Medical professionals need licenses to maintain their jobs. If medical personnel is involved in a severe crime, their career is likely to be affected. Criminal convictions can lead to suspension or total annulment of your practice license. This can happen for both nurses and doctors.

With the help of a skilled professional license defense attorney, you can fight criminal accusations or charges leveled against you to try and avoid the revocation of your nursing license.

What Criminal Convictions can Affect my Nursing License?

Below are some of the criminal convictions that can affect your nursing license


According to the Business and Professions Code 2762, it is unprofessional for a registered nurse to be arrested for DUI. Consuming alcohol or drugs to the point of being detained shows unethical behavior for a nurse.

Code 2762 recommends the punishments that a nurse should suffer due to various behaviors. It also states the factors to be considered while deciding the suitable penalties for a nurse convicted of DUI. The factors include:

  • If it is the first DUI conviction but has a documented habilitation ongoing, the nurse is put on a three-year probation.
  • If the drug in question is narcotic and used in a manner that poses a risk to you and others, the nurse cannot practice medicine anymore as their license is permanently canceled.

What the Registered Nurses Board Considers

There are various circumstances that the board will look at before deciding whether to place you on probation, suspend your license, or to nullify it. These circumstances include:

  • Your disciplinary record before the incident
  • Your overall criminal record
  • Whether you caused any potential or actual harm to the public
  • The severity and nature of the crime you committed
  • The time that has passed since you committed the crime
  • If there is any mitigating evidence
  • Whether you caused potential or actual harm to the patient
  • If you have been convicted or placed on probation, whether you are complying with the rules and regulations
  • Rehabilitation
  • The number of current violations

The Possible Results

Seeking legal help from a skilled professional license defense attorney can help reduce the possibility of having your license revoked due to a DUI. Although dismissing the charges is uncommon, there are possible alternatives like:

  • Public Reprimand Letter — You can be reprimanded for your actions following the DUI. In this case, a letter of public reprimand is put on the board's website connected with your RN license number.
  • Reduced cost — If you are not punished severely, you can plead for a fee reduction.
  • A fine and citation — You may be cited in some instances, and the public record will not be placed on the board's website. It is only provided after a request.
  • Rule out of Provision — If you can show that you can control yourself to abstain from alcohol and drugs, the probation requirements are reduced. Since some of the conditions are directly related to your nursing job, the charges included will increase. The Rule out of provision's primary role is to reduce the effect of your job and other courses that you are supposed to take.


One of the most challenging parts of the trial process is trying to figure out if the crime will affect your nursing license. It can be frustrating to lose your nursing license after working for years to earn it because of a criminal conviction.

There are various factors that the board uses to determine if the conviction will affect your license. Some of these factors include:

  • The amount of time you were convicted
  • Whether the crime in question is an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony
  • For how long have you had your nursing license, or are you trying to obtain it?
  • Have you been convicted before, or was this your first conviction?
  • Is the charge in question a crime of moral turpitude or a crime of violence?
  • Were you arrested and charged?
  • Did your case have other underlying facts?
  • What happened after your conviction?

If you are convicted of a crime, The California Board of Registered Nursing will take legal actions against you and discipline you in various ways. At times, the board can accuse you of other actions related to the case even though you evaded the conviction. Some of the punishments that you might face include:

  • Suspension or Revocation of your Nursing License — Your nursing license could be revoked by the BRN, which means you cannot use it in your practice again. You will be canceled and permanently prohibited from using the nursing title again.
  • Fines and Citation — If you have committed a minor violation according to the Nursing Practice Act in California, the board may choose to cite and fine you. Note that this is an informal way that the board uses to discipline you if formal punishment is unnecessary.
  • Probation —  If you are placed on probation, the board allows you to continue practicing as a nurse but only under set conditions. The set terms and conditions run for a while, and if you violate any, your license risks being suspended or revoked. However, if you complete the probation, you are allowed to practice your course again.

Substance Abuse

The California Board of Registered Nursing takes substance abuse seriously. Be it taking medications meant for patients or possessing controlled substances, or alcohol and drug addiction.

From time to time, nurses are asked to undergo a drug test for the following reasons:

  • If a nurse gets an accident at work, they are tested to ensure the accident was not due to substance abuse.
  • If a nurse deteriorates a patient's health, a drug test is often carried out to ensure the nurse is not abusing any substance.
  • Other health facilities perform drug tests regularly, which could be yearly or after a few months.

What if the Drug Test Turns out Positive?

If you refuse to take a drug test as instructed by your employer, he/she may report you to the California Board of Registered Nurses. Although the state has authorized the use of marijuana, you can still be fired if your results test positive for marijuana. Note that this happens even though the doctor has prescribed the drug. After the board has been informed about your positive results, it may decide to:

  • Dig deep and investigate the matter or file an accusation to suspend or revoke your nursing license.
  • Request you to join the board diversion through a letter from the board. This is a rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol users. It is essential to consult your attorney before accepting the request since enrolling in this program can negatively impact your license.

Violating The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Every nurse is expected to follow The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), failure to which can lead to severe penalties.

Actions that are Classified as HIPAA Violations in Nursing

The following are the major HIPAA violations by a nurse:

  • Stealing Protected Health Information (PHI) to benefit yourself
  • Posting PHI on your social media platforms
  • Giving your new employer a PHI
  • Taking PHI for patients being treated by another nurse
  • Disposing of the PHI carelessly (Disposing of the regular trash together with the protected health information)
  • Gossiping (telling about a patient’s sensitive condition and information to friends and family)
  • Placing PHI in a place where a stranger can access it
  • Telling PHI to an individual who is not allowed to know about it
  • Using another employee's login details to access various staff

Penalties Nurses face for Violating HIPAA

HIPAA violations can happen accidentally, and because not all HIPAA violations are intentional, most minor violations are not severely punished. Your employers may decide to deal with it internally and offer more training on HIPAA to fully understand their staff.

An unintentional HIPAA violation is only reported to your supervisor or your privacy officer.

However, severe HIPAA violations, even those committed without a malicious motive, can lead to severe penalties. If you have committed a severe HIPAA violation, the board may decide to use termination. With termination, you will lose your job and its benefits and make it difficult for you to find another employer. It is uncommon for a health facility to hire a nurse who has been terminated for HIPAA violation.

Those who violate the HIPAA Rules intentionally, like stealing PHI for your benefit, can lead to severe penalties. Such cases are mostly reported to the Civil Rights Office and later forwarded to the justice department. This decides on the penalties you should receive, such as imprisonment, fines, or suspension or revocation of your nursing license.

In recent years, cases of nurses who violate HIPAA through social media are on the rise.

Sharing PHI on social media platforms is one of the severe HIPAA violations. This violation is likely to lead to the revocation of your nursing license. 

Deficient Record Keeping

Registered nurses should always ensure that they keep clinical records for each patient in detail. The details in the records are extensive, complex, and very precise.

An incomplete medical history is an offense in a medical facility. An incomplete medical record:

  • Has gaps that reflect poor clinical care
  • It is used as a supporting document in fraud allegations
  • This shows that the case provides incomplete
  • Used a supporting document in negligence allegations
  • Shows failure to obey the organizational regulations

A deficient patient's clinical record can lead to legal punishments. It can also:

  • lead to revocation of your nursing license
  • If the board discovers that your record-keeping was not complete, you can also be placed on probation
  • Your nursing license may also be suspended for some time

Failure to Pay Your State Taxes

If you are included among the 500 large tax delinquents in California, you will likely lose all your licenses, including the driving license. Nurses who have been reported for not paying taxes will receive license revocation or suspension of their license. They may also be denied their licenses once they reapply for them.

After you have been put on suspension for 90 days, you must clear all the outstanding tax debts or enter a repayment program to clear with the installation. If you fail to comply with this, your license will be suspended until the state tax authorities send a release to the board.

To avoid losing the nursing license you have worked so hard for, you must pay your taxes on time.

Failing to Get Fingerprinted

According to the California Code of Regulations 1419, 1419.1, and 1419.3, every nurse who wants to renew their license should have their fingerprints collected. The last fingerprints were recorded more than 20 years ago, and the records cannot be traced. Fingerprints collection and background information are mandatory while trying to renew your nursing license in California.

If you fail to issue your fingerprints before the required data to the DOJ, you risk facing the following disciplinary actions from the California Board of Registered Nurses:

  • Probation
  • License suspension for a specific time
  • Revocation of your nursing license

Inappropriate Social Media Activity

The BRN in California takes the privacy of its patients severely. The BRN starts investigating you if you are a registered nurse and you take to social media anything that discloses the patient's information or condition through:

  • Videos or photos of the patient
  • Disclosing the patient's name

The BRN also prohibits posts that are meant to promote the services provided by the healthcare facility.  Additionally, a nurse cannot post any video while administering drugs to the patient or attending to the patient. The nurse is likely to face severe punishment if the footage shows him/her using profanity or misusing drugs. This behavior leads to the suspension or revocation of your driving license.

Duty to Report

The nurses must report any conviction to The California BRN. Nurses are supposed to report any misdemeanor, DUI, substance-related convictions, or felony convictions related to your nursing profession and create unethical conduct. Nurses should also report any court orders that require them to attend substance abuse programs.

Failure to Report

Failing to report the convictions above to The California BRN can lead to severe punishment. The court notifies the state boards to incase a  nurse's license is convicted. The California BRN also gets notified if the fingerprints of a sentenced person match those of a nurse. Failure to report can lead to probation, suspension of your nursing license, or even revoke your license.

Failure to Meet an Acceptable Standard of Care

Nurses are expected to be extra careful when dealing with patients since a single mistake could affect a person's life. It is your responsibility to ensure that you practice care in everything you do since you also use sharp objects like needles and blades that need to be handled with extra care. If you fail to meet this standard of care or a patient is injured due to your negligence, you risk losing your job and your license.

The Review Process

After the court has notified the California State Board of Nursing about a nurse's conviction or other circumstances that require to be punished, it looks at the case and starts investigating case by case. There are a few factors that it considers before deciding on the disciplinary actions. Some of these actions include:

  • Whether there is any harm caused to the public
  • The nature of the crime of conviction
  • The nurse’s criminal history
  • Any previous disciplinary actions on the nurse
  • Any risk posed to the public/ potential harm

The California State Board of Nursing uses conviction as enough evidence that the nurse committed an unlawful act. However, they allow the nurse who has been convicted to explain what could have led to the conviction. Any evidence of rehabilitation is also taken into consideration. This makes it best for the nurse to report themselves.

At times the nurse can enroll in therapy or a substance abuse program to mitigate potential disciplinary action. Substance abuse, felony and misdemeanor convictions that are likely to affect the job is taken seriously and has severe consequences.

Timing of Action

After the time to appeal has elapsed, the California State Board of Nursing takes action, meaning they have to wait for the criminal case to be concluded. If the case has been appealed, actions are only taken after judgment affirmation. They can also take action after an order that grants probation is made, which leads to the suspension of the criminal sentence.

Find a Registered Nursing License Defense Attorney Near Me

Nurses work for long shifts and under pressure, so it is not uncommon for them to make mistakes.  At The Legal Guardian, we understand your situation, and we are ready to help you. We have experience in negotiating plea deals that can save your career. We are ready to advise and help you protect your case from affecting your nursing license. If you are in Long Beach, California, please contact us today at 888-293-0396 for a free and confidential consultation.