Can I Get a CNA License in Florida if I Have a Criminal Background?

Can I get a CNA License in Florida if I have a criminal background?

One of the most common questions we receive from prospective students and from people who are considering starting or formalizing their career as a CNA is whether they will be eligible for their license if they have criminal marks on their record. Thankfully, the answer is that in 90% of cases it won’t be an issue, but the more nuanced answer is that “it depends”. Here we will explain the rules that the Florida Board of Nursing uses when evaluating these cases, so you can compare it against your own history and be better informed about where your situation falls.

The automatic exemptions for minor offenses and felonies

The good news for most applicants is that the Florida Board of Nursing has a systematic and published process for handling criminal backgrounds, and it is often more lenient than you may initially suspect. If your situations falls under one of the following, then in 99% of cases you will be automatically exempted:

  • One misdemeanor in the last three years
  • Various misdemeanors but they are all older than three years
  • One Class 3 Felony

If your situation does not qualify for an automatic exemption, then you must present your case to the Board of Nursing. Note that even if you do not qualify for the automatic exemption, then it is not an automatic “No”. In most cases, if it was an incident a long time ago, you can be cleared by the Board as long as the case did not involve something that could be directly related to CNA work, such as Medicaid/Medicare fraud and/or elder abuse. Filing to the Board means that most likely you will have to present in person and explain your situation. Below is the flowchart that the Board of Nursing uses when determining whether to make an exemption or not.

Will a criminal record delay my application processing?

Yes, you can generally expect any marks on your criminal record to add an uncertain amount of time to your application processing. We recommend budgeting an extra month, but this time can be highly variable depending on how short-staffed or how backlogged the Board of Nursing is at the time, or how complex your case is and whether or not you have supporting documentation available. Generally the average time to process a CNA state exam application is 6-8 weeks, but if you have a criminal record then you can expect that processing and waiting time to be closer to 3 months. You may get lucky and have your case approved quickly, but it is usually best not to count on it and to be prepared for a wait.

Will my misdemeanor and/or minor offense show up on my background check?

Yes. In order to become a CNA and apply for the state exam in Florida, you will need to undergo a Level 2 background check, which is an extensive check that will show any local or national arrests, convictions, and whether you have any warrants out on your name. It is best to assume that if you were ever arrested, that it will show up on your record. Remember, having marks on your record does not mean automatic disqualification from becoming a CNA, especially if the incident was a long time ago. See the note above for automatic exemptions to see if your situation falls into one of the automatic exemption categories.

Can I find out if my background disqualifies me from becoming a CNA before applying to take the state exam?

Unfortunately, no, you must apply to take the state exam and  pay the application fee before the Board of Nursing reviews your application and makes a decision on your eligibility. There is no way to be sure whether or not you qualify otherwise. Professionals, including us, can make educated guesses about whether or not your application will be accepted, but please keep in mind that at the end of the day, only the Board of Nursing determines who is eligible.