Ohio’s Fresh Start Act Creates a Path to Professional Licensure for those with Prior Convictions
In January 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 263, better known as the Fresh Start Act (the Act), into law. The Act standardizes the professional licensure process in Ohio by removing vague disqualifiers such as “moral turpitude” and “lack of moral character.” Through its restorative justice approach, the Act offers professionals with records of certain prior offenses a path to licensure. Most of the Act’s provisions become effective on Oct. 9, 2021, which is also the deadline for state licensing authorities to submit a new list of disqualifying offenses.
The Act impacts a number of professions, including but not limited to physicians, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, and pharmacists. Under the new law, licensing boards are prohibited from rejecting an individual’s application for initial licensure for any of the following reasons:
Solely or in part on a conviction of, judicial finding of guilt of, or plea of guilty to an offense;
A criminal charge that does not result in a conviction, judicial finding of guilt, or plea of guilty;
A nonspecific qualification, such as “moral turpitude” or lack of “moral character”;
A disqualifying offense included on the authority’s list of specific offenses the authority must adopt under the Act, if consideration of that offense occurs after the time periods allowed under the Act.
The Act does not apply to license renewals. However, convictions, guilty pleas, or findings of guilt must be considered under the Act before refusing a license renewal.
Ohio licensing authorities are required to establish a list of “disqualifying offenses” by Oct. 9, 2021. The list of disqualifying offenses must be made publicly available on the licensing authority’s website. Licensing authorities may only include offenses that are directly related to the licensed occupation’s duties and responsibilities. When reviewing an application for licensure, the Act allows licensing authorities to use a preponderance of the evidence standard when weighing factors such as the nature and seriousness of the offense, the time passed since the offense was committed, the relationship of the offense to the individual’s ability to perform job duties, mitigating factors such as rehabilitation and treatment, and public safety concerns.
Disqualified applicants must be notified of the specific grounds for being refused licensure, their rights to an administrative hearing, and the earliest date they can reapply. In any administrative hearing reviewing the licensing authority’s decision, the licensing authority bears the burden of proving the disqualifying offense directly relates to the occupation.
Furthermore, the Act restricts the amount of time an offense may be considered as part of the applicant’s submission.
*Ashley Durner is a summer associate at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP, and is not licensed to practice law. Mr. Collis thanks Ms. Durner for her assistance with the preparation of this article.