California's Contractors' State License Law, Bus. & Prof. Code  §§ 7000, et seq., requires all contractor's license applicants to submit a full set of fingerprints for a criminal background check. Once submitted, the fingerprints are compared to the records of the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to determine if the applicant has a criminal history. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has confirmed that "[t]he number one reason that an application may be denied is the applicant's failure to accurately disclose his/her conviction record."

Who Must Be Fingerprinted?

All contractor license applicants and each officer, partner, owner listed on the application must be fingerprinted; the CSLB's Application for Original Contractor Licensefurther explains that "[a]ll corporations must also provide the name(s) of their corporate officer(s): California corporations - president, secretary, and treasurer; foreign corporations - president only." Applicants for a joint venture license are not required to be fingerprinted.

After a contractor's license application has been accepted by the CSLB as complete (aka "posted"), each individual listed on the license application is sent instructions on the process for obtaining and submitting fingerprints and a "Request for Live Scan Service" (form BCII 8016). Live Scan fingerprinting services are available at most California local police and sheriff departments, and any public Live Scan site.

The CSLB's FAQs confirm that, if you do not live in California and do not plan to come to California during the application process, or if you do not have access to a Live Scan site, it will permit you to submit fingerprints using hard copy fingerprint cards. Additional fees will apply. It also warns that the processing time required for hard copy fingerprint cards is substantially longer than Live Scan fingerprinting, taking 3 to 6 months or longer.

What Sort of "Convictions" Must Be Disclosed?

A conviction of any kind -- misdemeanor and felony -- regardless of the nature of the conviction and regardless of when it occurred. A "conviction" means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere. All convictions are reported to the CSLB, including those that have been sealed, expunged, or reduced under Penal Code § 1203.4 or an applicable code of another state. Failure to disclose all convictions is falsification of the application, which was signed under penalty of perjury, and is grounds for denial.

Will a Conviction Prevent the CSLB From Issuing a Contractor's License?

The CSLB's Criminal Background Unit (CBU) reviews on a case-by-case basis all criminal convictions to determine if the crime at issue is "substantially related to the duties, qualifications, and/or functions of a contractor." The criteria the CBU uses to review a criminal conviction is "whether the crime shows the 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, or welfare." The primary factors in the evaluation of conviction records are (1) the nature and severity of the crimes, (2) the amount of time that has elapsed since the conviction, and (3) any rehabilitation that has been demonstrated by the applicant. In addition, the CBU will review and consider any evidence of rehabilitation submitted by the applicant or licensee. See Cal. Code of Regs. §§ 868, 869.

Depending on the conviction record, the CBU may either clear an applicant's license application for further processing or request additional documentation or statements from the applicant that may be necessary for the CBU to complete a thorough evaluation of the applicant's conviction record. If it requests additional information, upon completion of the CBU's review: (1) the applicant's license application is cleared for further processing toward licensure, (2) the applicant is offered a probationary license for a specified term in lieu of denial, pursuant to Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 7073, or (3) the applicant's license application is denied based on the applicant's criminal conviction history.

Additional Resources: CSLB's Fingerprinting, Disclosure, and Background Review