Final grade: C

Exclusion Grade


Relevance Grade


Due Process Grade



  • Bans boards from using “good moral character” and “crimes of moral turpitude” to disqualify applicants. 
  • Requires boards to consider evidence of rehabilitation.

Areas of Improvement

  • Eliminate the state’s rebuttable presumptions and “substantial risk” carve-out.

Updated July 2020

Bipartisan legislation enacted in 2020 lifted Pennsylvania’s final grade from an F to a C. Previously, boards could use unrelated felonies to deny licenses to otherwise qualified applicants. 

Under the new law, boards considering applicants with criminal records must decide based on two factors. First, after creating a “list of offenses that are directly related” to the license, the board will determine if an applicant’s criminal record is on the list. Second, the board must decide if granting the license to an applicant would pose a “substantial risk” to the public. 

For “directly related” convictions, applicants must overcome a “rebuttable presumption” that they would pose a “substantial risk” to the public if licensed; there is no presumption for crimes that are not directly related. In other words, Pennsylvania’s directly-related prong only determines who must bear the burden of proof that an applicant poses a substantial risk: the applicant or the board. 

Pennsylvania attempted to create a “preliminary review” petition process, but it’s undermined by loopholes. The petition process only determines if a petitioner’s crime is directly related and is silent on whether they would pose a substantial risk, which is the main deciding factor in the new law. Moreover, any preliminary decision that an applicant was convicted of a directly related crime is “not final or binding.”  

Though overarching, the 2020 law does contain some notable carve-outs. Pennsylvanians convicted of “a crime of violence” can only apply for any license if they have spent at least three years without reoffending since their release from prison or their sentence was imposed. Those convicted of sex crimes or felony drug trafficking are barred from becoming licensed health care practitioners. Curiously, the 2020 reform also appears to have repealed the state’s ban on boards considering arrest records that did not result in a conviction.

Statute: 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9124 (1979), §§ 3113-3118

Overarching ban on blanket bans No
Ban on considering arrest records No
Ban on considering post-conviction relief records Yes, annulled and expunged records
Time limit No limit
Ban on vague, discretionary character standards Yes
Relationship between the crime and the license sought “Whether license of the individual would pose a substantial risk”
Required factors for consideration
Rehabilitation Yes
Time elapsed since crime was committed Yes
Age when crime was committed Yes
Employment History No
Testimonials Yes
Due Process
Petition Process No (not binding)
Burden of Proof Standard unspecified. For “directly related” convictions, applicants must overcome a “rebuttable presumption” that they would pose a “substantial risk” to the public if licensed. "
Right to appeal No
Written notice requirement Yes