Criminal and Non-Criminal Actions May Impact Nursing License

Published 01/01/2020

Will a Criminal Conviction Impact Your Nursing License?

The impacts of a criminal conviction will reach outside of the courtroom and may affect your Nursing License. Nurses, like other professionals, are governed by a state board. In Rhode Island, The Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education (“The Board”) is responsible for enforcing rules and regulations as it relates to your Nursing License. The Board has stated that nurses are placed in a position of the highest public trust and the Board seeks to assure patients that the nurses providing them care are worthy of this extraordinary trust.  

Criminal convictions, depending on the nature, may affect your license. However, you may petition the board for reinstatement. Additionally, certain non-criminal activity may negatively affect your license. However, you have legal rights to fight these allegations and keep your license. Please be mindful that your private conduct may be of interest to the board. Conduct that reflects questionable judgment, impairment, or lapses in moral character may suggest to the board that a nurse poses a potential threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Social media may become of concern to the board. Be mindful that social media posts do not divulge protected health information, violate privacy concerns, and/or de-fame colleagues or employers.

This post will cover general areas. If you need more information please Call The Law Office of Matthew L. LaMountain to schedule a free consultation. 


What Type of Crimes Will Impact My License?

The Board released guidelines in 2001 pertaining to criminal convictions. They set forth a broad list of crimes that, if convicted, will cause your license to be revoked and/or denied. For the purposes of their guidelines, the board considers a conviction to be a plea of nolo-contendere followed by probation and also any sentence involving a suspended sentence, jail, or a fine. The board stated nurses who are convicted of the following charges will be denied a license:

  1. Felonies involving sexual misconduct where the victim’s failure to affirmatively consent is an element of the crime, such as forcible sexual assaults.
  2. Felonies involving the sexual, physical or mental abuse of children, the elderly or infirm, such as sexual misconduct with a child, making or distributing child pornography or using a child in a sexual display, incest involving a child, assault on an elderly or infirm person.
  3. Any crime in which the victim is a patient, client or resident of a health care facility including abuse, neglect, theft from, or financial exploitation of a person entrusted to the care or protection of the applicant.
  1. Any crime resulting in the individual being incarcerated, on work release, on probation or on parole.
  1. Any crimes in the following categories unless at least five years have passed since the conviction or five years have passed since release from custodial confinement whichever occurs later:
  • Serious crimes of violence against persons, such as assault or battery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault and battery, murder or attempted murder, manslaughter (except involuntary manslaughter) kidnapping, robbery of any degree or arson;
  • Crimes involving controlled substances or synthetics, including unlawful possession or distribution, or intent to distribute unlawfully, Schedule I through V drugs as defined by the Uniform controlled Substances Act.
  • Serious crimes against property, such as grand larceny, burglary, embezzlement or insurance fraud.
  • Any other crime that involves sexual misconduct.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you need to a hire an experience criminal lawyer, who understands how to defend your rights and your nursing license.

You Have the Ability to be Reinstated After Your Criminal Conviction.

 You may petition the Board to seek Reinstatement. You need to prove by clear and convincing evidence to the satisfaction of the Board that you have been rehabilitated and poses no threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The Board will determine the following factors, plus any others, when rendering its decision:

  1. The seriousness of the crime;
  1. Whether the crime relates directly to the training and skills of a nurse and the delivery of patient care;
  1. How much time has elapsed since the crime was committed;
  1. Whether the crime involved violence to or abuse of another person;
  2. Whether the crime involved a minor or a person of diminished capacity;
  3. Whether the applicant’s actions and conduct since the crime occurred are consistent with the holding of a position of public interest.

Having an experienced lawyer representing you before the board will ensure that you present the most compelling case to get your license reinstated and your life back on track. There is no reason for you to go through this tedious process alone.

You have a Duty to Disclose any Criminal Conviction When You Renew Your License Every Year.

Be mindful that Rhode Island is not a mandatory reporting state for criminal convictions but the board requires applicants for licensure to complete a statement concerning convictions when applying for licensure. Persons who have been convicted of a violation of Federal, State or Local law are required to submit to the Board specific court related documents including a certified copy of the court Judgement and Disposition Form, Parole Certificates and other such information as may be deemed necessary to evaluate this matter.

Applications with convictions related to alcohol and/or substance abuse will be required to submit evidence of clinical professional evaluation regarding their current rehabilitation status. Documentation should be submitted by an appropriate health professional.

Accordingly, each case is reviewed on an individual basis, which may include a meeting between the applicant and the Board. In the event the Board denies an application for a nursing license, the Rules and Regulations for the Licensing of Nurses allows that an appeal for a decision of the Board may be taken.

Having an experienced lawyer will ensure that your appeal is properly executed and that you have the expertise to present your best legal case on appeal. 

Your License May Be Impacted by Non-Criminal Activity.

Rhode Island law allows the board to deny, revoke, or suspend any license to a practicing nurse, to provide for a nondisciplinary alternative only in situations involving alcohol or drug abuse, or to discipline a licensee upon proof that the person is:

(1) Guilty of fraud or deceit in procuring or attempting to procure a license to practice nursing;

(2) Guilty of a crime of gross immorality;

(3) Unfit or incompetent by reason of negligence or habits;

(4) Habitually intemperate or is addicted to the use of habit-forming drugs;

(5) Mentally incompetent;

(6) Guilty of unprofessional conduct that includes, but is not limited to, all of the above and also:

(i) Abandonment of a patient;

(ii) Willfully making and filing false reports or records in the practice of nursing;

(iii) Willful omission to file or record nursing records and reports required by law;

(iv) Failure to furnish appropriate details of a client's nursing needs to succeeding nurses legally qualified to provide continuing nursing services to a client;

(v) Willful disregard of standards of nursing practice and failure to maintain standards established by the nursing profession; or

(7) Guilty of and willfully or repeatedly violating any of the provisions of this chapter and/or rule or regulation adopted pursuant to this chapter.

These categories are broad in nature and leave a lot of room for interpretation. You need to have an experienced lawyer by your side defending your rights and disproving these allegations.

Advanced Practice Nurses Have Additional Requirements To Be Mindful Of.

According to Rhode Island Law there is a seven-member committee that reviews complaints and can recommend any and all disciplinary or corrective actions that it deems appropriate, including revocation and suspension of license upon proof that one or more of the following has occurred:

(A) Aided or abetted an uncertified person to practice as an advanced practice nurse;

(B) Become addicted to the use of liquor or controlled substances;

(C) Negligently, willfully, or intentionally acted in a manner inconsistent with the health and safety of persons entrusted to his or her care;

(D) Had his or her authorization to practice as an advanced practice nurse denied, revoked, or suspended in another state;

(E) Engaged in the performance of medical functions beyond the scope of practice authorized by the provisions of this chapter;

(F) Willfully failed to file or record medical records and reports;

(G) Mental incompetence; or

(H) Willfully failed to maintain standards established by the nursing profession.

What is the Hearing Process like for Non-Criminal Matters?

There will be a sworn complaint charging you with an allegation. Two or more members of the board will investigate these charges and upon competition may institute charges against you. Generally, the investigation is allowed 6 months to be completed, but may be extended for good cause. They need to have reasonable grounds for believing you are guilty of the charges. You will receive notice of the Board’s intention along with other information.

It is important to remember that you have the right to legal representation at any hearing held before the Board. You have the right to a hearing and to present evidence and witnesses at that hearing. You have the right to cross examine any witnesses presented by the board. You also have the right to appeal any decision to the Rhode Island Superior Court. The findings of the board are considered public information and may be posted in a public forum and online.

There are certain, extreme, cases where your license may be temporarily suspended without a hearing if there is evidence that your continued practice would constitute an immediate danger to the public. If this happens to you, you have the right to a hearing within 10 days.

Call The Law Office of Matthew L. LaMountain to schedule a free consultation. We can walk you through the process and set up your legal defense to keep your license.