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Criminal conviction can threaten California real estate license

Under California law, the government may deny a real estate license application or begin disciplinary proceedings against the holder of a real estate license when the license applicant or holder is convicted of a crime that is substantially related to the job of being a real estate broker. Therefore, for someone who works in the industry or who is hoping to break into the market as a licensed California broker, criminal charges can have professional and personal ramifications far beyond just the potential conviction itself.

Get legal advice about protecting your real estate license

It is imperative to retain a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible when a California real estate professional faces criminal investigation or charges, whether federal or state. Careful, thoughtful and knowledgeable legal representation is necessary to understand how to navigate through the process of investigation and negotiation with the prosecution.

Of course, a criminal conviction can bring expected negative consequences like imprisonment, court-imposed fines and fees, damage to reputation, legal fees, a criminal record and much more, but after all is said and done, legal guidance is also crucial to understand what is at stake regarding a professional license when deciding whether to accept a plea deal or proceed to fight charges at trial.

A relevant example

An example of this kind of situation was in California news just last week when former state Sen. Ronald Calderon, D-Montebello, was sentenced to 42 months in prison, a year of supervised release and 150 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to mail fraud in a public corruption case, according to the Los Angeles Times. Although Calderon denied any wrongdoing, his conviction after accepting a plea deal reportedly also cost him his real estate license.

CalBRE's real estate licensing authority

A state agency, the California Bureau of Real Estate, known as CalBRE, issues and administers California real estate licenses, including matters of discipline and revocation. The agency follows specific state laws, regulations and procedures that apply when an applicant or license holder is convicted of a crime.

When someone applies for a real estate license or already holds one, CalBRE reviews any federal or state misdemeanor or felony conviction to determine whether it is "substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties" of a real estate licensee under California statute. The agency has broad criteria that apply when deciding if the conviction is one that is substantially related to the job of a real estate professional.

CalBRE must follow regulations and administrative procedures when it considers whether a conviction is substantially related to the real estate broker position and when it decides to deny or take disciplinary action against a licensee. The license applicant or holder has the right to request review of certain CalBRE actions at a hearing before an administrative law judge or ALJ.

This is only a brief introduction to the collateral damage to the right to a real estate license that can happen when the license holder or applicant is convicted of a crime.

It is important to retain a criminal defense attorney with experience both in defending against the criminal charges and in opposing corresponding state action against a real estate license. The state agency's actions must follow the state procedural law and honor the license applicant or holder's constitutional right to due process. California law also provides for some relief in the license application or disciplinary action when the defendant meets certain requirements for rehabilitation.

A lawyer can answer questions in greater detail.

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