Written by Walter Boomsma, instructor. See his blog.
For real estate licensees, this question arises at least several times. The application for a license is the same for sales agents, associate brokers, and brokers. Very close to the top you must decide:
CRIMINAL BACKGROUND DISCLOSURE
NOTE: Failure to disclose criminal convictions may result in denial, fines, suspension and/or revocation of a license.
1. Have you ever been convicted by any court of any crime?
And there are only two possible answers: “Yes” or “No.” There is no option “I’m not sure.” Given the warning that “Failure to disclose criminal convictions may result in denial, fines, suspension and/or revocation of a license,” you probably would like to get this right. (A similar question applies when renewing a license or applying for an agency license.)
The second time this arises is not a fixed event, but falls under Title 32 §13195 (that would be page 13 in the Maine Real Estate Law and Rule Handbook published by Abbot Village Press): “…criminal convictions… must be reported to the director no later than 10 days after…” In what will at first seem plain language, if you are convicted of (not arrested for) a crime, you have ten (10) days to so inform the Maine Real Estate Commission. As with most legal questions, the answer is not always a s straight-forward as one might think.
There are some not so obvious cases that most people wouldn’t consider a crime. In a recent consent agreement a licensee agreed to a fine for failing to disclose a criminal conviction within ten days. His crime was “operating an unregistered motor vehicle.”
If you are surprised by this, raise your hand. I thought so. Since I was also I did a little research and found that there really isn’t a clear definition of which motor vehicle violations are considered criminal. The two answers I received that made some sense are:
- Consult an attorney.
- It should indicate whether or not it’s considered criminal on the actual ticket.
Bear in mind this also is not limited to traffic violations–there are fish and wildlife violations that may also be considered criminal offenses.
But there’s good news. We can make this complicated topic very easy. If you run afoul of any law and are found guilty (convicted), you don’t have to figure out whether or not it’s a criminal case, you can just report it. I suppose parking tickets might be an exception… but what I found in my research is that almost any violation can rise to the level of a criminal offense.
Understand I’m not providing legal advice, just being practical. Every so often I will cover Title 32 §13195 in a licensing class and see a deer in the headlights look accompanied by an “uh oh.” We have to remember that our licenses are privileges and that privilege is easily endangered when there is a “change in the conditions or qualifications set forth in the original application” that we fail to report. Remember, we’re not just talking about “bad” things–a change of address qualifies.
Some of the basic changes can be completed online at the Maine Real Estate Commission website. Some require the completion of a form and payment of a fee. Others (such as criminal convictions) can be accomplished by sending an email, letter or fax – if available, the notification should include the judgment and commitment document or decision/consent agreement for professional discipline. Be sure to keep a copy in your file–probably with your Continuing Education Credits!
Much like the wisdom we apply to property disclosures, “when in doubt, disclose.” Getting convicted for operating an unregistered motor vehicle doesn’t mean you’ll be disciplined by the Maine Real Estate Commission. Failing to tell them it happened could.