Effects of a Criminal Arrest or Conviction on a Nursing License in Georgia

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The following information is for anyone holding a nursing license or pursing a career in nursing. The following page outlines relevant information provided by the Georgia Board of Nursing. This information covers how and when a criminal arrest or conviction can jeopardize your nursing license or ability to receive a nursing license.

The Georgia Board of Nursing has established polices and procedures for who may become a licensed nurse in Georgia and when a nurse’s license in in jeopardy of being revoked. The following is information for guidance for persons in the nursing community who are facing criminal charges and need a skilled criminal defense attorney to assist them with pending charges. This information should not be relied upon without consulting the attorney of your choice. For additional guidance refer to the Georgia Registered Professional Nurse Practice Act and Board Rules (click here).

The state of Georgia gives the Georgia Board of Nursing the responsibility to protect, promote, and preserve public health, safety, and welfare. See O.C.G.A. §43-26-1 et seq. The board reviews each application individually.

A. Felony Convictions

The Georgia Board of Nursing has the legal authority to refuse to grant a license to an individual based solely upon an applicant’s conviction for a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude. A conviction includes criminal charges sentenced under Georgia’s first offender act or where a Defendant has pled nolo contendere.

Factors the Board considers regarding felony convictions:

1) How recent was the event: an arrest that occurs while in applicant is a nursing student is very significant. Recent arrests reflect the character or medical condition of the application. Resolved cases are also reviewed.

2) Was violence involved: in cases involving violent crime, such as battery, assault or robbery, the Board considers the chance of future harm being done to patients and the public.

3)Are boundary violations involved: Any conviction related to sexual misconduct is of great concern, including any form of sexual exploitation or predatory behavior. Such violations also include theft or forgery convictions. These convictions raise the question of whether the applicant is honest or has integrity issues.

4) What was the severity of the crime: Any felony conviction is a basis for license denial. The Board considers your age at the time of arrest and whether you completed the court’s sentence. The burden of proof is on you, the applicant, to show you are deserving of licensing.

5) Was the conviction related to controlled substances: Any arrest involving a controlled substance is reportable to the Board, including misdemeanor marijuana. A first time felony conviction of a licensed person involving controlled substances or marijuana results in a mandatory three month license suspension. A second felony conviction results in a license revocation. The Board also has the authority to require you to submit treatment records.

B. Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

Moral turpitude has been defined as “the act of baseness, vileness or the depravity in private and social duties which man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general….” The legal term describes crimes or acts on your part that fall below societies moral standards. Any arrest or conviction should be acknowledged on your application or renewal to the Board.

C. DUI: Driving Under the Influence

Any crime that impacts your fitness to perform your duties is a concern to the Board. A prosecution for DUI shows the applicant or licensee may have a substance abuse problem, and therefore, is unsafe to practice nursing. A DUI offense is of more concern if it occurs during the time an applicant is enrolled in a nursing program or within twelve months of entering a nursing program.

Persons convicted of a DUI in Georgia are subject to serious mandatory penalties. The Board, in addition to the penalties imposed in criminal court, has the discretion to impose sanctions based on the DUI conviction when granting a license.

Repeat DUI offenses cause the Board to more strongly suspect impairment or addiction on your part. The Board may offer you a “Consent Agreement” that allows you to continue to practice nursing with a restricted license and probation for a period of time.

D. Violation of the Controlled Substance Act

An arrest for any drug charge is a great concern. When an applicant or licensee is arrested and convicted of a drug charge, even misdemeanor marijuana, the Board is authorized to order the applicant or licensee to submit to a physical/mental evaluation. If diagnosed with a substance related disorder the Board may deny or revoke your license. Felony convictions involving drugs and marijuana convictions may result in mandatory suspension or revocation of your license under O.C.G.A.§ 16-13-111.

What to do? If you are facing criminal charges you need to have an attorney prepared to defend you in court but also to weight the collateral consequences of your criminal charges on your professional life. Attorney Andrew Lynch can help you understand what your rights are and how you can best resolve your case to continue to practice your profession.

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