FAQ Friday

What if I have a Criminal Background?

Background Screening

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

Florida-specific terms

“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.


  • 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. This is used for consideration of disqualifying offenses, and applies to those employees designated by law as holding positions of responsibility or trust. This is governed by Section 435 of the Florida Statutes.

What is involved?

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, photo and signature, 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. Florida 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. Why? Because healthcare professionals often care for physically or mentally ill patients in a variety of settings, both supervised and unsupervised. This can include providing care in the patient’s homes or a congregate living facility, where lack of supervision increases the risk of abuse. Because we are working with vulnerable patients, every effort must be made to ensure good moral character in caregivers. Identifying caregivers that have a history of violent or financial crimes reduces their exposure to these vulnerable patients. As a result, background screening helps to protect the physical, emotional and financial interests of patients.

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

What are disqualifying offenses?

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 guidelines that determine how certain criminal history infractions are handled. This helps determine whether you can take the CNA exam.

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

Specific disqualifying offenses can be found on the Florida Statutes website www.leg.state.fl.us or by clicking here.

Ordered to appear

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. They want to find out your side of the story and determine if you are a threat to the patients they are sworn to protect. They will use this information to decide if you are a threat to patients or have the potential to disgrace the profession. This is a good thing. They look at every situation individually.

The Board is made up of Nursing professionals who will review the facts and listen to your side and make a decision. In many cases, 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 your background check comes back clean, you will receive a test date in 2 – 3 weeks (on average). If it doesn’t, you will receive a letter asking for more information and records.


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 Florida State Board of Nursing, or your state’s Board of Nursing if you live in another state.


This page was compiled using the most current background information and regulations as of October 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.

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