Will felony conviction result in loss of professional license?
If you’re charged with a felony offense and you hold a professional license to work in Nebraska, you are in for a tough fight. Loss of professional license is one of the collateral consequences of some felony convictions in this state, along with loss of the right to vote, hold public office, and own a firearm. But any criminal conviction (sometimes even just a criminal charge) could put your professional license at risk.
When you’re facing criminal charges, there’s a lot more at stake than jail time. Most of the nearly 200 Nebraska professions that require a state license are managed by licensing organizations that can legally deny, suspend, or revoke a license on the grounds of “unprofessional conduct,” or call into question your “good moral character.” Professional license loss can devastate your career, financial security, and professional reputation, even long after you’re released from prison.
Nebraska Law: Felonies and Licensing
In Nebraska, there is no overarching statute that prescribes administrative action against licensure in the event of a criminal conviction. Instead, many individual statutes cover the issue in some form, which makes license denial, suspension, or revocation a possible penalty with many different convictions.
In Nebraska, licensed professionals are compelled by law to report their own adverse conduct to their professional licensing body and all private employers still have a legal right to ask about your criminal record on job application forms. For public employers, Nebraska passed what’s known as the “Ban the box” law. This means public offices can’t ask about criminal history on job applications, even though people with felony convictions are barred from holding many public offices. However, criminal records are easy to find online.
If you’re charged with a felony offense, the reality is that you may be facing professional license loss after an administrative review, as well as a criminal trial. If your offense is one that carries the collateral consequence of professional license loss as part of the penalty, you may be fighting for your professional life.
Criminal and administrative charges create a two-pronged threat that may require assistance from an experienced professional licensing and criminal defense attorney such as those at Berry Law. We can use our experience to help you manage the charges you face. We are here to listen and help you fight for your rights.
To start, let’s look at the law and which felony offenses pose the greatest risk to your eligibility to hold a professional license in Nebraska.
What does the law say about felonies and licensing?
Both state and federal laws apply in cases of professional licensure.
Two federal laws deal with the disciplining of individuals who hold professional licenses: the Uniform Regulation of Business and Professions Act and the Regulation of Health Professionals—Uniform Disciplinary Act. Under these acts, the “commission of any act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption” that relates to the person’s profession or business operations constitutes “unprofessional conduct”, whether the act constitutes a crime or not.
Under Nebraska law, a professional or business license can be revoked for “… any departure from or failure to conform to the standards of acceptable and prevailing practice of a profession or the ethics of the profession, regardless of whether a person, consumer, or entity is injured.” This means a person may face loss of professional license for any action construed as “unprofessional conduct,” even if they didn’t directly or indirectly cause harm with their actions.
But it’s not only the law that puts a professional license at risk. Many Nebraska licensed professions, while not specifically banning convicted felons (or even people whose charges didn’t result in a conviction), require license applicants to be of “good moral character.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that vague standards such as “moral turpitude” (broadly defined as any act contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, good morals) or “being of good moral character” are “unusually ambiguous” and have the potential to lead to a “dangerous instrument for arbitrary and discriminatory denial” of professional and occupational licenses.
So, what does mean for a person convicted of a crime?
If you have a criminal record, your application for an initial license can be denied or your existing license can be suspended or revoked. And that means you cannot perform in your job or pursue your career for some period. In the case of felony convictions where your professional license loss is part of the penalty, you likely will find it difficult to secure employment in your own field or possibly any other during your lifetime.
Which professions will revoke a license based on criminal conviction?
It’s important to understand that it’s not just doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other easily recognizable licensed professionals at risk of professional license loss. A long list of workers, both skilled and unskilled, also need state licenses. They are also subject to examination of their criminal history at the time of application and can have a license revoked with a criminal conviction. This list (from the ACLU) is not exhaustive, but gives a range of examples. Berry Law criminal defense attorneys can advise you on your specific license criteria.
Aircraft & Civil Aviation Mechanic
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Alcohol and Drug Counsellor
Architect / Engineer
Audiology/Speech-Language Pathology and Assistants
Bank Executive Officer
Barber / Barber Instructor
Body Art / Tattoo, Piercing
Child Care, In-home license
Cosmetologist / Cosmetologist Instructor
Dentist / Dental Hygienist
Electrology / Electrology Instructor
Emergency Medical Services (Out of Hospital)
Environmental Health Specialist
Esthetician / Esthetician Instructor
Funeral Directing & Embalming
Hearing Instrument Specialist
Horse Trainer, Jockey, Stable Employee, Trainer
Medical Nutrition Therapist
Mental Health Practitioner / Counselor
Nail Technology / Instructor
Nursing (RN / LPN)
Nursing Home Administrator
Occupational Therapy / Assistant
Paid Dining Assistant
Pre-Need Agent (sells burial plots)
Real Estate Broker, Salesperson, Property Appraiser
Truth and Deception Examiners
Waste Water Treatment Operator / Professional / Water Treatment Plant Operator
Wrecker / Salvage Dealer
Which felony offense penalties most likely lead to a loss of professional license?
Penalties for some serious felony convictions require revocation of certain categories of professional licenses. If you’re convicted of one of these crimes and you hold a relevant license, you will lose that license as well as other basic rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, and you will serve prison time. Examples of these serious felonies are sex crimes, domestic violence, assault, and drug offenses.
Sex crimes and domestic violence
In the medical profession, certain sexual or domestic violence offenses can result in a loss of professional license for doctors, nurses, physical therapists, health aides, dentists, and others.
If a civil sex crime case is brought against a medical professional, one risk is the need to pay monetary damages. The greater risks, however, are criminal and licensing consequences—even if it’s a false accusation. It is common for a medical professional who is accused of sexual assault to be subject to investigations by the hospital, the state licensing agency, and the state prosecutor’s office.
By participating in these various investigations, a medical professional could unwittingly increase their risk of criminal prosecution. Handling both the administrative and criminal matters can be delicate and complex. Each Berry Law sex crimes attorney is experienced in navigating this challenge.
In nonmedical professions, while the law might not call for professional license loss, the professional licensing body may revoke a license based on eligibility criteria. Examples: architects and landscape architects, auctioneers, geologists and notaries.
Prescription drug offenses by medical and related professionals
A recent law enforcement focus on prescription drug addictions targets medical professionals who might be complicit in addicts illegally obtaining medications. This makes medical professionals vulnerable to criminal charges and jeopardizes their licenses.
Doctors aren’t the only ones at risk of license suspension or revocation for prescription drug charges. Pharmacists, registered nurses, psychiatrists, veterinarians and other medical professionals responsible for prescribing, distributing, or administering prescription drugs can be held accountable by an administrative body.
Can a professional license be restored?
For some felony convictions, license revocation is for life. For others, a license may be suspended.
In rare cases, a person may be pardoned, which restores civil rights lost due to a felony conviction or expunges their criminal record (the record is cleared or sealed). In these cases, a person’s license will be restored.
Where can I get help?Criminal defense attorneys at Berry Law Firm are experienced in addressing loss of professional license and defending criminal cases. With offices in Omaha, Lincoln, and Seward our defense lawyers represent clients throughout Nebraska. To make an appointment, call (402) 817-6550 or contact us online.