Criminal Record FAQ for California Real Estate License (DRE)

In California, real estate professionals  (such as a real estate salesperson, a real estate agent, a real estate broker or Realtor), are licensed by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE), formerly known as the Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE).

As a client-centered law firm that specializes in obtaining expungements and certificates of rehabilitation for professionals, people often contact us asking, “Can I get a real estate license with a felony or misdemeanor conviction on my record?” The short answer is, “Yes! In most cases, you can still have a career in real estate despite having suffered a criminal conviction in the past.”

To provide more details, we prepared this FAQ on criminal record expungements for real estate professionals and those considering a career in real estate. This info is only for California real estate licenses. With 30+ years of happy clients in the real estate business, our law firm would be happy to handle your criminal record cleaning so that you are in the best possible shape for obtaining your real estate license. Just begin by having us obtain your official “rap sheet” and prepare a record-cleaning plan for you.

[Last Updated: 08/20/2019]

Which California agency is in charge of screening real estate license applicants for criminal records?

The California Department of Real Estate (CalDRE) in charge of licensing real estate professionals in California and Cal DRE screens the criminal history of all applicants. If you intend to apply for a real estate license, our law firm strongly recommends that you obtain a copy of your official Dept. of Justice criminal background report (exactly what CalDRE will see it) to confirm that it is accurate.

Do I have to pass a background check to get a real estate license in California, or to take the California real estate exam?

Yes. In California, all applicants for a real estate license (like most state licenses) are required to get fingerprinted. This is done by using a Livescan, which is an electronic fingerprinting system. CalDRE compares the real estate applicant’s fingerprints to the California Dept. of Justice database of all people who have been arrested or convicted in California.

Do I have to voluntarily disclose any criminal convictions on my application for a real estate license?

Yes. In addition to requiring your fingerprints, the application for a real estate license asks, “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF ANY VIOLATION OF THE LAW AT THE MISDEMEANOR OR FELONY LEVEL?”

With only 3 exceptions, you must disclose all convictions no matter how long ago they occurred. Failure to disclose a criminal conviction, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, may be considered an attempt to obtain a license by fraud or misrepresentation. (Our law firm can expunge your felony or misdemeanor conviction. The effect of an expungement is discussed further below in this FAQ.)

The 3 exceptions (i.e., convictions that you do not need to disclose) are:

  • Any juvenile court adjudication.
  • Any conviction sealed under Penal Code, § 1203.45 or under Welfare & Institutions Code, § 781.
  • Any marijuana conviction under Health & Safety Code, § 11357(b), (c), (d), or (e), or Health and Safety Code, § 11360(b) AFTER at least two years have passed since the date of the conviction. [See important Prop 64 info, if you have a marijuana conviction.]

What if I pled “no contest” to a criminal charge? Does this count as a “conviction?”

Yes. Pursuant to Business & Profession’s Code, § 480, sub. (a)(1)1 a no contest plea is treated the same as a guilty plea when seeking a real estate license.

What if I was arrested but never convicted? Do I need to disclose an arrest?

No. You only need to list an arrest if it resulted in a conviction. The real estate commission cannot discriminate against you based on an arrest alone.

Does any criminal conviction disqualify a person from becoming a licensed real estate agent?

No. A criminal conviction is not an automatic disqualification. In order to deny a real estate license, Cal DRE must find that the applicant’s crime was “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee.” (Business & Professions Code, § 10177(b).)

See the DRE FAQ on criminal records and real estate licenses. (This will open a PDF.)

What crimes or offenses are “substantially related” to a real estate license?

The Department of Real Estate (DRE) decides whether a particular crime is “substantially related” to the duties of a real estate agent, based on the following criteria 2:

(a) When considering whether a license should be denied, suspended or revoked on the basis of the conviction of a crime, or on the basis of an act described in Section 480(a)(2) or 480(a)(3) of the Code, the crime or act shall be deemed to be substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a licensee of the Department within the meaning of Sections 480 and 490 of the Code if it involves:

(1) The fraudulent taking, obtaining, appropriating or retaining of funds or property belonging to another person.
(2) Counterfeiting, forging or altering of an instrument or the uttering of a false statement.
(3) Willfully attempting to derive a personal financial benefit through the nonpayment or underpayment of taxes, assessments or levies duly imposed upon the licensee or applicant by federal, state or local government.
(4) The employment of bribery, fraud, deceit, falsehood or misrepresentation to achieve an end.
(5) Sexually related conduct affecting a person who is an observer or nonconsenting participant in the conduct or convictions which require registration pursuant to the provisions of Section 290 of the Penal Code.
(6) Willfully violating or failing to comply with a provision of Division 4 of the Business and Professions Code of the State of California.
(7) Willfully violating or failing to comply with a statutory requirement that a license, permit or other entitlement be obtained from a duly constituted public authority before engaging in a business or course of conduct.
(8) Doing of any unlawful act with the intent of conferring a financial or economic benefit upon the perpetrator or with the intent or threat of doing substantial injury to the person or property of another.
(9) Contempt of court or willful failure to comply with a court order.
(10) Conduct which demonstrates a pattern of repeated and willful disregard of the law.
(11) Two or more convictions involving the consumption or use of alcohol or drugs when at least one of the convictions involve driving and the use or consumption of alcohol or drugs.

(b) The conviction of a crime constituting an attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit any of the above-enumerated acts or omissions is also deemed to be substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee of the department.

(c) If the crime or act is substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a licensee of the department, the context in which the crime or act were committed shall go only to the question of the weight to be accorded to the crime or acts in considering the action to be taken with respect to the applicant or licensee.

In a 2013 publication (Form 229), CalDRE reported that “the most common disqualifying convictions” are:

  • Assault with intent to commit rape
  • Murder
  • Bribing public officer or employee
  • Obtaining money by false pretenses
  • Burglary
  • Any conviction that requires registration pursuant to Section 290 of the Penal Code
  • Perjury
  • Sexually related conduct affecting a person who is an observer or nonconsenting participant
  • Criminal conspiracy
  • Embezzlement
  • Perjury
  • Petty theft
  • Extortion
  • Filing a false police or fire report
  • Forgery
  • Fraud
  • Grand theft
  • Possession of drugs for sale or transport
  • Soliciting a lewd act from a minor or nonconsenting adult
  • Tax evasion

What if criminal charges are pending against me, but I haven’t yet been convicted? Do I need to disclose a pending criminal case?

Yes, if you are an applicant for real estate license, you must disclose a pending criminal case. (If you already have a real estate license, you are considered innocent unless proven guilty. Nevertheless, if the charge is a felony, you are required to report the matter to CalBRE within 30 days of the charge being filed. (Business & Professions Code, § 10186.2.)

If a judge expunges my conviction, do I still have to disclose the conviction when I apply for my real estate license?

Our law firm has expunged MANY convictions for people seeking to become real estate agents and real estate salespeople. A properly done expungement can make the difference between you being granted your real estate license and being denied your license.

Under an amendment to Business and Professions Code, § 480 that took effect in January 2015, CalBRE may not deny a real estate license based solely on a conviction that has been expunged. 3

If our law firm expunges your felony or misdemeanor conviction, you must still disclose it on your application for a real estate license, but you then attach a copy of the judge’s expungement order, and CalBRE is prohibited from denying your license based on your conviction. Plus, the expungement will benefit all other aspects of your life. It’s truly one of the best investments you can possibly make in yourself and will pay for itself many times over. [Retain RGB LAW GROUP.]

What about a Certificate of Rehabilitation? Will that help me?

A Certificate of Rehabilitation is very beneficial if you were convicted of a serious felony, have a lengthy criminal record, or if you were sentenced to state prison. As with an expungement, if you are granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation, CalBRE is prohibited from denying you a real estate license based solely on your conviction. If you are seeking to become a real estate agent or real estate broker and have a serious felony on your record, a Certificate of Rehabilitation may be just what you need. Our law firm has obtained Certificates of Rehabilitation for MANY clients, and we would be happy to review your criminal record and determine whether you qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.

If I lost my California real estate license due to a criminal conviction, can I petition CalBRE to have my license reinstated after being granted an expungement or a certificate of rehabilitation?

Yes. Generally speaking a former real estate agent, real estate broker, or real estate salesperson who lost his or her license due to a criminal conviction can petition for reinstatement under Government Code § 11522 after one year has passed from the date that the license was revoked or surrounded. To have your real estate license reinstated you must show that you have been “sufficiently rehabilitated.”

Proof that you have obtained an expungement or a Certificate of Rehabilitation is powerful evidence of rehabilitation. It shows CalBRE that a judge has reviewed your case and issued a court order granting you the expungement or the certificate of rehabilitation, and is often sufficient for CalBRE to find that you have been “sufficiently rehabilitated.” We are happy to represent you in this process, and the first step is for us to obtain and review your official criminal record.

Will your law firm expunge my conviction or handle my application for a certificate of rehabilitation?

Yes. For 30+ years we’ve been helping professionals overcome the damaging effects of a criminal conviction. You will not find a more skilled, professional, or experienced post-conviction legal team anywhere in California.

The first step is for us to obtain and review your official criminal record. To get your DOJ criminal history report now, and our law firm’s professional evaluation and custom plan for cleaning up your record, just click the link below.

start expungement

REQUIRED DISCLAIMER: This FAQ was prepared by the Law Firm of Richard Glen Boire, a client-centered law firm that specializes in expungements, certificates of rehabilitation and pardons, for real estate professionals and other licensed professions. This FAQ is not intended as a substitute for personalized legal advice. If you have a criminal record and are seeking to become a real estate agent in California, please consider retaining our law firm to provide you with professional legal advice and to handle your expungement or certificate of rehabilitation from beginning to end.


  1. Business and Profession’s Code, § 480, sub. (a)(1), states, “A conviction within the meaning of this section means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere.”
  2. See Regulation 2910
  3. Subdivision (c) of Business and Professions Code section 480, provides, 

    (c) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this code, a person
    shall not be denied a license solely on the basis of a conviction
    that has been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4, 1203.4a, or
    1203.41 of the Penal Code. An applicant who has a conviction that has
    been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4, 1203.4a, or 1203.41 of
    the Penal Code shall provide proof of the dismissal.