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Old Convictions, New Licenses

Published: Sep 15, 2023 by Brandon Smith

As we previously reported, in late 2021, the law changed and removed several possible collateral consequences criminal convictions could have on obtaining an initial professional license. As a refresher, for most convictions, and most licenses, an agency can now only deny your application based on a conviction if (1) the conviction is related to the profession and is included explicitly in a list of potentially disqualifying offenses published by the agency; and (2) the conviction occurred within the past five years. Fiduciary crimes, crimes of violence, and sexual offenses are treated differently. Most requirements for applicants to prove they were of good moral character or other similarly vague, potentially subjective, requirements were also removed.

Now that the law has been in effect for a couple of years, it is time to check in on our experience and what impact this law has actually had.

The first big impact we have noticed is that the types of questions agencies are asking on initial applications has changed very little. That is, even though agencies may not be able to deny an initial application based on most crimes occurring more than five years ago, they can still ask about those crimes. Furthermore, if an applicant fails to disclose older convictions on their initial application, an agency can deny the application on the basis of the failure to disclose even if it could not deny the application on the basis of the underlying convictions.

The second big impact we have seen is that agencies, generally, are liberally construing what offenses are related to their profession. Many of the published lists of potentially disqualifying offenses read similarly to the full list of criminal offenses in Ohio. As an example, the Casino Control Commission includes disorderly conduct and reckless operation of a motor vehicle in its extensive list of potentially disqualifying offenses. To our knowledge, there has yet to be an appellate court decision on what the phrase “directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the licensed occupation” actually means.

The final big impact we have seen is what the legislature intended. Individuals with a criminal history, as long as that history is older than five years, non-violent, and non-sexual, are having an easier time obtaining their initial professional license than they likely would have prior to October 2021. This is particularly true for those individuals who avoid the trap of failing to disclose the offense.

If you have a criminal history and are seeking to obtain your initial license as a professional in Ohio, you should consider contacting one of the licensed attorneys at Graff & McGovern, LPA. Attorney Brandon Smith is available at (614) 228-5800, x. 7 and