If you are applying for a Colorado registered nursing license, you are required to submit to a criminal background check and could be disqualified for past crimes. If you are a licensed nurse and ever pick up a felony conviction, you could be stripped of your license temporarily or permanently.
Here are four key things to know:
- As a licensed nurse, you must self-report any convictions to the licensing board within 30 days.
- You can request an administrative hearing to contest any disciplinary measures.
- Having a criminal history does not automatically disqualify you from becoming a nurse.
- A first-time offense of unauthorized nursing is a misdemeanor, carrying up to 120 days in jail, and/or up to $750.
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
- Additional resources
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
If you are applying for any of the following nursing-related licenses, you 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, you are required to provide fingerprints through approved vendor IdentoGO Fingerprint Services and submit to a background check.
Note that having an arrest or conviction does not automatically disqualify you 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 you for not including your criminal history in your application.2 If you have had your records sealed or expunged, seek legal advice regarding whether you should include that information in the application.
Also note that your fingerprints are used to conduct both state and national background checks with:
3. Discipline for nurses following a criminal conviction in Colorado
If you get convicted of a crime, you are required to report it to the Board of Nursing within 30 days of the conviction.4 Note 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 your license,
- limit the scope of your license,
- revoke your license,
- refuse to renew your license, or
- place you on probation
The Board would then notify you of its decision and provide instructions on how to request a hearing to contest it. Note that if you do lose your license, you may apply for a new one no sooner than two years after the revocation.5
4. Fighting discipline by the Colorado Nursing Board
If you are facing a license suspension or revocation, you are entitled to a hearing before the Board of Nursing to argue why you should keep your license. These hearings are like mini-trials, and you are advised to hire an attorney to advocate for you.6
The following are typical arguments that a defense attorney would make to the Board:
- there is no overlap between the nature of the criminal conviction and your duties and abilities;
- you have taken complete responsibility for your actions;
- you are of good moral character; and
- you are an important part of the community
Your attorney might also try to get former patients and colleagues to write letters in support for you.
5. Penalties for nursing without a license in Colorado
If you have your nursing license suspended or revoked, it is very important that you stop any practice of medicine. Otherwise, you 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:
- up to 120 days in jail and/or
- up to $750 in fines.7
In addition, having a conviction for unauthorized practice of nursing could permanently prevent you 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.
For more information, refer to the following:
- National Nurses United – Nurses union with nearly a quarter-million members.
- Nurse Journal – Information hub for nurses and aspiring nurses.
- Nurses’ Guide to Mental Health Support Services – Information and resources by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA).
- American Nurses Association (ANA) – A national professional organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4 million registered nurses.
- Drug and Alcohol Rehab for Nurses Near You – Resources for nurses suffering from addiction or alcoholism, compiled by American Addiction Centers.
- 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; CRS 12-255-120(z).
- CRS 12-255-120 (formerly CRS 12-36-116.5).
- CRS 12-255-125 (formerly CRS 12-38-123). CRS 12-20-407. Prior to March 1, 2022, class 2 misdemeanors carried 3 to 12 months in jail and/or $250 to $1,000 in fines; and subsequent offenses of unauthorized nursing practice were class 6 felonies in Colorado carrying 1 year to 18 months in Colorado State Prison, and/or $1,000 to $100,000 in fines. SB21-271.