Colorado social workers who get convicted of a Colorado felony are at risk of losing their license. And if they fail to tell the state licensing board about the felony, they could face additional disciplinary punishments as well.
The application to become a licensed social worker in Colorado does not ask for fingerprints. However, applicants are expected to voluntarily disclose their past criminal history.
It is a misdemeanor in Colorado to work as a social worker without a license. The penalty includes:
- Up to 120 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $750 in fines
In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss how criminal convictions affect social work 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. Working as a social worker without a license
- 6. Other professional licenses
1. Who regulates social work licenses in Colorado
The State Board of Social Work Examiners is Colorado’s licensing authority for social workers (LCSWs) as well as:
- marriage and family therapists,
- professional counselors,
- addiction counselors, and
- mental health professionals with a provisional license1
The governor appoints the Board’s seven members: four social workers and three members of the public. They all serve four-year terms.
The Board is located at:
1560 Broadway, Suite 1350
Denver, CO 80202
The phone number is 303-894-7800. The fax number is 303-894-7764. And the email is [email protected].
2. Applying for a social work license with a criminal record in Colorado
The social work application asks whether the applicant has had any past criminal convictions or arrests. It is important that applicants disclose everything.
Even though the Board does not require applicants to submit fingerprints, the Board may check the applicants’ names against various criminal history databases. If the Board finds that an applicant was not truthful, it may disqualify him/her for being dishonest.
Note that having a criminal history does not necessarily disqualify people from getting a social work license. The Board understands that a lot of people go into social work precisely because they may have had troubled pasts and want to use their experiences and empathy to help others. The Board usually disqualifies applicants whose criminal history suggests that they are still dangerous, incompetent, or dishonest.
In most cases, applicants who have had their criminal record expunged or sealed are still expected to disclose their criminal history on the application. But they should consult with an attorney first to discuss their options.2 (More information is available in our articles about Colorado record seals and Colorado record expungements.)
3. Discipline for social workers following a criminal conviction in Colorado
The Board requires social workers to inform them after getting convicted of a felony. The Board would then conduct an investigation to decide whether discipline is appropriate. If so, the Board has the option to either:
- impose an administrative fine;
- send the licensee a confidential letter of concern;
- send an admonition letter (which may be public);
- place the licensee on probation;
- suspend the license; or
- revoke the license
The licensee can always contest the discipline by requesting a formal hearing. In some cases, the Board must hold a disciplinary hearing first before imposing the discipline.
Note that failing to report a felony conviction to the Board is by itself a grounds for discipline. Also note that social workers who have been stripped of their license have to wait at least three (3) years before they may reapply for another.3
4. Fighting discipline by the Colorado Board of Social Work Examiners
It is important that social workers facing disciplinary proceedings hire an experienced attorney. Not only can a lawyer advocate for them and fight for their license, but also the lawyer will keep straight all of the deadlines and paperwork involved in a disciplinary case.
If the case involves a hearing in front of the Board, the attorney can appear with the licensee and argue that he/she should keep his/her license. Common arguments the attorney could make include:
- the social worker’s reputation is otherwise unsullied;
- the social worker is popular and effective with clients;
- the social worker took responsibility for the criminal case and completed all the sentencing terms promptly; and/or
- the felony that the social worker was convicted of does not speak to his/her honesty or competence as a social worker
5. Penalties for the unauthorized practice of social work in Colorado
Providing social work services without a valid current license violates Colorado law. A first-time offense is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. The sentence carries up to 120 days in jail and/or up to $750 in fines.
Additionally, clients are entitled to recover any payments they made to people parading as licensed social workers.4
Note that people convicted of practicing social work without a license may be unable to get a license in the future.
6. Other professional licenses in Colorado
6.1. Medical licenses
Physicians are not required to submit fingerprints for criminal background checks before applying for a license. Learn more about discipline for doctors with criminal convictions in Colorado.
6.2. Nursing licenses
Nurses are required to submit to criminal background checks before applying for a license. Learn more about discipline for nurses with criminal convictions in Colorado.
6.3. Dental licenses
Dentists and dental hygienists can lose their license if they get convicted of certain crimes. Learn more about discipline for Colorado dentists with criminal convictions.
6.4. Real estate licenses
Realtors are required to inform the licensing board whenever they get convicted of a felony. Learn more about discipline for Colorado realtors with criminal convictions.
6.5. Contractor licenses
Electrical and plumbing contractors are vulnerable to license suspension or revocation if they get convicted of a felony. Learn more about Colorado contractor licenses and how criminal convictions affect them.
6.6. Accountancy licenses
CPAs must notify the licensing board if they get convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanor crimes. Learn more about how a criminal record affects accountancy licenses in Colorado.
6.7. Law licenses
Attorneys who get disbarred for committing a crime must wait eight years before they can reapply for a bar card. Learn more about how a criminal conviction affects law licenses in Colorado.
Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney…
Are you a social worker facing criminal allegations in Colorado? Then call our Denver criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. Our goal would be to try to get your charges lessened or dropped. Or if you already have been convicted of a crime, we are ready to fight for your license in front of the licensing board.
In California? See our article about how criminal convictions affect social work licenses in California.
In Nevada? See our article about how criminal convictions affect social work licenses in Nevada.
- CRS 12-245-402 (formerly CRS 12-43-302); see also Medical Health Practice Act; 4 CCR 726-1.
- Licensed Social Worker Application Checklist, Department of Regulatory Affairs.
- CRS 12-245-226; CRS 12-245-224 (formerly CRS 12-43-244; C.R.S. 12-43-222).
- CRS 12-245-228 (formerly 12-43-226). Prior to March 1, 2022, class 2 misdemeanors carried 3 to 12 months in jail and/or $250 to $1,000 in fines. SB21-271.