Criminal Defense

Can You Obtain a Real Estate License in California with a Prior DUI?

March 26, 2024 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  DUI  
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Obtaining Your California Real Estate License

Obtaining a real estate license in California can be a lucrative career path, given the high housing costs in the state. However, individuals with a prior DUI may wonder if their past conviction will hinder their chances of becoming a licensed real estate agent. In this article, we will explore the impact of criminal records, specifically DUI convictions, on the process of obtaining and maintaining a real estate license in California.

Understanding the California Department of Real Estate

The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) is responsible for regulating real estate brokers, agents, and salespersons in the state. Its primary goal is to protect the public in real estate transactions. As part of its oversight, the DRE has the authority to discipline individuals with a real estate license for certain misdemeanor or felony convictions.

Crimes Triggering Disciplinary Action

Convictions that are considered “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a real estate licensee can trigger disciplinary action by the DRE. These convictions include both felonies and misdemeanors. The DRE evaluates each case individually and considers various factors, such as the nature of the conviction and its relevance to the responsibilities of a real estate professional.

The Definition of “Substantially Related”

The term “substantially related” refers to convictions that call into question an individual’s ability to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of a real estate broker or agent. Dishonesty and misrepresentation, including acts of forgery, fraud, bribery, tax evasion, and embezzlement, are examples of convictions that are deemed substantially related. Additionally, convictions related to drugs and alcohol, such as DUI offenses, can also trigger disciplinary action by the DRE.

Rehabilitation and Consideration

One important aspect the DRE takes into account is whether an individual has been rehabilitated following their criminal offense. Evidence of rehabilitation can include factors such as the passage of time since the conviction, restitution to the injured party, completion of substance abuse therapy, stability of family life, educational courses, and community involvement. These factors can influence the DRE’s decision regarding disciplinary action.

License Application and Criminal History Disclosure

When applying for a real estate license in California, honesty is crucial. The DRE requires applicants to disclose any criminal violations or disciplinary actions in their entire history. Failure to disclose any criminal charges or convictions can lead to denial of the license application. It is essential to be transparent and provide accurate information to avoid potential consequences.

Impact of a DUI Conviction on License Approval

A DUI conviction can potentially impact the approval of a real estate license application. The DRE has the authority to deny a license application if the DUI conviction is deemed substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a real estate licensee. However, each case is evaluated individually, taking into consideration factors such as the severity of the offense, rehabilitation efforts, and the time that has passed since the conviction.

Administrative Hearings and Disciplinary Actions

If the DRE decides to investigate an individual with a real estate license for a DUI conviction, an administrative hearing may be conducted. During the hearing, both parties present their arguments and evidence. The administrative law judge (ALJ) will assess the case and make recommendations for disciplinary action, which the DRE can adopt, modify, or reject. The severity of the discipline can range from license suspension to license revocation, depending on the circumstances.

Requesting a Hearing and Defending Your License

If an individual’s application for a real estate license is denied due to a DUI conviction or if the DRE initiates disciplinary proceedings, the licensee has the right to request a hearing. It is essential to act promptly, as there is a limited timeframe within which to make the request. During the hearing, the licensee can present a defense, including evidence of rehabilitation, mitigating circumstances, and testimonials. The ALJ will consider these factors when making recommendations for discipline.

Reinstatement of a License

In some cases, individuals may have their real estate license suspended or revoked due to a DUI conviction. After a certain period, they may be eligible to petition the DRE for reinstatement of their license. The petitioner must provide evidence demonstrating that it is not against the public interest to reinstate their license. This evidence can include proof of rehabilitation, completion of educational courses, and positive contributions to the community.

Mandatory Disclosures to the DRE

Licensees are required to report any criminal complaints, information, or indictments charging them with a felony, convictions, or disciplinary actions to the DRE. Failure to make these mandatory disclosures can result in separate causes for license discipline. It is crucial to comply with these reporting requirements to maintain transparency and integrity in the real estate profession.


While a prior DUI conviction may impact the approval of a real estate license application and the maintenance of a real estate license in California, it is not an automatic disqualification. The DRE evaluates each case individually, considering factors such as the nature of the conviction, rehabilitation efforts, and the time that has passed since the offense. By being honest, transparent, and proactive, individuals with a DUI conviction can still have the opportunity to pursue a career in the real estate industry in California.

More DUI Resources

For more information on how to handle a DUI charge or arrest, please feel free to browse our blog articles on California DUI:

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