Recent Licensing Reforms for Workers with Criminal Records
Today, one out of every five Americans needs a license to work while 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. Since 2015, 39 states and Washington, D.C. have reformed their occupational licensing laws to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work in state-licensed fields.
For more information on the laws in a specific state, read Barred from Working: A Nationwide Study of Occupational Licensing Barriers for Ex-Offenders.
In 21 states, plus Washington, D.C., ex-offenders can petition a licensing board at any time, including before enrolling in any required training, to determine if their record would be disqualifying.
Banned or Repealed Vague Character Requirements
Eighteen states generally prevent licensing boards from using vague standards like “good moral character” or “moral turpitude” to deny licenses for ex-offenders. In a similar vein, four states plus the District of Columbia removed moral character requirements from many of their licenses but did not enact an overarching ban.
- Banned character requirements
- Repealed character requirements, but no overarching ban
Banned Boards from Using Arrest Records
Twenty states and Washington, D.C. expressly ban boards from considering arrests that did not result in a conviction.
Time Limits for Old Convictions
Thirteen states limit boards from considering convictions that happened long ago, though these time limits usually do not apply to violent or sexual felonies.
- 3 years
- 5 years
- 7 years
- 10 years
- 20 years
Banned Boards from Using Sealed or Expunged Records
Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. prohibit boards from using annulled, erased, expunged, sealed, or vacated records to disqualify applicants.