Applicants for Colorado registered nursing licenses are required to submit to a criminal background check and could be disqualified for past crimes. And if licensed nurses ever pick up a Colorado felony conviction, they could be stripped of their license temporarily or permanently.
Licensed nurses who get a felony conviction are obligated to self-report to the licensing board within 45 days of the conviction. But they can request an administrative hearing where they (and their attorney) can fight any disciplinary measures and argue why they should keep their license.
Nurses with suspended or revoked licenses are cautioned not to continue practicing nursing. A first-time offense of unauthorized nursing is a Colorado misdemeanor, carrying:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000
In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss how criminal convictions affect nursing licenses in Colorado. Click on a topic to jump to that section:
- 1. Who regulates licenses
- 2. Applying for a license with a criminal record
- 3. Discipline following a criminal conviction
- 4. Fighting disciplinary penalties
- 5. Nursing without a license
- 6. Other professional licenses
1. Who regulates nursing licenses in Colorado
The Colorado Board of Nursing regulates who receives and keeps nursing licenses in the state of Colorado. It is comprised of eleven members, who are appointed by the governor. The Board is located at:
1560 Broadway, Suite 1350
Denver, CO 80202
The phone number is 303-894-2430. The fax number is 303-894-2821. And the e-mail is [email protected].
2. Applying for a nursing license with a criminal record in Colorado
People applying for any of the following nursing-related licenses are required to disclose any past criminal history and any pending criminal cases:
- Registered Nurses (RNs)
- Practical Nurses (PNs)
- Certified Nurse Aids (CNAs)
- Advanced Practice Nurses (APN)
- Psychiatric Technicians1
In addition, RN and PN applicants are required to provide fingerprints through approved vendor IdentoGO Fingerprint Services and submit to a background check. (See the background check instructions here.)
Note that having an arrest or conviction does not automatically disqualify an applicant from obtaining a nursing license. Instead, the Nursing Board will consider the “facts surrounding the criminal conduct” in deciding whether to grant a license.
However, the Nursing Board can automatically disqualify nursing applicants for not including their criminal history in their application.2 Applicants who have had their records sealed or expunged should seek legal advice regarding whether they should include that information in the application. (Learn more about Colorado record seals and Colorado record expungements.)
Also note that the applicants’ fingerprints are used to conduct both state and national background checks with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These background checks are a relatively new requirement; they were made mandatory only in 2018 under Senate Bill 18-027.3
3. Discipline for nurses following a criminal conviction in Colorado
If a Colorado nurse gets convicted of a felony, he/she is required to report it to the Board of Nursing within 45 days of the conviction.4Note that this applies to RNs, PNs, CNAs, APNs, and psychiatric technicians.
Afterward, the Board would conduct an investigation on the matter and determine whether to:
- do nothing,
- issue an admonition letter,
- impose a fine,
- suspend the license,
- limit the scope of the license,
- revoke the license,
- refuse to renew the license, or
- place the licensee on probation
The Board would then notify the nurse of its decision and provide instructions on how to request a hearing to contest it. Note that nurses who do lose their license may apply for a new one no sooner than two years after the revocation.5
4. Fighting discipline by the Colorado Nursing Board
Nurses who are facing a license suspension or revocation are entitled to a hearing before the Board of Nursing to argue why they should keep their license. These hearings are like mini-trials, and the nurses are advised to hire an attorney to advocate for them.6
The following are typical arguments that a nurse’s defense attorney would make to the Board:
- there is no overlap between the nature of the criminal conviction and the nurse’s duties and abilities;
- the nurse has taken complete responsibility for his/her actions;
- the nurse is of good moral character; and
- the nurse is an important part of the community
The attorney might also try to get former patients and colleagues to write letters in support of the nurse.
5. Penalties for nursing without a license in Colorado
If a nurse does have his/her license suspended or revoked, it is very important that he/she stop any practice of medicine. Otherwise, the nurse can be prosecuted in criminal court as well.
A first-time offense of nursing without a license is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. The penalty is:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000 in fines
A subsequent offense of nursing without a license is a class 6 felony in Colorado. The penalty is:
- 1 year to 18 months in Colorado State Prison, and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines7
In addition, having a conviction for unauthorized practice of nursing could permanently prevent the nurse from being able to get a license ever again.
6. Other professional licenses in Colorado
6.1. Medical licenses
Doctors do not need to submit to a background check when applying for a Colorado medical license. Learn more about how criminal convictions affect Colorado medical licenses.
6.2. Dental licenses
Like doctors, dentists do not need to submit to a background check when applying for a Colorado dental license. Learn more about how criminal convictions affect Colorado dental licenses.
6.3. Real estate agent licenses
Real estate agents do need to submit to a background check in order to become a licensed realtor in Colorado. Learn more about discipline for real estate agents in Colorado with criminal convictions.
6.4. Contractor licenses
General contractors usually have to get licenses from local governments, not the state. And each locale has its own disciplinary regulations. Learn more about discipline for contractors in Colorado with criminal convictions.
6.5. Social work licenses
Social workers can have their licenses suspended or revoked for a felony conviction. Learn more about how a criminal record affects social work licenses in Colorado.
6.6. Accountancy licenses
CPAs can lose their license for only a misdemeanor if an element of the crime involves fraud or dishonestly. Learn more about how a criminal record affects accountancy licenses in Colorado.
6.7. Law licenses
Attorneys need to disclose on their bar license application if they have ever been arrested, charged, or convicted. Learn more about how a criminal conviction affects law licenses in Colorado.
Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney…
Is your nursing license in Colorado at risk because of a past crime? Phone our Denver criminal defense attorneys at 303-222-0330 for a FREE consultation.
We realize how important your license is to your livelihood, and we will stop at nothing to persuade the Board to allow you to keep it.
In California? See our article about how criminal convictions affect nursing licenses in California.
In Nevada? See our article about how criminal convictions affect nursing licenses in Nevada.
- Registered Nurse (RN) Online Application Checklist; Practical Nurse (PN) Online Application Checklist; Certified Nurse Aid (NA) Online Application Checklist; Psychiatric Technician Online Application Checklist; Advanced Practice Nurse (APC) Original License Application Checklist.
- Licensure and Criminal History, Department of Regulatory Agencies; Fingerprint and Background check information, Department of Regulatory Agencies.
- Colorado warns nursing applicants could see delay of license approval,” 9 News NBC (February 1, 2018)
- 3 CCR 716-1 1.1
- 12-36-116.5 C.R.S.; 12-36-117 C.R.S.
- 12-38-123 C.R.S.