We also help California professionals (including contractors) resolve license discipline issues.

We work throughout California and handle all kinds of felony and misdemeanor cases, including fraud, DUI and murder.

In this article, our lawyers discuss the impact of criminal convictions on contractors' licenses.  We cover:

1. Who regulates contractors in California?
2. Can criminal convictions trigger
CSLB discipline?

2.1. "Substantially related" convictions

2.2. Definition of conviction

2.3. Importance of rehabilitation

2.4. Disciplinary bonds

3. Can I fight for my license?

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group for a consultation.

1. Who regulates contractors in California?

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) regulates Engineering Contractors, General Building Contractors and Specialty Contractors in California.  CSLB has a 15-member board and an executive officer called the Registrar of Contractors.

Housed within the California Department of Consumer Affairs, CSLB has a mission to protect building industry customers from unscrupulous, irresponsible and dangerous contractors.

The agency administers the Contractors' State License Law and related administrative regulations.2

CSLB licenses over 300,000 contractors in 43 classification categories such as Concrete Contractors, Parking and Highway Improvement Contractors and Swimming Pool Contractors.

2. Can criminal convictions trigger
contractor discipline?

Just as contractors can be disciplined for misconduct like willful violation of trade standards and breaking contracts, builders face license suspension or revocation for suffering certain kinds of criminal convictions.

Not just any conviction counts.  The conviction must be "substantially related" to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a contractor to trigger CSLB discipline.3

If you are a new applicant, a past criminal conviction can preclude or hold up your ability to get a contractors' license.  Regulations now require applicant fingerprinting and background checks.

2.1.  "Substantially related" convictions

Generally speaking, a "substantially related" conviction is a conviction for a crime that implicates a contractor's ability to perform contracting work in a safe and responsible manner.

For example:

  • violations of the Contractors' State License Law
  • crimes involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or theft
  • crimes involving physical violence against persons
  • crimes that indicate a substantial or repeated disregard for the health, safety, or welfare of the public.4
  • violations of California Penal Code Section 396 (taking advantage of the public during emergencies like earthquakes or fires)5

When in doubt, it's always a good idea to check with a knowledgeable attorney about the circumstances of your particular case to determine whether it might be substantially related to contracting work.

2.2.  Definition of conviction

Convictions include felony and misdemeanor convictions secured through guilty pleas and verdicts, no contest pleas and even expunged criminal records.

A felony is generally defined as an offense punishable by state prison or death.  Other offenses (which are not infractions) are misdemeanors.6

The Registrar can act with respect to a conviction when the time for appeal has passed, the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or an order granting probation is made suspending imposition of sentence.7

2.3.  Importance of rehabilitation

The idea of rehabilitation - the notion that people can move past their crimes - is important in contractor license discipline and license denial cases based on criminal convictions.  Just because someone went through a bad patch in the past doesn't mean that person is unfit to do contracting work today.

The Registrar will consider a number of factors in determining whether a contractor or applicant has been rehabilitated from his or her crime, including the time that has elapsed since the conviction.

In general, a contractor may be considered rehabilitated:

  • for substantially related felony convictions, 7 years from time of release from incarceration or completion of probation (if no incarceration was imposed) so long as there has not been additional criminal activity
  • for substantially related misdemeanor convictions, 3 years from time of release from incarceration or completion of probation (if no incarceration was imposed) so long as there has not been additional criminal activity

CSLB will also consider the following:

  • nature and severity of the crime
  • evidence of any subsequent crime
  • compliance with parole, probation or restitution terms
  • consistent work history subsequent to release from incarceration or completion of probation
  • letters of reference
  • evidence of expungement proceedings
  • substance abuse counseling
  • anger management counseling8

2.4. Disciplinary bonds

A criminal conviction could end up costing you.  Contractors are required to post a disciplinary bond of at least $15,000 in connection with license restoration following discipline.9

The disciplinary bond is in addition to other bonds required by law.

3. Can I fight for my license?

You have worked hard for your contractor's license and CSLB can't just take it away or deny it without giving you the opportunity to challenge things.

There are different avenues you can take in fighting for your license.

First of all, you (or your attorney) might be able to negotiate a deal that avoids a contractors license suspension.

If that doesn't work out, you can have a hearing before an administrative law judge.  The hearing is like a mini-trial, where you will be able to introduce evidence and cross-examine witnesses.

We discuss the hearing process in more detail in our related article on Administrative Hearings.

Even if you end up losing your license, eventually you will be able to petition CSLB for reinstatement.10

The important thing to remember is that you have options.  An experienced attorney can help you build your defense and construct a pathway out of the debris that comes with an unfortunate run-in with the law.

Lawyers have tools, too.  We can use our tools to help you keep yours.

Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help.
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If you or loved one is charged with a crime and is a contractor and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

You also might be interested in reading our related articles Doctor License Revocation, Nurse License Revocation, Dentist License Revocation, Accountant License Revocation, Attorney License Revocation, Teacher License Revocation, Social Worker License Revocation, Real Estate Agent License Revocation, Convictions and State Civil Service Employees, and Police Officer Defense.

Plus we have a wide array of articles on criminal law topics including Common Crimes from A to Z, Domestic Violence and California Gun Laws.

Helpful links:

Contractors State License Board

California Department of Consumer Affairs

California Office of Administrative Hearings

References:

1Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2See California Business and Professions Code Section 7000 et seq; California Code of Regulations Title 16, Division 8 (Contractors' State License Board).  California Bus. & Prof. Code � 7000.6 provides:  "Protection of the public shall be the highest priority for the Contractors' State License Board in exercising its licensing, regulatory, and disciplinary functions.  Whenever the protection of the public is inconsistent with other interests sought to be promoted, the protection of the public shall be paramount."

3California Business and Professions Code Section 7123 provides:  "A conviction of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a contractor constitutes a cause for disciplinary action. The record of the conviction shall be conclusive evidence thereof."  SEE ALSO California Business and Professions Code Section 490, which provides:  "(a) In addition to any other action that a board is permitted to take against a licensee, a board may suspend or revoke a license on the ground that the licensee has been convicted of a crime, if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the license was issued.  (b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a board may exercise any authority to discipline a licensee for conviction of a crime that is independent of the authority granted under subdivision (a) only if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the licensee's license was issued.  (c) A conviction within the meaning of this section means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere.  Any action that a board is permitted to take following the establishment of a conviction may be taken when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.  (d) The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the application of this section has been made unclear by the holding in Petropoulos v. Department of Real Estate (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 554, and that the holding in that case has placed a significant number of statutes and regulations in question, resulting in potential harm to the consumers of California from licensees who have been convicted of crimes.  Therefore, the Legislature finds and declares that this section establishes an independent basis for a board to impose discipline upon a licensee, and that the amendments to this section made by Senate Bill 797 of the 2007-08 Regular Session do not constitute a change to, but rather are declaratory of, existing law."

416 Cal Code Regs � 868 provides:  "For the purposes of denial, suspension, or revocation of a license pursuant to Division 1.5 (commencing with Section 475) of the code, a crime or act, as defined in Section 480 of the code, shall be considered to be substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee (under Division 3, Chapter 9 of the code) if it evidences present or potential unfitness of an applicant or licensee to perform the functions authorized by the license in a manner consistent with the public health, safety, and welfare.  The crimes or acts shall include, but not be limited to, the following:  (a) Any violation of the provisions of Chapter 9 of Division 3 of the code.  (b) Failure to comply with the provisions of the California Administrative Code, Chapter 8, Title 16.  (c) Crimes or acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or theft with the intent to substantially benefit oneself or another or to substantially harm another.  (d) Crimes or acts involving physical violence against persons.(e) Crimes or acts that indicate a substantial or repeated disregard for the health, safety, or welfare of the public."

5California Business and Professions Code Section 7123.5 provides:  "If a contractor is convicted of violating Section 396 of the Penal Code or any substantially similar local ordinance in connection with the sale, or offer for sale, of repair or reconstruction services, as defined in Section 396 of the Penal Code, the Contractors' State License Board shall take disciplinary action against the contractor, which shall include a suspension of at least six months or the permanent revocation of the contractor's license."

6California Penal Code Section 17 provides:  "(a) A felony is a crime which is punishable with death or by          imprisonment in the state prison.  Every other crime or public offense is a misdemeanor except those offenses that are classified as infractions.  (b) When a crime is punishable, in the discretion of the court, by          imprisonment in the state prison or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, it is a misdemeanor for all purposes under the following circumstances:  (1) After a judgment imposing a punishment other than imprisonment in the state prison.  (2) When the court, upon committing the defendant to the Youth          Authority, designates the offense to be a misdemeanor.  (3) When the court grants probation to a defendant without imposition of sentence and at the time of granting probation, or on application of the defendant or probation officer thereafter, the court declares the offense to be a misdemeanor.  (4) When the prosecuting attorney files in a court having jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses a complaint specifying that the offense is a misdemeanor, unless the defendant at the time of his or her arraignment or plea objects to the offense being made a misdemeanor, in which event the complaint shall be amended to charge the felony and the case shall proceed on the felony complaint.  (5) When, at or before the preliminary examination or prior to filing an order pursuant to Section 872, the magistrate determines that the offense is a misdemeanor, in which event the case shall proceed as if the defendant had been arraigned on a misdemeanor complaint.  (c) When a defendant is committed to the Youth Authority for a crime punishable, in the discretion of the court, by imprisonment in the state prison or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, the offense shall, upon the discharge of the defendant from the Youth Authority, thereafter be deemed a misdemeanor for all purposes.  (d) A violation of any code section listed in Section 19.8 is an          infraction subject to the procedures described in Sections 19.6 and 19.7 when:  (1) The prosecutor files a complaint charging the offense as an infraction unless the defendant, at the time he or she is arraigned,          after being informed of his or her rights, elects to have the case proceed as a misdemeanor, or; (2) The court, with the consent of the defendant, determines that the offense is an infraction in which event the case shall proceed as if the defendant had been arraigned on an infraction complaint.  (e) Nothing in this section authorizes a judge to relieve a defendant of the duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to Section 290 if the defendant is charged with an offense for which registration as a sex offender is required pursuant to Section 290, and for which the trier of fact has found the defendant guilty."

7California Business and Professions Code Section 7124 provides:  "A plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere is deemed to be a conviction within the meaning of          this article.  The board may order the license suspended or revoked, or may decline to issue a license, when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal or          when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code allowing such person to withdraw his plea of guilty and to enter a plea of not guilty, or setting aside the verdict of guilty, or dismissing the accusation, information or indictment."  SEE ALSO California Business and Professions Code Section 7.5, which provides:  "A conviction within the meaning of this code means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere.  Any action which a board is permitted to take following the establishment of a conviction may be taken when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal or when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.  However, a board may not deny a license to an applicant who is otherwise qualified pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 480.  Nothing in this section shall apply to the licensure of persons pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 6000) of Division 3."  The referenced California Business and Professions Code Section 480 deals with license denials and provides: "(a) A board may deny a license regulated by this code on the grounds that the applicant has one of the following:  (1) Been convicted of a crime.  A conviction within the meaning of this section means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere.  Any action that a board is permitted to take following the establishment of a conviction may be taken when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.  (2) Done any act involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit himself or herself or another, or substantially injure another.  (3) (A) Done any act that if done by a licentiate of the business or profession in question, would be grounds for suspension or revocation of license.  (B) The board may deny a license pursuant to this subdivision only if the crime or act is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which          application is made.  (b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, no person shall be denied a license solely on the basis that he or she has been convicted of a felony if he or she has obtained a certificate of rehabilitation under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3 of the Penal Code or that he or she has been convicted of a misdemeanor if he or she has met all applicable          requirements of the criteria of rehabilitation developed by the board to evaluate the rehabilitation of a person when considering the denial of a license under subdivision (a) of Section 482.  (c) A board may deny a license regulated by this code on the ground that the applicant knowingly made a false statement of fact required to be revealed in the application for the license."

816 Cal Code Regs � 869 provides:  "(a) When considering the denial, suspension, or revocation of a license pursuant to Division 1.5 (commencing with Section 475) of the code, the Board in evaluating the applicant's or licensee's rehabilitation and present eligibility for a license will consider the following criteria:  (1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (a)(2), an applicant or licensee may be determined to be rehabilitated if he or she meets the following criteria:  (A) For felony convictions that are substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee as defined in Section 868, seven (7) years have passed from the time of release from incarceration or completion of probation if no incarceration was imposed, without the occurrence of additional criminal activity or substantially-related acts.  (B) For misdemeanor convictions that are substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee as defined in Section 868, three (3) years have passed from the time of release from incarceration or completion of probation if no incarceration was imposed, without the occurrence of additional criminal activity or substantially-related acts.  (C) For acts that are substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee as defined in Section 868, three (3) years have passed from the time of commission of the act(s), without the occurrence of criminal activity or additional substantially-related acts.  (2) The amount of time needed to demonstrate rehabilitation under subsection (a)(1) may be increased or decreased by taking into account the following:  (A) The nature and severity of the crime(s) or act(s) that are under consideration as, or that were, the grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation. (B) Evidence of any crime(s) or act(s) committed subsequent to the crime(s) or act(s) that are under consideration as, or that were, the grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation, which also could be considered as grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation.  (C) The time that has elapsed since commission of the crime(s) or act(s) that are under consideration as, or that were, the grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation.  (D) The extent to which the applicant or licensee has complied with any terms of parole, probation, restitution, or any other sanctions lawfully imposed against the applicant or licensee. (E) Consistent work history subsequent to the release from incarceration, or the completion of probation if no incarceration was imposed, or subsequent to the time of commission of the act(s).  (F) Documents or testimony from credible individuals who have personal knowledge of the applicant's or licensee's life and activities subsequent to the time of commission of the crime(s) or act(s) who can attest to the applicant's or licensee's present fitness for licensure.  (G) If applicable, evidence of expungement proceedings pursuant to Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.  (H) Other relevant evidence, if any, of rehabilitation submitted by the applicant or licensee.  For example, relevant evidence may include evidence of recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction or abuse or completion of a drug and/or alcohol aversion program if the crime(s) or act(s) related to or involved drug and/or alcohol use; or evidence of completion of an anger management program if the crime(s) or act(s) demonstrated the applicant's or licensee's inability to control one's temper.  (b) When considering a petition for reinstatement of the license of a contractor, the Board shall evaluate evidence of rehabilitation submitted by the petitioner, considering those criteria specified in subsection (a)."

9California Business and Professions Code Section 7071.8 provides:  "(a) This section applies to an application for a license, for renewal or restoration of a license, an application to change officers of a corporation, or for continued valid use of a license which has been disciplined, whether or not the disciplinary action has been stayed, made by any of the following persons or firms:  (1) Any person whose license has been suspended or revoked as a result of disciplinary action, or any person who was a qualifying individual for a licensee at any time during which cause for disciplinary action occurred resulting in suspension or revocation of the licensee's license, whether or not the qualifying individual had          knowledge or participated in the prohibited act or omission.  (2) Any person who was an officer, director, member, or partner of a licensee at any time during which cause for disciplinary action occurred resulting in suspension or revocation of the licensee's license and who had knowledge of or participated in the act or          omission which was the cause for the disciplinary action.  (3) Any partnership, corporation, firm, or association of which any existing or new officer, director, member, partner, or qualifying person has had a license suspended or revoked as a result of disciplinary action.  (4) Any partnership, corporation, firm, or association of which any officer, director, member, partner, or qualifying person was a member, officer, director, or partner of a licensee at any time during which cause for disciplinary action occurred resulting in          suspension or revocation of the license, and who had knowledge of or participated in the act or omission which was the cause for the disciplinary action.  (b) The board shall require as a condition precedent to the          issuance, reissuance, renewal, or restoration of a license to the applicant, or to the approval of an application to change officers of a corporation, or removal of suspension, or to the continued valid use of a license which has been suspended or revoked, but which suspension or revocation has been stayed, that the applicant or licensee file or have on file a contractor's bond in a sum to be fixed by the registrar based upon the seriousness of the violation, but which sum shall not be less than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) nor more than 10 times that amount required by Section 7071.6.  (c) The bond is in addition to, may not be combined with, and does not replace any other type of bond required by this chapter.  The bond shall remain on file with the registrar for a period of at least two years and for such additional time as the registrar may determine.  The bond period shall run only while the license is current, active, and in good standing, and shall be extended until such time as the license has been current, active, and in good          standing for the required period.  Each applicant or licensee shall be required to file only one disciplinary contractor's bond of the type described in this section for each application or license subject to this bond requirement."

1016 Cal Code Regs � 870 provides:  "(a) The Registar shall have exclusive authority in setting the earliest date a revoked licensee may reapply for reissuance or reinstatement of a license.  (b) when extending the minimum one year period, the Registrar shall give due consideration to the gravity of the violation, the history of previous violations and criminal convictions and evaluate the application based on the following criteria:  Reapplication Dates:  5 years - License has been revoked: (1) one or more times or (2) for committing fraudulent acts or (3) committing acts which have seriously endangered the public welfare and safety or (4) for being convicted of a construction-related crime. (For the purposes of determining if a crime is construction-related, CCR Title 16, Chapter 8, Section 868 shall apply.)  4 years - License has been revoked: (1) for committing violations on multiple construction projects; or (2) for committing multiple violations of law for reasons other than fraud, danger to the public welfare and safety and for conviction of a construction-related crime.  3 years - License has been revoked and revoked licensee: (1) has been issued more than one citation which has become final within one year immediately preceding the date of revocation or (2) has been previously suspended by the Register as the result of a disciplinary action.  2 years - License has been revoked and revoked licensee has been issued a citation, which has become final within one year immediately preceding the date of revocation.  1 year - Licensee has been revoked for the first time and revoked licensee has no previous legal action history with the Board."

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