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Possible Relief for Health Care Workers Who Have Background Problems!

April 4, 2014
Est read time: 4 minutes
Category:

In my practice I often get calls from employees of health care facilities, clinics or other organizations who have undergone a criminal background check that reveals a felony or misdemeanor in their past which prevents them from working in Florida.  The real problem arises when they learn that despite the fact that the individual served their sentence, probation or other penalty, but did not pay a fine or court costs, they are not eligible for what is known as an “exemption from disqualification” because 3 years has not passed.

Depending upon the nature of the case, an exemption from disqualification is granted by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Department of Health (DOH) or Department of Children and Families (DCF) if the individual makes application and meets certain criteria.  During this application process you have to provide the state agency with information and documentation from the courts indicating the nature of the crime(s) and the disposition.  In some instances, the state agency will require a hearing.

 

Currently, Florida law requires that 3 years must have “elapsed” or passed since the applicant for the exemption has completed or been lawfully released from confinement, supervision, or “sanction.”  It is this word “sanction” that unfortunately officials with certain state agencies have interpreted means court costs and fines.  In otherwords, even if 3 years have passed since you were released from confinement or supervision (read “probation”), you will still not be granted an exemption if you have not paid court costs or fines.  Or three years have not passes since such payment.

 

A few years ago, a nurse client of mine called me to inform that they had borrowed money to go to college and get the education necessary to become a nurse only to find out that a criminal record prevented them from getting licensed.  The crime was a misdemeanor from more than 20 years ago, but the nurse applicant never paid the court costs that were imposed of $160.00.  I told this client to go immediately and pay off those court costs.  The problem was that now he must wait for three years to pass.

 

POSSIBLE GOOD NEWS:  This year the Florida Legislature is considering a bill that if it passes would remove the 3 year waiting period after payment of fines and court costs in order to receive an exemption from disqualification.  You still must meet all the other criteria, but payment of these monetary amounts would no longer be subject to a 3 year waiting period.

 

The bill is CS/CS/SB 674 which reads, in part, as follows:

 

Section 9. Subsections (1) and (2) of section 435.07,

Florida Statutes, are amended to read:

 

435.07 Exemptions from disqualification.—Unless otherwise

provided by law, the provisions of this section apply to

exemptions from disqualification for disqualifying offenses

revealed pursuant to background screenings required under this

chapter, regardless of whether those disqualifying offenses are

listed in this chapter or other laws.

 

(1)(a) The head of the appropriate agency may grant to any

employee otherwise disqualified from employment an exemption

from disqualification for:

 

1.(a) Felonies for which at least 3 years have elapsed

since the applicant for the exemption has completed or been

lawfully released from confinement, supervision, or nonmonetary

condition imposed by the court sanction for the disqualifying

felony;

 

2.(b) Misdemeanors prohibited under any of the statutes

cited in this chapter or under similar statutes of other

jurisdictions for which the applicant for the exemption has

completed or been lawfully released from confinement,

supervision, or nonmonetary condition imposed by the court

sanction;

 

3.(c) Offenses that were felonies when committed but that

are now misdemeanors and for which the applicant for the

exemption has completed or been lawfully released from

confinement, supervision, or nonmonetary condition imposed by

the court sanction; or

 

4.(d) Findings of delinquency. For offenses that would be

felonies if committed by an adult and the record has not been

sealed or expunged, the exemption may not be granted until at

least 3 years have elapsed since the applicant for the exemption

has completed or been lawfully released from confinement,

supervision, or nonmonetary condition imposed by the court

sanction for the disqualifying offense.

 

(b) A person applying for an exemption who was ordered to

pay any amount for any fee, fine, fund, lien, civil judgment,

application, costs of prosecution, trust, or restitution as part

of the judgment and sentence for any disqualifying felony or

misdemeanor must pay the court-ordered amount in full before he

or she is eligible for the exemption.

For the purposes of this subsection, the term “felonies” means

both felonies prohibited under any of the statutes cited in this

chapter or under similar statutes of other jurisdictions.

 

 

The practical effect of this bill is that if it passes you will not have to wait 3 years from the date of your payment of fines or court costs to be considered for an exemption.  Nevertheless, if you owe fines or costs it is wise to pay them off now.

 

 

 

If you have a criminal background check or screening problem involving your employment or application for licensure I may be able to help.  My office represents health care professionals and workers throughout Florida who have regulatory issues with the Agency for Health Care Administration, Department of Health, or Department of Children & Families.  For a free no obligation consultation call Jeff Howell at 850-877-7776.

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