Ohio recently enacted a bill – the Fresh Start Act – which generally amends how state licensing authorities may consider certain criminal convictions when determining whether to issue initial licenses for impacted professions, occupations, or occupational activities in the state that are identified in the Act. Certain provisions of the Act become effective April 12, 2021, though most are effective October 9, 2021, and each licensing authority has until October 9, 2021, to adopt a list of specific criminal offenses for which a conviction, judicial finding of guilt, or plea of guilty may disqualify an individual from obtaining an initial license.
Each licensing authority must make the list public, and each may only include in the list of disqualifying offenses those that are directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the licensed occupation. Among other limitations, a licensing authority generally may not refuse to issue an initial license based on: (i) a criminal charge that does not result in a conviction, judicial finding of guilt, or guilty plea; (ii) solely or in part on a conviction of, judicial finding of guilt of, or plea of guilty to an offense; or (iii) a nonspecific qualification such as “moral turpitude” or lack of “moral character.” Licensing authorities are permitted to consider a conviction of, judicial finding of guilt of, or plea of guilty to an offense in determining whether to refuse to issue an initial license to an individual only in certain instances and subject to specific limitations (e.g., nature and seriousness of the offense, time passed since committing the offense, relationship of the offense to the ability, capacity, and fitness required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the occupation, etc.) during particular time periods depending on the nature of the offense. If refusing to issue an initial license on the grounds of these disqualifying offenses, the licensing authority must provide the applicant with a written notice detailing the grounds and reasons for the refusal, as well as the right to an administrative hearing and the earliest date when the applicant may reapply, among other things. In an administrative hearing or civil action reviewing such a refusal, the licensing authority has the burden of proof as to the direct relationship between the disqualifying offense and the licensed occupation.
The amended provisions impact, among others, the following occupations: notaries public; mortgage and small loan lenders; mortgage brokers; mortgage loan originators; insurance agents; telephone solicitors; and real estate brokers and appraisers.
Included in additional provisions under the Act, among other things, are requirements for the impacted licensing authorities to annually report on related licensing statistics, such as the number of applications received, granted, and denied, a list of reported criminal offenses that resulted in a license grant or denial, and the number of requests for which the licensing authority determined that an individual’s criminal conviction either did or did not disqualify the applicant from obtaining a license.