Miranda McCroskey joined Tim Santoni for an episode of the Santoni Spotlight.

Watch the interview below.

     

Read the text of the interview below.

Tim Santoni: All right. Hi, this is Tim Santoni. Welcome to Santoni Spotlight. Today, I’m joined by Miranda McCroskey. Miranda, thank you so much for joining the show.

Miranda M.: Thank you.

Tim Santoni: Before we get started, maybe tell the viewers a little about yourself, your practice, so we get some context for what we’re going to be talking about today.

Miranda M.: Great. I’ve been an attorney for over 20 years, and the large majority of that time, I practiced criminal defense here in Orange County, California. However, what I found is that after I was able to help my clients protect their liberty, if they were licensed professionals in the state of California, they’d come back having received this manila envelope from their licensing board, and, “What the heck is this?” So, eventually, I started representing them in front of their licensing boards.

It’s called administrative law, or I call it “license defense” or “professional license defense.” Now, that’s what my firm focuses on significantly more than we do criminal defense. The firm is called “Unlock Legal.” We’re based in Tustin, California.

Tim Santoni: I think that how you got there makes perfect sense in your description there…you were doing criminal defense work. You saw there’s a need for this. For me, it makes sense, administrative law, people have licenses, they need to keep those licenses…. Give our viewers a sense of how that transpires from the criminal process and how it impacts their ability to have a license and earn a living.

Miranda M.: It’s actually fascinating. The collateral consequences of the criminal conviction impact the license.  I didn’t even know to discuss back in the day. What I see now is I really help licensees and want-to-be licensees in three different ways.

The first way is helping people get their license:  I see people who want to get a license, but they perhaps had a criminal issue in their background. Let’s say your nephew wants to be a firefighter, but when he was 18, he was involved in a little vandalism snafu with his high school buddies, but he was an adult and he got a misdemeanor conviction. He forgot about that, and now when he wants to be a fireman and he’s going to apply.  In that application they want to know about any past criminal history. What I see happen is usually one of two things. One, the applicant answers the question incorrectly on the application. They answer incorrectly because they forgot about it. Or maybe they got it expunged and they felt like, “Well, that took care of that.” That’s wrong. It does not take care of it. Or maybe they didn’t have any court documents. They just didn’t know.

Well, if they come to me before they improperly answer it, I will fill out their application for them properly. I’ll get the court records, I’ll review their RAP sheet. We love that service because it really helps people from the beginning.  However, if they didn’t hire me for that and they submitted the application themselves, the board can formally deny their application. It’s called a “Statement of Issues,” and it’s intimidating. It’s a legal document, and the application is denied, and the applicant has an opportunity for a hearing. 

The second issue I solve is helping actual licensees who have a new problem such as a new criminal complaint or conviction, or a complaint filed against them with their Board.  For the criminal complaint or conviction it may be a DUI arrest or a domestic violence incident or petty theft or a drug charge. I mean, you think licensed professionals aren’t going to have those kind of problems, but they’re humans and they have them. So once that arrest or conviction takes place, they need to call me because I need to communicate it to the board in a timely manner, and then I need to represent them. Sometimes, the resolution comes through settlement. Sometimes, through a hearing.

Then, lastly, and I have to say it’s my favorite, helping people get their license back. People give it up their license for a variety of reasons. I have a client who had been a nurse for 22 years. She had a little drug issue for a very short timeframe. She gave up her license as part of resolving it.  It wasn’t even a criminal matter. She gave it up as part of a settlement, and she did other things for about seven years. Then she wanted to be a nurse again. Someone had clued her in that she could, and she hired me and we went to hearing and we won in front of the administrative law judge. Then the judge’s opinion is not the end of the day. It goes before the licensee board and they have to adopt that opinion or not. So it’s basically a two-fold process, but they did. So that client is now getting to practice her chosen profession, and I’m just really happy for her.

Tim Santoni: That’s great. Miranda, that brings up a good point. We get a lot of people that are calling us saying, “Hey, I’m going to get a license, I want to be a fireman, a nurse or whatever, and I’m really concerned because I think I have something in my history, and I want to know what comes up. I don’t know what to say.” They don’t tell us if they’re pre-application, post-application denial, whatever it is, but there’s, whether it’s a conviction, a charge, an arrest, a family law matter, domestic violence, I think they’re so scared as to what’s going to come up. Maybe shed some light on some of the insight and review that you do to give them that sense of what needs to be done and the research you might do to uncover what it is they need to know in order to answer those questions in those applications correctly.

Miranda M.: I always tell them to go get a Live Scan. They sometimes say, “Well, I have to do that anyway for my application,” and they do, but it’s automatically sent to the board generally. I need one I can look at. So I tell them just to go to the local Live Scan place. It’s not a big deal. Once I get the RAP sheet, I use my criminal defense background to read the RAP sheet because that’s tricky.  I assess the information and take note as to have the convictions been expunged or not? It’s very important to know an expungement doesn’t save the day with the licensee boards, but they look at that very positively. First, I say, “How many convictions are there? Where are they? Have they been expunged?” because that’s part of what I offer, as well.

I look at that, and then sometimes my clients are concerned when there’s an arrest, but no expungement. In some boards they want to know about the arrests, but some don’t. So we always read the application really carefully for any board we’re dealing with. Another good reason to hire an attorney is for us to read it with that detailed eye.  We also file Petitions to Seal Arrests.  

Tim Santoni: Yeah, that’s great because I think that’s super important that people say, well, they think that a background check that a private company like us might do is the same thing as a Live Scan. It’s not. Live Scan can look at other things, arrests that are not convictions. There’s other things that may come up that they’re going to need to be aware of and respond to. They need to know what to do with that information once they have it, and just having the background for the Live Scan is only half of it. Like you said, very, very wisely, you need someone to interpret and understand what those are because a layperson may not understand what those are and how to answer appropriately. So now they’re denying you because you lied.

Miranda M.: Exactly. Failed to disclose.

Tim Santoni: Where if you’re just being honest. Right, not lying. You failed to disclose, attorney language, failed to disclose the right information in there. You’re really helping people to go through that process. How do people typically come across your services? How are you brought in? Give us a sense of how people find you, and how do they know when they … It’s very clear when they might need you, but how do they find you?

Miranda M.: My favorite way for people to come to me is from a referral. My favorite referral source is a criminal defense attorney. The reason why is, well, they’re my people.  Let’s say a DUI attorney in Irvine. They market their services, and they pick up a lot of clients who have DUIs. Well, a number of those are going to be professional licensees. I talk to my colleagues about, “Hey, remember me at your intake process.” Early on, I need to come in.

Your question was, how do they find me? But I am going to say, one thing I like to provide to the criminal defense attorneys is I write an opinion letter from my point of view as a professional license defense attorney, and they can use that as part of the mitigation with the district attorney. For instance, they could say, the letter would say, “Dear District Attorney, you may not be aware of the collateral consequences on this physician, should he go down for a DUI. So perhaps you’ll consider a wet reckless just based on the weight of that.”

Tim Santoni: You’re going to be getting it before that-

Miranda M.: Getting it before.

Tim Santoni: The judge makes their determination because you’re trying to show that their judgment does impact their livelihood and their ability to retain that license.

Miranda M.: Exactly. So if that ends up with no criminal conviction, then it’s no further work for me, but that’s fine. It’s a win for the client. If it ends up with just a lesser charge, that gives me something to work with when I finally do. That’s my favorite referral source.

Tim Santoni: You’ve told us a little bit about when someone would need this. Those are really three great examples, a success story you mentioned about a nurse, but maybe tell our viewers a little bit about a client that you worked with recently where you’ve had to overcome some serious hurdles and how that impacted their livelihood, their ability to earn a living going forward.

Miranda M.: They’re all serious hurdles because … This is going to sound terrible. I’m going to say the board is out to get you. Let me do it this way. The boards, all of the licensee boards, their idea is to protect the public. As a member of the public, we’re pleased about that. We don’t want a drug-abusing surgeon doing our heart surgery. Right?

Tim Santoni: Sure, sure.

Miranda M.: So I don’t mean they’re out to get us. They are about protecting the public, but if you get in their sights, just like analogous to the criminal system, the DA’s office isn’t out to get us, either, but if you’re in their sights, you are obligated to defend yourself.

You asked about hurdles. One thing that’s an issue is if the criminal conviction is in the recent past, sometimes, I have people who have multiple DUIs, but they’re eight years and 18 years in the past. That causes a problem, believe it or not, although Governor Brown did just sign a bill into existence that says seven years is the mark.  So that particular client with the eight years and the 10 years would have been okay. That starts July 2020, but the recent past, the reason that’s a hurdle is because my defense is so rooted in mitigation of the underlying crime and rehabilitation. So, if it just happened and I’ve got three months of rehabilitation, I can argue that you did everything you were supposed to do with your DUI, but I don’t have a lot I can say.

Tim Santoni: You don’t have a lot to go on as far as we have a track record of proven rehabilitation.

Miranda M.: I’d say that might not be the juicy thing you might’ve been looking for, but that is a hurdle – the recency of the conviction.

Tim Santoni: I mean, when you say, “Recency,” I know that’s kind of a … Governor came out with the seven years, but, obviously, more time the better. There’s not a set in stone rule of one year, two year, three years, right?

Miranda M.: No. More time the better, because if I’m arguing rehabilitation, I want to say over the last eight years … I have a guy who wants to get a contractor’s license. He’s been working at an HVAC business, and I think he wants to buy it, and he has to be licensed. So more power to him, a good, young, good entrepreneur. Well, 20 years ago, he was convicted of a criminal charge that had him be a registered sex offender, and from a defense attorney point of view, there are a lot of factors that say he got had and he shouldn’t have gone down for that, but that’s a whole another story. Anyway, I’ve got 20 years to talk about. This is great.

Also, there’s a new tier system with the sexual offenders where, after you’ve been on for 20 years, you can petition to get off. So we’re going to argue, “Okay, look, he’s going to get off as soon as this law takes place, the tier system, and he’s had 20 years of zero incidences and 20 years of positive behavior in the community, etc.” So that’s awesome.

Tim Santoni: Miranda, maybe give our viewers a sense of the top three mistakes that you see your clients or potential clients making when it comes to this idea of license defense and criminal issues that impact their ability to retain or gain licensing?

Miranda M.: That’s a good question because I do see repetitive mistakes. One mistake would be failing to disclose. Another one is trying to do the narratives yourself.  Another one is missing deadlines. You’re going to get a “Statement to the Respondent” in the paperwork you get with your accusation or your statement of issues, and that statement of respondent is going to give you a timeframe and deadlines and by when you have to communicate with the licensing board. It’s also going to tell you, you could do a stipulated settlement. That’s a settlement, like a negotiation. We’re familiar with that  – or a hearing – and people are intimidated by a hearing. So they say, “Okay, we’ll try to settle.” I try to settle all the time, too. That is our first line of defense, but the settlement offers they get are … They throw the book at them. They say, “Sure, you can get probation with every term I can come up with.” That’s what doesn’t work. 

Tim Santoni: They’re intimidated by the idea of going to a hearing because what do I do at the hearing? I agree to these things and I don’t even know really what I’m agreeing to.

Miranda M.: That’s exactly right. There’s no attorney to walk through and tell you the ramifications of each of these terms.

Tim Santoni: All right. Well, Miranda, before we let you go, we’re going to ask you a couple personal questions. So when you’re not defending people and protecting their licenses, how are you spending your free time?

Miranda M.: This is going to sound funny. I do spend a lot of time thinking about how to grow the firm. As an entrepreneur, I work all the time. I’m sure you understand how that goes.

Tim Santoni: Sure.

Miranda M.: But I have children. I have a middle schooler and an elementary schooler. So we’re doing things with them, karate and scouting and all of that. I have a handsome husband. I enjoy spending time with him, and we’re involved in the community and our church and traveling. 

Tim Santoni: Miranda, thanks so much for joining the show. We really appreciate it. We’re going to link up all of Miranda’s information in the show notes below. If you have a question, please comment, and we’ll make sure to get an answer back to you. Thanks so much for tuning in. Miranda, thanks for joining the show.

Miranda M.: Thank you.

           
           

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