The Impact of AB-2138 License Law on California’s Job Market

Right after coming to effect on 1st July 2020, the new professional license law, named AB-2138 has stirred a heated debate among Californians. After all, this regulation simplifies the process of applying for a decent job for those with a criminal record, enabling them to return to their old life prior to the offense. This results in a massive shift, considering that individuals with past criminal records are given the hope that they could start over despite their crimes. Although, no predictions can be made just yet in terms of what the new law might bring with it, it does sound like a promising prospect.

In view of the statistics, the violent crime rate in the USA has declined considerably since 1990. However, the country still ranks at the top with the highest number of prisoners globally. Here, the most daunting fact reveals that felons entering the prison cell once, often end up in jail again after they have been released. By taking a look at AB-2138, it seems like the authorities are aiming to reduce the number of returning criminals gradually.

Below, the law will be explained in more detail, revealing how it can impact the lives of those who wish to lead an honest life.

AB-2138 Analysis – A Redo for a Better Life for Convicted Individuals

Among all the noise, it is crucial to get a deeper understanding of the law in order to recognize the profound impact it can have on California and its people.

In an attempt to simplify the process of obtaining professional licenses for those with criminal records, the state assembly has come up with some major changes to Assembly Bill 2138, which passed in 2018. The new law will now offer expanded opportunities for growth in regard to the career paths of those with past convictions in an effort to decrease recidivism rates. At the same time, AB-2138 also focuses on establishing a transparent system that outlines the predictability of licensure offices and their behavior.

Due to the enactment of this law, a total of 37 licensing boards working within the DCA (Department of Consumer Affairs) will not be able to deny, suspend, or revoke licensure on the grounds of past criminal records, including alleged misconduct. The law only excludes 3 occupational boards that will remain unaffected by the reforms of AB-2138.

Major Changes to Notice

  • 37 DCA boards will no longer be able to practice the discretion for denying licenses based on past criminal records.
  • Those convicted 7 years back will no longer face denial of a professional license, unless they have been convicted for a number of serious felonies.
  • In order to revoke, deny, or suspend a professional license, the conviction must be related to the particular profession’s duties.
  • In regard to recently filed licensure applications, the denial will not count if the applicant’s conviction was pardoned or dismissed.
  • The application will not be denied if the applicant has already completed the rehabilitation terms for a felony conviction.
  • Boards will not require applicants to self-disclose their prior convictions, if any, unless the license they applied for does not need background checks via fingerprint.
  • Boards must track and report the appeal along with the reason for licensure denial publicly.

Why Did California Apply these Changes to the Previous Bill 2138?

In view of the statistics, these changes to the prevailing law, concerning the professional licenses in the state, seemed necessary. Not only has California ranked at the top among the US states in terms of having the highest number of convictions, but its recidivism rates are alarmingly high as well.

In order to curb the problem at its root, the changes to the 2138 law seemed quite necessary. Now, the reforms definitely have the potential to bring justice to those who have already been prosecuted for their past mistakes.

Depicted below, are the impacts that the authorities are expecting after the enactment of AB-2138 in the upcoming years.

Prospective Impact of AB-2138 on Professional Licenses in California

The enactment of AB-2138 will certainly impact almost 30 percent of the jobs available in California. By introducing this professional law, over 8 million people holding a criminal record will be able to obtain occupational and professional licenses.

Moreover, the law is going to change the way the DCA (Department of Consumer Affairs) handles the license applications of those with past convictions. The board is responsible for 41 licensing boards, which are in charge of licensing 1773 job roles and professions.

In the past, these boards made it difficult for residents with criminal records to get reintroduced into the work culture while the new law provides opportunities and growth for convicted and non-convicted residents alike.


It is understandable that the state puts efforts into reducing their crime rates which put California among one of the highest contributors in regard to conviction records. As mentioned before, approximately one of three adults has been convicted at least once for a crime, making it clear how the recidivism rate is posing a threat within the state.

Hence, AB-2138 aims to help the state in rebuilding the future of those who have made past mistakes and wish to start over. According to a study by Steven Slivinski, a Senior Research Fellow working at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, there is a direct connection between recidivism rates and the obstacles revolving around professional licenses.

Therefore, an initiative to tackle those hindrances and help people with criminal records to get back on track is a justified measure. This law and the changes it has brought with it could help society to progress as a whole.

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Rowland Ellis Courtenay

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