This blog tackles the intricacies of answering “Screening Question #6” on the RN and LPN Application For License:
Have you ever been convicted, adjudged guilty by a court, pled guilty, pled no lo contendere, or entered an Alford plea to any crime, whether or not sentence was imposed, excluding traffic violations?
The answer in general is “Yes”. A nurse must report criminal history to the Board of Nursing. This post answers 3 questions:
- What crimes to report? 2. When to report crimes? 3. What information should be included in the report?
Who is a Criminal Convict, legally?
In the legal world, a criminal is someone who pleads guilty, or is found guilty, and is sentenced by a judge. Most often, the sentence is on a State charge, such as a felony or misdemeanor. The sentence could be either a fine, or imprisonment. Under oath, in a courtroom, if asked whether this person has ever been convicted of a crime, the truthful answer is “Yes”.
On the other hand, a conviction on a City ordinance violation does not make a criminal. A criminal defendant who pleads guilty, or is found to be guilty, and receives a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS) is not a criminal. Under oath, in a courtroom, if asked, have you ever been convicted of a crime, the truthful answer is “No”.
Who Must Report Criminal History in Nursing?
In stark contrast, “crime” has perhaps the broadest meaning at the Board. For the purposes of reporting criminal history on a nursing license application or renewal, the nurse must report felonies, misdemeanors, and some ordinance violations. This is true even if you did not receive a conviction. Also included, pending criminal or traffic cases. But, some traffic matters are excluded. See the next section.
What Criminal History Must Be Reported?
The Missouri Board of Nursing answers this question on its website. See “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Regarding Prior Criminal History and Disciplinary Actions“. It’s basically everything except minor traffic violations, except drugs or alcohol offenses. You get a pass on speeding, stop sign, expired plates violations and the like. Except, take a closer look if your car crashed.
You must report Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). This is the same thing as Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Also in this category, report Driving under the Influence of Drugs (DUID), and Driving with Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Report if you get pulled over with drug paraphernalia or illegal drugs in the vehicle.
Now, your criminal lawyer did great work. You pled guilty. The judge placed you on probation. One type of probation is not a conviction: Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS). In Missouri, this case would not even show up on Case.Net as a public record. A defendant receiving an SIS does not have to mention it on most job applications, or, under oath in court. Unfortunately for the nurse, the Board’s mission is Public Protection. That is, you must report any guilty plea. Even though you aren’t convicted. Additionally, report pleas of no contest (Nolo Contendere). So a nurse must report criminal history, and SIS counts as history.
When Must Crimes Be Reported
Renewal of License
You must report all the crimes discussed above on the license application. This does not automatically disqualify a nurse applicant. My nurse clients include those licensed with criminal record; a brand new license placed on probation from the start; and of course, nurse applicants denied licensure. If denied, you may appeal. I represent clients in such appeals, but that discussion is for another blog post.
Don’t conceal your crime. The Missouri State Highway Patrol is going to do a fingerprint search. They will discover criminal cases, as well as arrests in all 50 states. Deception will not reflect well on you with the Board.
Must the nurse report open criminal charges? There are 2 options: wait until your license renewal; or self-report before renewal. What is the effect of each option? The nurse might not have a duty to immediately self-report, but I believe the Board takes a positive view of self-reports. This may be preferable over waiting for renewal. Remember the Board looks at each case individually before deciding what consequences, if any, are appropriate for the licensee. Take the brownie points.
Third Party Reporting Crime
Another point to consider when self-reporting, is that the Board could receive a report of a crime from a third party. For example, law enforcement, employer, disgruntled patient, or patient’s family. Self-reporting puts you in a better light, you fessed up before the Board received an outside report. Beware of self-reporting without legal consultation. There are some instances where I do advise against self-reporting.
How To Report Crimes
The Director of Licensure will send a letter requesting information after receipt of a nurse crime report. Order a certified copy of the criminal file from the court clerk. Again, consult with a lawyer familiar with Nursing Practice law in Missouri. Some documents in the court file may not be responsive to your answer. Importantly, beware of disclosing incriminating, unproved allegations which could harm your chances for licensure or renewal.
Always provide the following: 1. the complaint/indictment, and 2. the sentencing memorandum. On traffic matters, a copy of the ticket and case disposition. Include documents if you are on probation. Your criminal lawyer may have them.
Screening Question #6 requires you to write a “detailed narrative of the circumstances surrounding your criminal record”. Again, I strongly urge you to discuss this with your nurse attorney before writing the narrative. Remember Goldilocks: Do not write too little and do not write too much. See my blog post on Responding to a Board Complaint.
Describe your life at the time you committed the crime. Did you learn anything from the criminal mistake? Are you a changed person? Tell why you are not a danger to the public or the nursing profession. Describe any rehabilitation completed, such as Drug Court. Are you in AA, have regular group or individual therapy sessions? Did you serve time, or complete your probation? Are you on parole? Probation and Parole Officers will have records showing you were a model probationer without violations. Have your probation/parole officer send a letter on describing the programs you completed, that you made all meetings, and successfully completed your supervision. I had a client whose drug court judge wrote a letter to the Board on her behalf. That is above and beyond!
Tell how you changed your life, and avoid the behavior that caused trouble. Have you decreased the stress in your life, left an abusive partner, gone back to church? Get 1 or 3 letters of recommendation from people who are aware of your situation. Letters should be on letterhead and physically signed, including a return address or phone number.
To sum it up, a nurse must report criminal history. This applies whether it occurred before nursing school, or after licensure. Report it properly and enhance your chances of keeping the license you worked so hard for. See my webpage for nurses.