Business and Professions Code 7028
(Contracting without a License)

California Business and Professions Code 7028 BP is the California statute governing contractors or builders. Under this statute, it is a crime for a contractor to do business without a contractor's license or with a suspended license.

Examples of criminal acts under BP 7028 include:

  • Carlos enters into an agreement, worth $4,000, to build his neighbor's garage, despite the fact that he has no contractor's license.
  • John operates Johnny Builders, LLC and enters into several contracts for the construction of new homes, even though his contractor's license is suspended.
  • Without a contractor's license, Beth creates Pools-R-Us and enters into a substantial contract to repair her town's public pool.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under BP 7028. These include showing that an accused party was:

  • not a “contractor,”
  • working on a “small operation,' and/or
  • an employee.

Penalties

A violation of California Business and Professions Code 7028 is charged as a misdemeanor, as opposed to a California felony or an infraction.

As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months (and longer if multiple convictions); and/or,
  • A fine of up to $1,000 (and more if multiple convictions).

A person could also face disciplinary proceedings from the Contractors State License Board of California.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

contractors working on construction site
Under BP 7028, it is a crime for a contractor to do business without a contractor's license or with a suspended license.

1. The Legal Definition of Contracting without a License

California Business and Professions Code 7028 BP makes it a crime to do either of the following:

  1. Serve as a contractor without a license from the Contractors State License Board; and,
  2. Operate as a contractor under a license that is suspended for failure to pay a civil penalty, or, to comply with an order of correction.1

California law states that a “contractor” means the same thing as “builder.” And, the term includes any person that does himself, or through others,

  • Constructs,
  • Alters,
  • Repairs,
  • Adds to or subtracts from,
  • Improves,
  • Moves,
  • Wrecks, or
  • Demolishes

any building, excavation, or other project, structure, development, or improvement.2

Please note that under Business and Professions Code 7028, a contract entered into by an unlicensed contractor is illegal.3

Further, failure to obtain a contractor's license will bar a contractor from recovering any money that may be due (for work performed under a contract).4

2. Legal Defenses

A person accused under BP 7028 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to BP 7028 accusations are:

  1. Not a contractor;
  2. Small work exemption; and/or,
  3. An employee.

2.1. Not a Contractor

Please note that Business and Professions Code 7028 only applies to “contractors.” Further, this term carries a very specific definition under Business and Professions Code 7026. Thus, a solid legal defense is for a party to show that he was not technically a “contractor” while performing any work in question.

2.2. Small Work Exemption

California Business and Professions Code 7048 BP provides an exception to the laws within BP 7028. The exception is commonly known as the “small operations exemption.” It states that BP 7028 does not apply to any work being performed under a contract for less than $500.5 It also does not apply to operations that are considered “casual, minor, or inconsequential…”.6 A person, therefore, could perform such work even without a contractor's license.

2.3. An Employee

BP 7028 does not apply to a person that does contracting work as an employee, while earning wages from a contracting company. Here, the contracting company is subject to Business and Professions Code 7028, not the employee.

man behind bars
Violating BP 7028 can lead to a large fine and/or imprisonment

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Under BPC 7028, contracting without a license is a misdemeanor offense.7

A first conviction for the offense is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • A fine of up to $5,000.8

Repeat offenders are subject to greater fines and longer prison terms.9

In lieu of imprisonment, a judge has the discretion to impose misdemeanor probation, or “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to contracting without a license. These are:

  1. Unauthorized practice of law – BP 6125;
  2. Unauthorized practice of medicine – BP 2052; and,
  3. False advertising – BP 17500.

4.1. Unauthorized Practice of Law – BP 6125

Business and Professions Code 6125 makes it illegal for a person to engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

Under BP 6125, a person can only practice law in California if he is an active member of the California State Bar.10

A non-lawyer who presents himself as an attorney, or practices law, faces California misdemeanor penalties. These may include:

  • A fine of up to $1,000; and/or,
  • Imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.11

These penalties are even steeper for former attorneys who have been:

  • Involuntarily shifted to “inactive” membership in the State Bar,
  • Suspended from membership in the State Bar,
  • Disbarred, or
  • Resigned from the State Bar with criminal charges pending.12

In these cases, the unauthorized practice of law is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The potential felony jail sentence can go as high as three years.13

doctor holding a chart
Business and Professions Code 2052 makes it a crime for a person to engage in the unauthorized practice of medicine.

4.2. Unauthorized Practice of Medicine – BP 2052

Business and Professions Code 2052 makes it a crime for a person to engage in the unauthorized practice of medicine.

Specifically, BP 2052 prohibits the following activities if they are undertaken without a valid professional medical license:

  • Practicing, attempting to practice, or advertising oneself as practicing any system of treating illness or affliction;
  • Diagnosing, treating, operating on, or prescribing for any physical or mental condition; and
  • Engaging in a conspiracy to—or aiding and abetting someone else to—do any of those things.14

The unauthorized practice of medicine in California is a wobbler offense. This means it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

The potential misdemeanor penalties are:

  • Imprisonment for up to one year in county jail; and/or,
  • A fine of up to $1,000.15

The potential felony penalties are:

  • Imprisonment for 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail; and/or,
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).16

4.3. False Advertising – BP 17500

California Business and Professions Code 17500 makes it a crime for a person or company to engage in false advertising.

Under BP 17500, false or deceptive advertising is when a person or company makes false or misleading statements to consumers about the nature of a product or service.17

A person or company that violates BP 17500 is guilty of a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months; and/or,
  • A fine not to exceed $2,500.18

A person or company guilty of false advertisement may also face a civil lawsuit and/or an injunction.

Were you accused of contracting without a license in California? Call us for help…

california criminal legal defense
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, per Business and Professions Code 7028, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM. (For similar accusations or charges in Nevada, please see our page on Nevada Law re "Unlicensed Contractors" (NRS 624.700)).

Legal References:

  1. California Business and Professions Code 7028(a)(1) and (a)(2) BP. Subsection (a) of BP 7028 states:

    Unless exempted from this chapter, it is a misdemeanor for a person to engage in the business of, or act in the capacity of, a contractor within this state under either of the following conditions:

    (1) The person is not licensed in accordance with this chapter.

    (2) The person performs acts covered by this chapter under a license that is under suspension for failure to pay a civil penalty or to comply with an order of correction, pursuant to Section 7090.1, or for failure to resolve all outstanding final liabilities, pursuant to Section 7145.5.

  2. California Business and Professions Code 7026 BP.

  3. Albaugh v. Moss Constr. Co. (1954), 125 Cal. App. 2d 126.

  4. S & Q Constr. Co. v. Palma Ceia Development Organization (1960), 179 Cal. App. 2d 364.

  5. Business and Professions Code 7048 BP.

  6. See same.

  7. California Business and Professions Code 7028(a) BP.

  8. California Business and Professions Code 7028(b) BP.

  9. California Business and Professions Code 7028(c) and (d) BP.

  10. California Business & Professions Code 6125 BP.

  11. California Business and Professions Code 6126 BP.

  12. See same.

  13. See same.

  14. Business and Professions Code 2052 BP.

  15. See same.

  16. See same.

  17. California Business and Professions Code 17500 BP.

  18. See same.

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...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. 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