Can I Get a Medical License with a Misdemeanor?

Close up on criminal background check document

Having a criminal record is a frustrating aspect of life for many Americans, but for physicians it can be devastating if not handled properly. There is a certain way physicians need to approach medical license applications if they have experienced a misdemeanor, even if it has been expunged from their record. We commonly work with physicians who have criminal records and have gained valuable insight over the years into how state medical boards view misdemeanors. 

How to Obtain a Medical License with a Criminal Record

The most important rule of obtaining a medical license with a criminal record is honesty. Lying on your medical license application is a recipe for disaster. Medical boards use a great deal of discernment when making decisions about granting medical licenses and genuinely want to understand your history and if you have any recurring problems. The important thing is to be honest, explain how you have overcome the issue in question and prove that you have moved past it. 

This does not mean that by simply being honest about your criminal record that you will be granted a medical license. Ultimately, whether or not your misdemeanor will hinder your ability to get a medical license will depend on your unique conviction. If it interferes with the Medical Code of Ethics, mars your personal character or affects your ability to treat patients, you may be unable to get a medical license. Considering that there are a lot of misdemeanors that can cause you to lose your license, even if they are not directly related to practicing medicine, it is highly possible that these could also preclude you from obtaining a medical license. 

Why Medical Boards Ask About Your Criminal History

The purpose of the medical board is to protect the public’s safety. Certain misdemeanors can imply that you may have experienced impaired judgement, substance or alcohol abuse or even financial negligence. Medical boards ask questions about past crimes because they want to know if there is something about your personality or character that could pose a public safety risk. The relationship between a doctor and patient is personal, sacred and built on implicit trust, so the medical board is simply trying to advocate for your future patients by asking about any misdemeanors. 

How to Handle Expunged Records

Even if a misdemeanor has been expunged from your record and is no longer identified in common searches, it will still be found on your record through a criminal background check. This means you should still add the misdemeanor to your medical license application, but rest assured you will be given a chance to explain your past to the medical board. In most cases, it is possible to overcome having a criminal record as long as you are able to show the medical board that you have owned up to your behavior, made it right and changed course. 

How to Answer Questions About Your Criminal Record

Read or listen to the question about your criminal record very carefully and consider it literally. Make sure you understand exactly what is being asked and answer that specific question. There is no need to provide further information than that which answers the question. You should answer the question honestly, accurately and thoroughly without volunteering anything extra. Even when specific questions are not asked about your record, it is often a good idea to provide a written explanation along with it, especially in cases of more serious misdemeanors. 

Honesty is Always the Best Policy

Physicians can be charged for perjury for not answering medical licensure questions truthfully. Lying about your criminal history can also become career-ending in and of itself. It is always best to remain honest about your past and consider any questions about your record as screening for potential criminal or personality issues that could arise in the future. Attempting to avoid the reality of your past by providing dishonest answers on your medical license application is a certain road to disaster. 

If you are concerned about your criminal history interfering with your medical license application, call us at 850.433.4600. Our clients are able to take advantage of our experience in assisting physicians who have a criminal record. We work hard to support our clients in serving as a resource on all matters that may impact your medical licensure.