When do criminal convictions cost California teachers
their teaching credentials?

When it comes to criminal convictions, California's teachers may be held to account in their professional lives for bad judgment calls they make in their private lives.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing can revoke or suspend a teacher's credential for suffering certain kinds of convictions, including DUIs obtained on the weekend and away from school property.

If you've landed in this kind of situation, our California criminal defense lawyers might be able to help. We represent teachers accused of crimes, and we help them to resolve their cases so as to avoid losing their credentials in disciplinary proceedings.1

This article is about how criminal convictions can impact teaching credentials. If you have questions after reading it, we invite you to contact us for a consultation.

This article covers:

1. Who regulates teachers in California?
2. What kinds of convictions can
jeopardize my credential?
3. Can I fight to keep teaching?

(Click on a title to proceed directly to that section)

1. Who regulates teachers in California?

California's teachers are licensed and regulated by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, an agency within the state's executive branch.2

Within the Commission, the Committee on Credentials reviews teacher discipline cases, including those based on criminal convictions. The Committee makes recommendations to the Commission as to whether a teaching credential should be denied, revoked or suspended.3

The provisions of California's Education Code governing conviction-related discipline are particularly detailed and complex. We recommend consulting with a skilled attorney to help evaluate the Code as it relates to a given case.

2. What kinds of convictions can jeopardize
my California teaching credential?

A range of criminal convictions can trigger Committee on Credentials review and disciplinary action.

Automatic suspension/revocation convictions

The Commission will automatically suspend and/or revoke a credential based on certain kinds of convictions.4 These convictions include:

Other convictions

A conviction for a crime that is not specifically listed still can form the basis for teacher discipline so long as it indicates that the credential-holder is unfit to teach. In making this fitness determination the Committee will look at the

  1. impact of conduct on students
  2. proximity or remoteness in time of conduct
  3. type of credential at issue
  4. extenuating or aggravating circumstances
  5. praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of motives
  6. likelihood of recurrence
  7. extent to which discipline may chill constitutional rights
  8. publicity or notoriety given to the conduct9

These factors derive from case law and constitutional principles.10

Driving under the influence case

A California appellate court recently had occasion to evaluate these factors (sometimes referred to as the "Morrison" factors) in the case of an Orange County fifth grade public school teacher who was disciplined after receiving three DUI's spread over several years.11

The case was long and drawn out. But ultimately the court went through the eight factors and found that they weighed in favor of discipline.

The court noted that the teacher's court-ordered ankle bracelet "would have adversely impacted [her] ability to earn the respect of her students" and that the most recent conviction was aggravated by an alcohol content of more than three times the legal limit.

Felony to misdemeanor reduction case

Another relatively recent case came out more positively for a credential-applicant.

A prospective educator appealed to the courts after being denied a teaching credential on the ground that he was a "convicted felon" since pleading no contest to felony negligent discharge of a firearm.

But the felony conviction was later reduced to a misdemeanor in connection with California Penal Code Section 17.

The court agreed that the relevant Code section could not bar credentialing because "at the time of his applications he stood convicted of a misdemeanor, not a felony".12

3. Can I fight to keep teaching?

You have worked hard to achieve your teaching credential and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing can't just take it away without good reason.

If the Commission initiates an adverse action against your license based on a run-in with the law, you might be able to mount a successful defense. Perhaps the offense simply has no bearing on your fitness to teach or perhaps an exception applies in your case.

Whether you chose to fight yourself or hire a lawyer to assist you, we stress that you act in earnest and keep on top of things, including deadlines.

Please remember that we are just a phone call away. We can walk you through discipline proceedings as well as the criminal process generally.

We can help you formulate a plan of action to meet this challenge head on and continue teaching.

Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help.
Img-call-for-help

If you or loved one is charged with a crime and are a teacher 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 might also be interested in reading our related articles Nurse License Revocation, Dentist License Revocation, Pharmacist License Revocation, Social Worker License Revocation, and Real Estate Broker License Revocation.

Helpful links:

Commission on Teacher Credentialing

California Office of Administrative hearings

References:

1Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers have local offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, San Diego, San Francisco, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.

2See California Education Code Section 44000 et seq; California Code of Regulations Title 5, Division 8 (Commission on Teacher Credentialing). This article is about state Commission on Teacher Credentialing disciplinary action and does not cover the intersection of such action with county proceedings. See West's California Jurisprudence 3rd, Vol. 56, �� 383 and 388.

3See California Education Code Section 44421 ("The Commission on Teacher Credentialing shall privately admonish, publicly reprove, revoke or suspend for immoral or unprofessional conduct, or for persistent defiance of, and refusal to obey, the laws regulating the duties of persons serving in the          public school system, or for any cause that would have warranted the denial of an application for a credential or the renewal thereof, or for evident unfitness for service.") SEE ALSO California Education Code Section 44240 et seq.

4California Education Code Section 44425 provides: "(a) Whenever the holder of a credential issued by the state board or the Commission on Teacher Credentialing has been convicted of a sex offense, as defined in Section 44010, or controlled substance offense, as defined in Section 44011, the commission immediately shall suspend the credential. If the conviction is reversed and the holder is acquitted of the offense in a new trial or the charges against him or her are dismissed, the commission immediately shall terminate the suspension of the credential. When the conviction becomes final or when imposition of sentence is suspended, the commission immediately shall revoke the credential. (b) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (a) and Section 44009, if the holder of a credential enters a plea of nolo contendere for a violation of subdivision (d) of Section 647 of the Penal Code, the commission of a sex offense as defined in Section 44010, all credentials held by the individual shall be suspended until a final disposition regarding those credentials is made by the commission. Any action that the commission is permitted to take following a conviction may be taken after the time for appeal has elapsed, the judgment of conviction has been confirmed on appeal, or when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence and the time of appeal has elapsed or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, irrespective of a subsequent order pursuant to Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code. (2) The Legislature shall convene a working group of interested parties including, but not limited to, the commission, civil rights organizations, and organizations that represent teachers, administrators, county offices of education, school districts, school boards, and parents to study Sections 44010, 44011, and 44424, and to provide a report on its findings on or before December 1, 2009. (c) Notwithstanding any other law, revocation shall be final without possibility of reinstatement of the credential if the conviction is for a felony sex offense, as defined in Section 44010, or a felony controlled substance offense, as defined in Section 44011, in which an element of the controlled substance offense is either the distribution to, or use of a controlled substance by, a minor. (d) (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the commission immediately shall suspend the credential of any holder who is required to register as a sex offender pursuant to either of the following: (A) Section 290 of the Penal Code. (B) A law of any other state or of the United States when the underlying offense, if committed in this state, would require registration as a sex offender pursuant to Section 290 of the Penal Code. (2) If the conviction requiring registration as a sex offender is reversed on appeal and the holder is acquitted at a new trial or if the charges against the holder are dismissed as a result of the reversal, upon notice, the commission shall immediately reinstate the credential. (3) The commission immediately shall revoke a credential based on a conviction requiring registration as a sex offender when the time for appeal has elapsed, the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence and the time for appeal has elapsed. (e) A credential holder whose credential has not been revoked pursuant to subdivision (a) as a result of a misdemeanor sex offense, as defined in Section 44010, that does not require registration as a sex offender as set forth in subdivision (c), may apply for reinstatement of his or her credential pursuant to Section 11522 of the Government Code if the accusation or information against the holder has been dismissed and he or she has been released from all disabilities and penalties resulting from the offense pursuant to Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code or the equivalent statute in another federal or state jurisdiction. As to related CREDENTIAL DENIAL provisions, SEE California Education Code Section 44346.

5California Education Code Section 44010 provides: "`Sex offense,� as used in Sections 44020, 44237, 44346, 44425, 44436, 44836, and 45123, means any one or more of the offenses listed below: (a) Any offense defined in Section 220, 261, 261.5, 262, 264.1, 266, 266j, 267, 285, 286, 288, 288a, 288.5, 289, 311.1, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.10, 311.11, 313.1, 647b, 647.6, or former Section 647a, subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) of Section 243.4, or subdivision (a) or (d) of Section 647 of the Penal Code. (b) Any offense defined in former subdivision (5) of former Section 647 of the Penal Code repealed by Chapter 560 of the Statutes of 1961, or any offense defined in former subdivision (2) of former Section 311 of the Penal Code repealed by Chapter 2147 of the Statutes of 1961, if the offense defined in those sections was committed prior to September 15, 1961, to the same extent that an offense committed prior to that date was a sex offense for the purposes of this section prior to September 15, 1961. (c) Any offense defined in Section 314 of the Penal Code committed on or after September 15, 1961. (d) Any offense defined in former subdivision (1) of former Section 311 of the Penal Code repealed by Chapter 2147 of the Statutes of 1961 committed on or after September 7, 1955, and prior to September 15, 1961. (e) Any offense involving lewd and lascivious conduct under Section 272 of the Penal Code committed on or after September 15, 1961. (f) Any offense involving lewd and lascivious conduct under former Section 702 of the Welfare and Institutions Code repealed by Chapter 1616 of the Statutes of 1961, if that offense was committed prior to September 15, 1961, to the same extent that an offense committed prior to that date was a sex offense for the purposes of this section prior to September 15, 1961. (g) Any offense defined in Section 286 or 288a of the Penal Code prior to the effective date of the amendment of either section enacted at the 1975-76 Regular Session of the Legislature committed prior to the effective date of the amendment. (h) Any attempt to commit any of the offenses specified in this section. (i) Any offense committed or attempted in any other state or against the laws of the United States which, if committed or attempted in this state, would have been punishable as one or more of the offenses specified in this section. (j) Any conviction for an offense resulting in the requirement to register as a sex offender pursuant to Section 290 of the Penal Code. (k) Commitment as a mentally disordered sex offender under former Article 1 (commencing with Section 6300) of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, as repealed by Chapter 928 of the Statutes of 1981."

6California Education Code Section 44011 provides: "`Controlled substance offense� as used in Sections 44346, 44425, 44436, 44836, and 45123 means any one or more of the following offenses: (a) Any offense in Sections 11350 to 11355, inclusive, 11361, 11366, 11368, 11377 to 11382, inclusive, and 11550 of the Health and Safety Code. (b) Any offense committed or attempted in any other state or against the laws of the United States which, if committed or attempted in this state, would have been punished as one or more of the above-mentioned offenses. (c) Any offense committed under former Sections 11500 to 11503, inclusive, 11557, 11715, and 11721 of the Health and Safety Code. (d) Any attempt to commit any of the above-mentioned offenses."

7California Education Code Section 44424 provides: "(a) Upon the conviction of the holder of any credential issued by the State Board of Education or the Commission on Teacher Credentialing of a violation, or attempted violation, of a violent or serious felony as described in Section 44346.1, or any one or more of Penal Code Sections 187 to 191, inclusive, 192 insofar as this section relates to voluntary manslaughter, 193, 194 to 217.1, inclusive, 220, 222, 244, 245, 261 to 267, inclusive, 273a, 273ab, 273d, 273f, 273g, 278, 285 to 288a, inclusive, 424, 425, 484 to 488, inclusive, insofar as these sections relate to felony convictions, 503 and 504, or of any offense involving lewd and lascivious conduct under Section 272 of the Penal Code, or any offense committed or attempted in any other state or against the laws of the United States which, if committed or attempted in this state, would have been punished as one or more of the offenses specified in this section, becoming final, the commission shall forthwith revoke the credential. (b) Upon a plea of nolo contendere as a misdemeanor to one or more of the crimes set forth in subdivision (a), all credentials held by the respondent shall be suspended until a final disposition regarding those credentials is made by the commission. Any action that the commission is permitted to take following a conviction may be taken after 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 and the time for appeal has elapsed or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, irrespective of a subsequent order under the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code. (c) The commission shall revoke a credential issued to a person whose employment has been denied or terminated pursuant to Section 44830.1. (d) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a credential shall not be revoked solely on the basis that the applicant or holder has been convicted of a violent or serious felony if the person has obtained a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3 of the Penal Code." As to related CREDENTIAL DENIAL provisions, SEE California Education Code Section 44346.1.

8California Code Section 44423.6 provides: "(a) (1) The commission shall revoke the credential of a holder when it receives notice that the ability of the holder of the credential to associate with minors has been limited as a term or condition of probation or sentencing resulting from a criminal conviction in this state, another state, or the United States. The limitation shall include, but is not limited to, a prohibition of associating or contact with minors, or a prohibition of associating with minors unless under supervision or in the presence of another adult. (2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to a conviction based solely on violating an order as set forth in subdivision (a) of Section 273.6 of the Penal Code. (b) The commission shall revoke the credential of a holder upon receipt of notice that the holder of the credential has been ordered to surrender a credential or certification document as a term or condition of probation or sentencing resulting from a criminal conviction in this state, another state, or the United States. The limitation shall include, but not be limited to, an order to surrender or self revoke a credential authorizing service in a public school. (c) A person whose credential is revoked pursuant to this section shall not apply to the commission for reinstatement of the credential pursuant to Section 11522 of the Government Code until the terms or conditions imposed by the conviction, as described in subdivision (a) or (b) of this section, are lifted." SEE ALSO Rebecca Rabovsky, Chapter 578: Reducing the Discretion on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, McGeorge Law Review/Vol. 40, discussing passage of these provisions in order to eliminate loopholes in the teacher discipline process. ("Prior to Chapter 578, if an educator was initially charged with a crime that required the revocation or suspension of a credential, but then plea-bargained it down to a lesser offense with terms of probation that limited contact with minors, the CTC could not suspend or revoke the credential until the Committee conducted an often lengthy discretionary review. In addition, while prior law allowed application for reinstatement of the credential one year after the date of revocation, Chapter 578 only allows reinstatement after the terms of probation have been lifted.")

9California Code of Regulations Title 5, � 80302 provides: "(a) The Committee, in conducting its investigation, shall determine the relationship between the alleged misconduct and the applicant's or holder's fitness, competence, or ability to effectively perform the duties authorized by the credential. Such relationship may be based on facts which include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) The likelihood that the conduct may have adversely affected students, fellow teachers, or the educational community, and the degree of such adversity anticipated; (2) The proximity or remoteness in time of the conduct; (3) The type of credential held or applied for by the person involved; (4) The extenuating or aggravating circumstances surrounding the conduct; (5) The praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of the motives resulting in the conduct; (6) The likelihood of the recurrence of the questioned conduct; (7) The extent to which disciplinary action may inflict an adverse impact or chilling effect upon the constitutional rights of the person involved, or other certified persons; (8) The publicity or notoriety given to the conduct. (b) If the Committee finds no relationship between the alleged misconduct and the applicant's or holder's fitness, competence or ability to effectively perform the duties authorized by the credential the Committee shall close the investigation."

10See Morrison v. State Board of Education, 1 Cal.3d 214, 225 (1969) [court determines that terms like "immoral" and "unprofessional" and "moral turpitude" must be evaluated within context of fitness to teach in case in which teacher's life diploma was revoked on basis of homosexual relationship with another teacher] ("Terms such as 'immoral or unprofessional conduct' or 'moral turpitude' stretch over so wide a range that they embrace an unlimited area of conduct. In using them the Legislature surely did not mean to endow the employing agency with the power to dismiss any employee whose personal, private conduct incurred its disapproval. Hence the courts have consistently related the terms to the issue of whether, when applied to the performance of the employee on the job, the employee has disqualified himself. In the instant case the terms denote immoral or unprofessional conduct or moral turpitude of the teacher which indicates unfitness to teach." See also page 229: "In determining whether the teacher's conduct thus indicates unfitness to teach the board may consider such matters as the likelihood that the conduct may have adversely affected students or fellow teachers, the degree of such adversity anticipated, the proximity or remoteness in time of the conduct, the type of teaching certificate held by the party involved, the extenuating or aggravating circumstances, if any, surrounding the conduct, the praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of the motives resulting in the conduct, the likelihood of the recurrence of the questioned conduct, and the extent to which disciplinary action may inflict an adverse impact or chilling effect upon the constitutional rights of the teacher involved or other teachers. These factors are relevant to the extent that they assist the board in determining whether the teacher's fitness to teach, i.e., in determining whether the teacher's future classroom performance and over-all impact on his students are likely to meet the board's standards.")

11Broney v. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (2010) --- Cal.Rptr.3d --- 2010 WL 1803848 ("A teacher whose credential is being investigated for possible adverse action is per se unfit to teach only when the teacher has been convicted of a crime which the Legislature has declared requires the imposition of automatic sanctions on that teacher's credentials..Driving under the influence is not an offense specified by the Legislature as sufficient per se to justify suspension or revocation of teaching credentials..Thus, the trial court erred in concluding plaintiff's driving under the influence convictions rendered her unfit to teach per se. Plaintiff was entitled to a fitness hearing where the trier of fact weighed the Morrison factors to determine whether she was unfit to teach on account of her unprofessional conduct." Internal quotations and citations omitted)

12Gebremicael v. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 118 Cal.App.4th 1477, 1481 (2004) ("Moreover, because plaintiff is ineligible for a certification of rehabilitation and pardon under Penal Code section 4852.01, the Commission's interpretation of Education Code section 44346.1 would work the anomalous result of barring plaintiff, now convicted of a misdemeanor, and who never served time in state prison, from ever obtaining a credential but allowing a person convicted of a straight felony who served time in state prison to obtain a credential. We do not construe statutes to impose such ludicrous effects." Id at 1488)

Save

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Regain peace of mind...

Our defense attorneys understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most difficult times of your life. Rely on us to zealously and discreetly protect your rights and to fight for the most favorable resolution possible.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California and Nevada. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370