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Can a Felon Get a Contractor License?

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There are resources available for felons who are eager to show they make good employees. Some felons may have an interest in the construction industry and in getting a contractor license.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can get a contractor license.

  • What is a Contractor?
  • What is a Contractor License?
  • What is Required to Get a Contractor License?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Contractor?

A contractor manages and coordinates construction work in residential homes or on commercial properties. They are responsible for planning and overseeing all types of construction projects in homes, buildings, and other structures.

There are more than 40 different contractor classifications. General classifications include:

  • Engineering contractor
  • General building contractor
  • Specialty contractor

Specialty contractors include:

  • Insulation
  • Electrical
  • Carpentry
  • Moving and demolition
  • Hazardous substance removal
  • Fire protection
  • Landscaping
  • Roofing
  • Flooring
  • Plumbing
  • Locks and security

What is a Contractor License?

A license is issued by a state agency to practice a profession and is required to call oneself a licensed professional. A license shows that someone has specific knowledge or skill necessary to do a job. Typically, these types of credentials are attained after completing certain education.

Licenses are legally required by the government to work in an occupation. A license:

  • Is awarded by a government licensing agency
  • Gives some legal authority to work in an occupation
  • Requires meeting certain criteria such as having a degree or passing a state-administered exam

Contractors are required to be licensed in all states as governed by the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies. Licensing laws differ from one state to another.

The Building Trade Association and Associated General Contractors of America provide training, education, and resources to contractors wanting to obtain a license. Most states require a licensed contractor to:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a citizen or legal resident of the United States
  • Provide documentation of other occupational licenses in that state
  • Provide two passport photos
  • Provide an explanation of any violations or citations from construction work
  • Post a state license bond

What is Required to Get a Contractor License?

An application for a contractor’s license may include:

  • Taking a written exam about construction skills and the laws of that construction industry
  • Providing proof of financial means to operate a contractor business
  • Providing reference letters from a bank, previous employers, and clients
  • Providing evidence of on-the-job experience

Some contractors may complete a degree program in construction management, engineering, or science in preparation for obtaining a contractor license. Construction management programs usually include courses in:

  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Materials and methods
  • Surveying
  • Plans and measurements
  • Design

A contractor may be required to obtain several licenses and permits in the state of residence. In some states, the contract may be licensed by the county or city government while in others licenses are granted at the state level.

An Opportunity for Felons?

State guidelines through the Department of Licensing and Regulation in an individual state outline the process for determining whether a criminal conviction makes an applicant unsuitable for a license or whether a conviction will revoke or suspend a license.

General factors are considered in all cases along with the reasons why particular crimes are related to each type of license.

If an attorney decides that a contractor license should not be denied on the basis of a criminal conviction, then the application will be sent to the Licensing Division with a conclusion. A letter of license denial will be sent to the applicant.

An applicant is responsible for obtaining and providing recommendations from the prosecution, law enforcement, and correctional authorities. There is an obligation to furnish proof that the applicant has:

  • Maintained a record of steady employment
  • Supported his or her dependents
  • Maintained a record of good conduct
  • Paid all outstanding court costs, supervision fees, fines, and restitution for any criminal conviction

The following factors will be considered in determining whether a criminal conviction should be grounds to deny a license:

  • Nature and seriousness of the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the purposes for requiring a license
  • Extent to which a license might offer an opportunity to engage in further criminal activity
  • Relationship of a crime to the ability, capacity, or fitness to perform job duties

Further information will be considered regarding the applicant’s fitness to perform the duties of a contractor:

  • Extent and nature of the applicant’s past criminal activity
  • Age of the person when the crime was committed
  • Amount of time that has elapsed since the last criminal activity
  • Work activity of the applicant before and after the criminal conviction
  • Evidence of the person’s rehabilitation while incarcerated or after release
  • Other evidence of the person’s fitness, including letters of recommendation from prosecutors, law enforcement, correctional officers, and any other person with knowledge of the applicant

It’s essential to be honest when filling out an application for licensing as a contractor. If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on a background check, this is fraud which is a punishable crime. It could result in being sent back to prison.

To be successful in obtaining a contractor license, it’s essential for felons to be honest about their background. They’re already working with negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting a contractor license. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It could be worth the effort to go through the steps in obtaining a contractor license. Documenting any programs, education, or training completed could have a critical impact. Having support from family, friends, counselors, or previous employers can also make a huge difference.

A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are defined by how we recover from our mistakes, not in the mistakes we make. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a contractor license with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Can a Felon Get a Contractor License?”

  1. Do you know the specifics with Alabama laws? Or perhaps a resource I could consult. The felon who wants to apply for a license is still currently incarcerated, so I’m trying to help him find out if it’s possible for him to get licensed.


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