Criminal Defense for School Officials and Teachers in California
As an educator in the State of California, your career depends heavily on public trust. In K-12 settings, parents entrust their children to your care daily, and even at the college and university level, students look to their professors for guidance and leadership.
Thus, when a school official is charged with a crime, the repercussions can be traumatic and far-reaching for defendants, students, and parents.
Defense attorneys may face some uniqueness when their client is a school official facing criminal charges, which can also impact the educator's credentials and career in general.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) reviews teachers who are arrested or convicted of crimes. Teachers are closely watched for any arrest, especially for sexual-related crimes and driving under the influence (DUI).
There are automatic license revocations and prohibitions from issuing credentials for anyone teacher convicted of any sex offense defined under California Education Code 44010.
Further, anyone convicted of any drug offense defined under Education Code 44011 and anyone convicted of any crime within Education Code 44424, such as a sex offense that requires sex offender registration under Penal Code 290 like Penal Code 288 PC lewd acts with a minor.
The CTC can also take disciplinary action if a teacher is convicted of an offense that indicates they are unfit to teach. Let's review this subject further below.
Complications When a School Official Is Charged with a Crime
When an educator or school administrator is charged with a crime in California, additional complications can arise beyond the typical criminal defense considerations.
For example, suppose the charges are related to child abuse or sexual misconduct. In that case, the defendant's teaching credentials may be subject to suspension or revocation even before the case goes to trial.
Furthermore, a school official convicted of certain crimes may also be prohibited from working with students in any capacity, even if the conviction does not result in jail time. As a result, defense attorneys may also face some unique difficulties when defending a school official.
Suppose the alleged crime involves abuse of a minor, for example. In that case, the attorney must be particularly vigilant in protecting their client's rights, as the procedure may involve pre-trial publicity and intense public scrutiny.
If a minor under 14 is a witness in the case, special considerations may have to be made, such as allowing the minor to testify via closed-circuit television.
How Criminal Charges Can Affect Teaching Credentials
In California, educators must hold valid teaching credentials. Suppose a school official is convicted of a crime.
In that case, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) may also investigate and potentially issue separate disciplinary actions against the instructor—up to and including suspending or revoking their credentials.
As noted, being convicted of certain crimes will result in the automatic revocation of credentials, while others may be considered case-by-case to determine whether the official is "fit" to teach.
According to California Business and Professions Code 480 and 490 BPC, a state licensing board such as the CTC may revoke licensure for a criminal conviction if the crime is "substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the license was issued."
As noted, per California Education Code Sections 44424 and 44425, a school official or educator can have their credentials automatically suspended or revoked for being convicted of any of the following crimes or types of crimes:
- Any serious or violent felony, such as PC 187 murder, PC 664/187 attempted murder, PC 261 rape, PC 245 assault with a deadly weapon, PC 207 kidnapping, or PC 243(d) aggravated battery;
- Certain drug-related offenses, such as HS 11352 transporting controlled substances for sale, drug trafficking, HS 11173 prescription fraud, HS 11379.6 drug manufacturing, HS 11378 possession of meth for sale;
- Any sex crime requiring PC 290 registry as a sex offender, such as PC 314 indecent exposure, PC 311 child pornography, PC 647.6 child molestation, PC 288 lewd acts with a minor under 14, or PC 288.4 arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes.
While these convictions automatically result in loss of credentials, the law also says that particularly in cases of drug and sex-related offenses, if a conviction is overturned and the defendant is acquitted, their credentials must be reinstated.
For these offenses, the CTC will take numerous factors into account, including, but not limited to:
- Impact of the offense on student conduct (e.g., whether the teacher can maintain respect and discipline);
- Likelihood of recurrence of the offense;
- Extenuating circumstances;
- Aggravating circumstances;
- The motives of the defendant;
- The amount of publicity generated by the offense.
Examples of crimes that might or might not result in the loss of teaching credentials include:
- Vehicle Code 23152 VC - DUI;
- Penal Code 484(a) - petty theft;
- Vehicle Code 23103 VC - reckless driving;
- Penal Code 242 PC - misdemeanor battery;
- Penal Code 503 PC – embezzlement.
Defending School Officials Against Criminal Charges
Given the potential consequences of a criminal conviction, you should immediately contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you are a school official facing criminal charges.
A conviction for purposes of teacher discipline includes any misdemeanor or felony crime obtained through either a guilty plea and verdicts or a “no contest” plea.
They also include convictions that can be removed through an expungement defined under California Penal Code 1203.4.6 PC.
Of note is that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing can still take disciplinary action if a teacher completes a court-ordered diversion program.
An experienced lawyer will have extensive knowledge of the law and be well-versed in the complexities of defending educators accused of crimes. A favorable outcome, preferably one that avoids conviction, can also protect your teaching credentials and minimize the damage to your career.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecutor prefiling to convince them not to file formal criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.”
Contact our law firm by phone or the contact form for an initial case review. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, California.