Question: I recently agreed to enter guilty plea to resolve certain criminal charges against me. What are the consequences to my Colorado real estate license?
Answer: Agreeing to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to certain state and federal offenses can have important and lasting consequences on one’s Colorado Real Estate License. Generally, the Colorado Real Estate Commission (CREC) considers certain criminal offenses to be violations of Colorado license law and will accordingly impose discipline on a licensee depending on the nature and extent of the offense. The list of relevant criminal conduct is broad, including offenses such as murder, assault, fraud, bribery, domestic violence, and various drug offenses. Further, the CREC expects licensees to notify the CREC of the entry of a plea to certain criminal charges within 30 days of the entry of such plea. Failing to provide such notice is itself a violation of Colorado license law.
For these reasons, if at all possible, it is advisable to understand the consequences of a criminal pleabefore agreeing to accept a plea in a state or federal criminal matter.
CREC Reporting Requirements
According to CREC rules, a licensee is required to notify the CREC in writing within 30 calendar days of the entry of a guilty plea to certain criminal offenses. Specifically, licensees must report entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to one of a number of criminal offenses or any violation of Colorado or federal fair housing laws. In addition, any disciplinary action taken against a licensee in another jurisdiction that would be a violation of Colorado real estate law must also be reported to the CREC. Further, the imposition of discipline, such as suspension or revocation of a different professional license (i.e. mortgage broker, appraiser, insurance agent, attorney, securities broker-dealer, investment advisor, etc.) by Colorado or another jurisdiction within the last five years for fraud, deceit, material misrepresentation, theft, or breach of fiduciary duty must be reported to the CREC.
Although the statute requires “immediate notification,” CREC rules define this as written notice within 30 days of the entry of an applicable plea. The CREC does try to monitor cases itself to identify instances of criminal pleas by licensees. However, the self-reporting requirement still applies even if the CREC is monitoring a criminal case and becomes aware of a plea in such case through its own investigation. Failure to report a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a relevant offense is, in itself, a violation of license law that may result in additional sanctions.
Criminal Conduct Constituting Violations of Real Estate License Law
The types of criminal conduct that must be reported to the CREC encompass a wide variety of conduct and include pleas related to inchoate or attempted as well as completed crimes. By way of example, following is a list of some of the categories and specific offices that require reporting to the CREC:
- Offenses against the person: homicide, assault, kidnapping, stalking
- Offenses against property: arson, burglary, theft
- Offenses involving fraud: forgery, fraudulent sales/business practices, identity theft
- Computer crimes: accessing a network without authorization
- Offenses involving the family relations: domestic violence, child abuse
- Offenses related to morals: obscenity, public indecency
- Violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act
- Violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1992
- Violations of Colorado or federal fair housing laws.
It is important to note that this list is by no means exhaustive and it just an example of some of the offenses that may trigger a reporting requirement where a licensee enters a guilty plea. Further, even the list of criminal conduct contained in the statute itself is not exhaustive, as licensees are required to report pleas related to “any other like crime under Colorado law, federal law, of the laws of other states.”
Interestingly, some common offenses are not included in the list, most notably DUI and DWAI. However, it is important to note that these offenses are often combined with other offenses that may trigger a reporting requirement. For example, a plea of guilty to DUI combined with vehicular assault would likely trigger a reporting requirement. In any event, it is critical to consult with an attorney to understand one’s rights in a specific case.
Consequences of a Criminal Plea
Following notification of a guilty plea in a criminal case, the CREC may work to impose discipline on a licensee’s real estate license. Based on the nature and extent of the conduct, the CREC may try to impose fines, impose public censure, impose probationary terms on a license, suspend a license, or permanently revoke a license, or some combination of the above. While there is considerable variation in the sanctions imposed, broadly speaking, egregious offenses may warrant steep fines, public censure and/or revocation, while less substantial offenses may merit less harsh discipline. While the Commission does employ some general guidelines with regard to what discipline to impose in a given case, the Commission will consider the specific circumstances of each case before determining what sanctions may be appropriate for such case. Again, it is important to consult with an attorney to understand and protect one’s rights in a specific case.
Clearly, entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to certain criminal offenses may result in a number of potentially significant consequences to one’s Colorado real estate license. Whenever possible, it is beneficial to understand these consequences before entering a plea in order to obtain the best possible outcome. In addition, it is important to know and follow the reporting requirements in order to avoid an additional violation and additional sanctions for failure to report the incident. This article is intended to provide general information and, therefore, should not be treated as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, nothing will substitute for the advice of a qualified attorney.