If You Are a General Contractor, Engineering Contractor or Specialty Contractor in California, What Happens If You Get a DUI?

Under Business and Professions Code 7055, the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) regulates disciplinary action on behalf of the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the Contractors’ State License Law for the state of California. The DCA is charged with evaluating and imposing discipline in response to incidents of contractor misconduct such as willful violation of trade standards and breaking contracts in addition to for criminal convictions.

Criminal Conduct, Convictions and Your California Contractor’s License

Building contractors in California risk having their license suspended or revoked for committing an offense “substantially related” to their professional contracting activities which can include crimes of fraud, theft, or violence. Anyone applying for a contractors’ license or renewal of an existing license may also have their application or renewal rejected for past crimes (within the last seven (7) years) deemed “substantially related to contracting”. And the Contractors State License Board may similarly reject applicants for having committed either of the following offenses even if more than seven (7) years have passed:

  • a serious criminal offense (such as murder, rape, or grand theft),
  • a sex offense which requires Tier II or Tier III sex offender registration
  • a financial felony related to contracting

California Business and Professions Code Section 7123 also provides that “a conviction of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a contractor constitutes a cause for disciplinary action. The record of the conviction shall be conclusive evidence thereof.”

California Business and Professions Code Section 490 states:  “(a) In addition to any other action that a board is permitted to take against a licensee, a board may suspend or revoke a license on the ground that the licensee has been convicted of a crime, if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the license was issued.  (b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a board may exercise any authority to discipline a licensee for conviction of a crime that is independent of the authority granted under subdivision (a) only if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the licensee’s license was issued.  (c) A conviction within the meaning of this section means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere. An action that a board is permitted to take following the establishment of a conviction may be taken when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code.

16 Cal Code Regs 868 further clarifies the definition of “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee”:

“For the purposes of denial, suspension, or revocation of a license pursuant to Division 1.5 (commencing with Section 475) of the code, a crime or act, as defined in Section 480 of the code, shall be considered to be substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee (under Division 3, Chapter 9 of the code) if it evidences present or potential unfitness of an applicant or licensee to perform the functions authorized by the license in a manner consistent with the public health, safety, and welfare.  The crimes or acts shall include, but not be limited to, the following:  (a) Any violation of the provisions of Chapter 9 of Division 3 of the code.  (b) Failure to comply with the provisions of the California Administrative Code, Chapter 8, Title 16.  (c) Crimes or acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or theft with the intent to substantially benefit oneself or another or to substantially harm another.  (d) Crimes or acts involving physical violence against persons.(e) Crimes or acts that indicate a substantial or repeated disregard for the health, safety, or welfare of the public.(f) violations of California Penal Code Section 396 (taking advantage of the public during emergencies like earthquakes or fires).”

A DUI will be considered to be a crime associated with “a substantial or repeated disregard for the health, safety and welfare of the public” and as such is considered “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, duties” of a Contractor.

Convictions include felony and misdemeanor convictions secured through guilty pleas and verdicts, no contest pleas and even expunged criminal records. A licensed contractor is also required to report any criminal conviction whenever he or she renews or applies for a contractor’s license and the DCA will be made aware of any arrest of a contractor for a criminal act when the arrestee’s fingerprints are entered into the state’s LiveScan database. The advent of the internet now makes criminal arrest data widely available, immediately to licensing boards and the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Finally, a criminal conviction is costly since California contractors are required to post a disciplinary bond of at least $15,000 in connection with license restoration following disciplinary action by the CSLB. This disciplinary bond is in addition to other bonds required by law.

A DUI arrest is a prime example of how quickly a crime can put your California contractor’s license in jeopardy. A DUI (driving under the influence) is considered a criminal offense in California and can put your professional license and years of hard work at risk. After a DUI conviction, the California DCA on behalf of the CSLB may call for revocation or suspension of your contractor’s license. A DUI conviction also becomes part of a contractor’s criminal record and is visible to any current or future employers conducting criminal background searches. And longer term, contractors with DUI convictions may have difficulty in securing positions for which they are otherwise qualified. 

What Happens After A Contractor’s DUI Conviction? 

After becoming aware through self-reporting or via Livescan fingerprinting that a contractor has been arrested for a DUI, the DCA will review the circumstances to see whether or not there is a connection between the criminal conviction and the person’s job function. First time DUI offenders may receive less disciplinary action than multiple DUI offenders, since multiple arrests indicate a pattern of addiction to alcohol and often lead to the DCA permanently revoking or suspending contractor licenses and denying applications for prospective licenses.

While expungement of a contractor’s previous DUI conviction under California Penal Code Law can sometimes provide evidence of an licensee’s rehabilitation, it is the licensee’s burden to show evidence of rehabilitation. The DCA will review the severity (or lack thereof) of the offense, the relation of the offense to contracting, whether or not this has been a recurring problem, whether the contractor has complied with court orders and whether or not the contractor has taken steps towards rehabilitation.

Legal Defense for California Contractors with DUIs: License Defense 

If you are a California contractor who has been arrested for a DUI, it is imperative that you hire an attorney with expertise in both criminal law and professional licensing law experience who understands the impact of a DUI both from a criminal standpoint and in terms of its impact to a contractor’s license with the DCA and CSLB. An experienced attorney with this “hybrid” skillset is a critical asset in cases where the attorney must represent an individual for both the criminal DUI charge with the DA and the disclosures and disciplinary process around licensure inherent in the investigatory process with the California DCA and CSLB.

An experienced legal advocate and attorney with experience in BOTH licensing and criminal law is best positioned to assist you should you be arrested and convicted of a DUI. Your attorney can prepare a strategy to leverage the right evidence and prepare arguments in an effort to negotiate a deal that avoids license suspension entirely. Should that fail, they can appear on your behalf at the Administrative Hearing before an administrative law judge where they can present compelling evidence and cross-examine any witnesses. Even if you are ultimately disciplined by the CSLB, a lawyer can help you petition the board to later reinstate your license.

Plea Bargaining a DUI: Criminal Charges 

It is imperative for a contractor facing a DUI to find a professional licensing and DUI attorney at the earliest stages, before a conviction, to fight for the DUI to be reduced to a wet reckless. 

A “wet reckless” (Vehicle Code 23101 and 23103.5 VC) is a plea bargain from a California DUI. An attorney with expertise in both criminal law and professional licensing law uniquely understands the impact of a DUI on a contractor’s license and will work hard in an effort to get a DUI reduced to a wet reckless. A DUI conviction may result in a license revocation, probation, and heavy fees. A wet reckless conviction may result in less severe disciplinary penalties by the DCA.

Renewing Your Contractor’s License or Applying for One After A DUI Conviction

A professional licensing attorney should be consulted about how best to disclose a DUI conviction to any licensing board including to the CSLB. It is prudent to have a professional licensing attorney assist in this disclosure in an effort to minimize both disclosure mistakes and disciplinary repercussions. A professional licensing attorney can also assist a contractor in disclosing a DUI arrest or conviction to a prospective employer.

Questions California Contractor’s Facing a DUI Conviction Should Ask Their Attorney:

  • Do you have expertise in both criminal law and professional licensing law?
  • How many DUI cases have you won?
  • Have you successfully gotten a DUI reduced to a wet reckless?
  • Do you have experience representing CA contractors in DUI cases?
  • Have you ever had a client’s license revoked by the California Department of Consumer Affairs for a DUI?
  • What are the outcomes I can expect for my case?
  • Will the attorney I hire handle my case personally?
  • Do you charge a flat fee or an hourly fee?

We Are Here to Help. 

The Law Offices of Lucy S. McAllister have successfully represented a wide range of California licensed professionals including general contractors, engineering contractors and specialty contractors.

If you are a licensed California contractor who has been arrested for a DUI, it is imperative to enlist the assistance of an experienced criminal and licensing attorney immediately. We have a background in criminal/DUI and professional licensing law and understand the unique legal complexities facing your profession. We have the knowledge and experience to craft a comprehensive legal strategy and are dedicated to navigating your specific case from the DUI through the disclosure and disciplinary process to best defend your professional interests with the DCA.

For additional information or to schedule a free consultation on a professional licensing issue, please contact us today at (877) 280-9944.