Assembly Bill 2138 was signed into law by Gov. Brown in September 2018. According to the bill, a licensing board cannot take away, or deny, a license on the basis of a criminal conviction if the following is true:
- The conviction is seven years or older; and,
- The conviction is not substantially related to the job details the applicant will perform.
Please note, however, that these rules do not apply if a conviction is for a serious felony. Licensing boards may take away a license, or deny one, for these offenses.
Under California law, prior to AB 2138, licensing boards could take away or deny a license if the applicant, or license holder, was convicted of a crime. Very limited exceptions applied.
New Laws Under Assembly Bill 2138
AB 2138 applies to the 42 licensing boards under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The bill states that these boards can take away or deny a license on the basis of a criminal conviction, but only if the following conditions are met.
- The conviction did not occur within seven years from the date of the license application; and,
- The conviction is substantially related to the duties of the profession the applicant wishes to pursue.
Again, please note that these laws do not apply to convictions for serious felonies. Licenses can be taken away or denied if an applicant, or license holder, has a serious felony conviction.
The above protections also apply to instances in which an applicant has been subject to formal discipline by a licensing board. In these situations, Assembly Bill 2138 says that a licensing board cannot take away or deny a license just because of the formal discipline if the following is true:
- The discipline took place seven or more years ago; and,
- The discipline was not substantially related to the duties of the profession the applicant wishes to pursue.
Laws Prior to Assembly Bill 2138
AB 2138 significantly changed California's existing law on licenses and prior convictions. Under the State's old law, a licensing board could deny, suspend or revoke a license if an applicant, or license holder, had been convicted of a crime.
The only exceptions were if the applicant or license holder:
- Obtained a certificate of rehabilitation, if convicted of a felony; or,
- Met applicable rehabilitation requirements, if convicted of a misdemeanor.
Reasoning for AB 2138
Proponents of the new law support it for three main reasons. These are:
- It will help offenders secure employment and find good paying jobs;
- It helps maintain a more fair and consistent licensing process; and,
- It will reduce recidivism rates.
Recidivism is the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend. California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation. This is partly because many ex-offenders cannot find a meaningful job upon release from jail.
Nearly 30 percent of all California jobs require a license issued by a state board. Given this high number, it's estimated that AB 2138 is likely to affect nearly eight million Californians with non-violent arrests or conviction records.