What if I have a Criminal Background?

I am often asked, “What if I have a criminal background? Can I still be a CNA?” The answer is…it depends. When you register for the CNA exam, you will have to have a Level 2 background screening done. This will display any arrests and/or convictions at both the state and national level.

“Level 1 and Level 2 background checks” are terms used only in Florida, based on Florida Statute Chapter 435. These terms are used to indicate what records are searched and how the search will be conducted. According to the FDLE CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD CHECKS /


FACT SHEET issued on OCTOBER 7, 2011:

  • Level 1 generally refers to a state only name based check AND an employment history check.
  • Level 2 generally refers to a state and national fingerprint based check and consideration of disqualifying offenses, and applies to those employees designated by law as holding positions of responsibility or trust. Section 435.04, F.S., mandates Level 2 security background investigations be conducted on employees, defined as individuals required by law to be fingerprinted pursuant to Chapter 435, F.S.

These background checks will search state and national (FBI) databases for any arrests and/or convictions as well as active warrants and injunctions for protection. This extensive check will involve the submission of fingerprints as well as verification of identity.

So, what if you have a criminal history? The state of Florida has an obligation to protect its citizens and mandates background screenings for all healthcare professionals to ensure that employees do not have a violent history or a history of theft, extortion or fraud. Because healthcare professionals often care for physically or mentally ill patients in a variety of settings, including providing unsupervised care in the patient’s homes or a congregate living facility, every effort must be made to ensure good moral character to protect the physical, emotional and financial interests of those patients.

Don’t take it personally if you are disqualified…remember, it is all about the patient’s safety, not you.

To help simplify this process, it is felonies that they are mainly concerned with. However, if you have multiple misdemeanors, you may run into a bit of trouble too. The Board of Nursing has published a chart to explain disqualifying offenses. It can be found by CLICKING HERE.

Basically, it boils down to the following summary: (assuming the person is no longer on probation)

  • Misdemeanor – one charge – you may be cleared
  • Misdemeanors – more than one
    • Less than 3 years ago – must appear before the board
    • More than 3 years ago – you may be cleared
  • Felonies – one or more
    • Category 3: felonies not listed under Categories 4-6, i.e., Grand Theft/Larceny; Crimes with No Actual Harm, DWLS Habitual, Perjury, Fraud (Not Medicaid/Medicare)
      • Less than 3 years ago – must appear before the board
      • More than 3 years ago – you may be cleared

All of the following persons with Felonies must appear before the board, regardless of time since offense:

  • Category 4: Sex Crimes, Child/Elder/Spouse Abuse, Hate Crimes, Violent Crimes with actual harm
  • Category 5: Federal or Florida: Fraud, Drug Possession/Substance Abuse; Medicaid/Medicare Fraud, Other Fraud listed below, Florida Statutes Chapter 409, Chapter 817, or Chapter 893, or Federal Statutes 21 U.S.C. ss. 801-970 or 42 U.S.C. ss. 1395-1396
  • Category 6: Felonies in any other state but not a Federal offense: Fraud, Drug Possession/Substance Abuse; Medicaid/Medicare Fraud

So, what if you must appear before the board? What does that mean? It means that the Board of Nursing wants to get to know you, find out your side of the story, determine if you are a threat to the patients they are sworn to protect and decide if you have the potential to disgrace the profession. This is a good thing.

The Board is made up of Nursing professionals who will review the facts and listen to your side and make a decision. It is not an automatic “no”. But remember, they will vote based on the best interests of the public, not you.

How does the process work? You must apply to take the test before any decision can be made. Yes, you will have to pay the application fee before you find out whether you are even able to take the test. It is a financial gamble if you have a felony. The state is not going to absorb the cost of reviewing the records and making a decision for free. It is YOUR background in question, and therefore you will bear the cost of the decision. Once you register, you will receive information on how to submit your fingerprints for the background screening. If you pass, you will receive a test date in 2 – 3 weeks (on average). If you don’t pass, you will receive a letter asking for more information and records.

This page was compiled using the most current background information and regulations as of July, 2017. This should be construed as an information only presentation and by no means do we guarantee that you will be permitted to test or receive your certification with any background infractions. By stating that you may be cleared to test, we are stating that the Board has the ultimate authority and will make the decision, but that the Board may opt to clear you without further action.

I hope this helps clear up the mystery around the criminal history process for the state exam and certification process. Any further questions should be directed to the State Board of Nursing.