Can a Felon Become a Nurse in Arizona? | Nursing Felony
People frequently ask our attorneys whether state law allows a nursing professional with a felony criminal conviction to get a license with the Arizona State Board of Nursing.
The short answer is yes.
An Arizona Felony for nurses will not necessarily prevent a nurse from obtaining a license or a career in the medical field. However, the Board has a public policy on its website covering the details of under what circumstances a nurse (like an RN) can get licensed while having a case that resulted in a criminal conviction.
Arizona Nurse Felony Bar
Suppose a nurse discloses a criminal conviction on their application. The Board policy and state law hold Arizona nursing professionals are ineligible to apply for a license or certificate with the State Board of Nursing—until three years after the absolute discharge of the court sentence.
An absolute discharge from the sentence is the completion of any sentence, including imprisonment, probation, parole, community supervision, or any form of court supervision (no committee instructions are given).
Of note, if enough time has passed since the conviction, state law may allow a nurse to have the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor (due to an undesignated designation), dismissed, expunged, set aside, or something similar.
The bar of three years may not apply. In this instance, a nursing professional can contact an attorney to assist the applicant in obtaining these reductions if they haven’t already pursued these options in the state where their case occurred.
Criminal Charges for Nurses with the Board
When a professional applies to the Arizona State Board of Nursing, they must disclose a felony criminal court conviction (and other similar offenses) on their application. A nurse must self-report a felony no matter how much time or years have passed since the conviction.
After self-reporting occurs, the Board contacts the nurse and initiates an investigation utilizing the law of the AZ Nurse Practice Act.
The investigation helps to determine whether the nursing professional is a danger to the public, has any medical or mental health problems and whether the nurse has rehabilitated since the criminal incident occurred. Simply put, the Nursing Board wants to know whether the RN, LPN, or NP applicant can provide safe nursing care.
Arizona Nursing Board Criminal History
ARS 32-3208 requires that nursing licensees and applicants for a nursing license must report misdemeanor criminal charges involving conduct that may affect patient safety or a felony to the Arizona Board of Nursing within ten working days after the charge is filed.
A working day would be considered Monday through Friday.
Failure to report a reportable criminal charge within ten business days violates the Arizona Nurse Practice Act and could result in Arizona Nursing Board Discipline.
What Current and Past Crimes Must Be Reported?
The nurse practitioner must report a felony within ten days of being charged.
The following types of misdemeanors or other criminal histories are crimes that the Board has determined to be reportable under A.RS § 32-3208:
- Assault and Related Offenses
- Theft and Related Offenses
- Fraud, Deceit, and Related Offenses
- Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation of a Child or Vulnerable Adult, and Related Offenses
- Sexual and Related Offenses
- Drug and/or Alcohol Related Offenses
- Arson and Related Offenses
- Animal Abuse, Cruelty, and Related Offenses
Failure to report a reportable criminal charge within ten business days violates the Arizona Nurse Practice Act (NPA). It could also result in disciplinary action, which could result in Arizona Nursing Board Probation.
DUI Criminal History
Nurses who contact our office frequently ask our attorneys if state law allows a nursing professional with a DUI crime or conviction to get a license with the Arizona State Board of Nursing.
The short answer is yes.
An Arizona Nurse DUI will not necessarily prevent a nurse from obtaining a license or a career in the health field. However, the Board (which handles all complaints) has a public policy (updated as of September 2020) on their website covering the details of under what circumstances nursing professionals with a case that resulted in a felony DUI criminal conviction can get a license.
Nursing License Criminal Consequences
This policy does not apply to criminal conduct involving misdemeanor DUI charges or convictions. Once a nursing professional applies for a license to practice from the Arizona State Board of Nursing, they need to disclose any felony DUI criminal court convictions (from previous years) on their application.
A nurse must report a felony DUI no matter how much time or years have passed since the conviction or case. The AZ Board may also ask about past DUI misdemeanor criminal charges or cases that resulted in a conviction. They do it to ensure a nurse can perform safe patient care and have safe, direct contact with patients or other providers.
Disclosing a Criminal Record for an Applicant
Suppose a nursing license applicant (like an RN) is not required to disclose a legal misdemeanor DUI. In that case, the AZ Board can still initiate an investigation based on fingerprint background check results. The Board will then contact the nursing professional and initiate an inquiry in their practice utilizing the law of the Arizona Nurse Practice Act (current as of October 2020).
This license investigation determines whether the nurse is a danger to the public, has any medical or mental health problems, and whether the nurse has been rehabilitated since the criminal misdemeanor DUI or DUI charges occurred. The Board wants to know whether the applicant can provide safe nursing care with a past criminal case involving alcohol or substance abuse.
Arizona Nursing Mandatory Reporting
Current nurses who have received a conviction (or have been charged) since the time of licensing must self-report to the Arizona Board of Nursing Examiners.
When self-reporting, remember to include all facts on the criminal charges. No matter the type of felony, you will be better off self-reporting to avoid severe penalties (like continuing education). These penalties could appear on your license verification with the scope of the offenses listed, including some details.
Fingerprint Clearance Card Denial and or Suspension
A felony could also have repercussions with Arizona Nurse Fingerprint Clearance Cards.
Applicants face fingerprint card denial if the state finds child abuse, welfare fraud, theft, or robbery during the background check. Possession or use of any controlled substance can also result in a denial. These are just a few of the offenses that cause a denial.
If a person already holds a fingerprint card but receives a new offense, they face a fingerprint card suspension. Losing a fingerprint clearance card may also result in the loss of work.
Recover the Fingerprint Clearance Card with a Good Cause Exception
After denial, the only way to get a fingerprint card is by applying for Good Cause Exception. Petitioning might be the best solution if the person feels the conviction is no longer a threat or no longer puts anyone at risk.
A Good Cause Exception application must include the following:
- A personal statement describing how lifestyle changes have been a positive factor
- Two letters of reference
- Evidence that the nurse met all sentencing requirements (such as probation, fines, etc.)
- Any police reports and any other items an attorney may think necessary.
Arizona Nursing Board Complaint
If you are a nurse in Arizona, you may have questions about how the Arizona Board of Nursing (AZBN) handles an Arizona Board of Nursing complaint and investigation.
A registered nurse (RN), nurse practitioner (NP), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), or nursing programs may find themselves at the center of a complaint and or investigation of their license or certificate.
Complaints can come from a patient, employer, or even another nurse. At the same time, investigations can occur because of a criminal conviction, disciplinary action by another state’s nursing board, or the self-report of a substance abuse problem.
Responding to State of AZ Complaints and Questions
After receiving a complaint or self-report, a nurse gets an Investigative Questionnaire and notice from the Board requesting additional information and a response to allegations found in the complaint. From here, the AZBON assigns an investigator, and they begin to collect evidence.
The documents and evidence collected include the following:
- Patient medical records
- Employment files from the nurses’ employer and business
- Criminal records
- Interviews of people associated with the Board Complaint or nursing program. (These interviewees can include the patient, nursing director, colleagues, etc.)
State Board Complaint Appeal
Once the AZ Board of Nursing receives all necessary documents, statements, and evidence, the Board will review the case and vote on a decision. The Board of Nursing members may also close the case or file formal charges.
They will refer the investigation to an administrative hearing if they file formal charges (for instance, due to the denial of a nurse’s application for licensure). This AZ Nursing Board Appeals and hearing is held in front of an Administrative Law Judge at the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings.
Nurses’ Formal Discipline
If the Board determines formal disciplinary action is necessary (for instance, failing to report a misdemeanor charge or conviction), it will happen after the completion of an investigation. It’s the job of the Board to review any allegation of a violation within the scope of the Arizona Nurse Practice Act.
Thus, at an Arizona Nursing Board Meeting, the Board will vote to determine the outcome of each investigation.
The Board (they do not utilize a disciplinary committee) can vote on a non-disciplinary outcome (which is not generally public) or vote to offer the nurse formal discipline, such as:
- CASE DISMISSAL: The Board of Nursing may dismiss a case if they determine there was not a violation of the Arizona Nurse Practice Act.
- LETTER OF CONCERN: A letter from the Board expressing concern that the nurse’s conduct was not ideal. However, the behavior does not necessarily violate the Nurse Practice Act (NPA).
- ADMINISTRATIVE PENALTY: The Board may impose an administrative penalty of not more than $1,000.
- REVOCATION: If the Board revokes a nurse’s license, the nurse will be unable to practice for a minimum of five years. After the five-year period has ended, the nurse will need to reapply for their license. Should the nurse reapply for their license, they’ll need to demonstrate that the grounds for revocation (substance abuse, mental health problems, criminal convictions, etc.) are no longer an issue.
- VOLUNTARY SURRENDER: The nurse voluntarily gives up their license. The benefit of a voluntary surrender is that the Board usually reduces the time until a nurse can reapply (between 2 to 3 years).
- SUSPENSION: Suspension stops the nurse from practicing for a while until the Board of Nursing lifts the suspension.
- PROBATION: Arizona Nursing Board Probation is offered through a Consent Agreement. The nurse must do certain things (drug testing, work supervision, counseling, continuing education). Alternatively, the nurse must refrain from doing things (unsupervised nursing like home health, working under the Nursing Licensure Compact, using alcohol, etc.).
- DECREE OF CENSURE: A decree of censure is the lowest level of formal discipline. There are no probationary requirements, but the Order will be listed on the website.
- CIVIL PENALTY: Similar to a Decree of Censure, but the nurse can be fined (up to $1000 per violation). The Civil Penalty is listed.
Arizona Nursing Misdemeanor
The attorneys at Chelle Law assist nursing professionals in interpreting Board policy. One can find this information on the Board website. Our attorneys help nurses with their application to show the board the nursing professional isn’t a danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the public and can give safe care.
If you’re looking into a nursing career in Arizona but have concerns about your criminal record, you don’t have to worry.
Though you may have a criminal record, you may still be eligible to be a nurse. If you’re currently a nursing professional with a conviction, educating yourself on what you must do to protect your license is important.
Chelle Law helps nurses self-report a misdemeanor DUI and other related misdemeanor charges.
Consultation with Chelle Law
Chelle Law assists nurses with past felony convictions to obtain their license from the Arizona Nursing Board.
Suppose you’re interested in learning more about Arizona Nursing Board Criminal History laws and how to protect your rights. Set up a consultation with Chelle Law and our Arizona Nursing Attorney. Reach out to us today.