Delaware recently passed Senate Bill 98 which amends Title 24 of the Delaware Code relating to professions and occupations. The bill adds fingerprint and criminal background check requirements, and makes a conviction of a felony sexual offense grounds for denial or revocation of licensure for some of the professions and occupations regulated under Title 24. This compliance update focuses on amendments to the laws affecting occupational therapists and assistants, physical therapists, speech pathologists, and social workers. This is effective immediately for new applicants.
Title 24 §§ 2008, 2606, and 3708, relating to occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech pathologists, were amended to require new applicants for licensure to submit fingerprints and other necessary information to obtain a criminal history report from the State Bureau of Identification and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An applicant may not be licensed to practice the licensed occupation until the applicant’s criminal history reports have been produced. An applicant for a license whose record shows a prior criminal conviction may not be licensed unless a waiver is granted.
Waivers are granted when certain criteria have been met and at the discretion of the board. In order for a waiver to be considered, applicants must not be incarcerated, on work release, on probation, on parole or serving any part of a suspended sentence at the time of application. They must also be in substantial compliance with all court orders pertaining to fines, restitution and community service for both past misdemeanor and felony convictions. At least five years must have elapsed since the time of the felony conviction. Applicants must be able to practice the occupation in a professional and competent manner, without endangering the public health, safety, and welfare.
All individuals currently licensed must submit fingerprints to the State Bureau of Identification by January 1, 2016, for the purpose of performing subsequent criminal background checks. The cost of fingerprinting is the licensee’s responsibility.
The licensing board will permanently revoke the license or refuse licensure of anyone who has been convicted of a felony sexual offense.
Even before these amendments, previous applicants for licensure must have disclosed convictions of, and pleas of guilt or no contest to any felony, misdemeanor, or any other criminal offense in any jurisdiction, including offenses for which the applicant received a pardon. They must also have disclosed on the application form whether there are any criminal charges pending in any jurisdiction. Other required disclosures include whether an application for license or registration has ever been refused or denied in any jurisdiction, and whether any complaint or disciplinary action is pending in any other jurisdiction. Presumably, fingerprinting will uncover some existing licensees who falsified their license applications. If the board finds that a licensee obtained a license through fraud or material deception, or has been convicted of a crime related to the licensed activity, the board may take disciplinary action, including licensure revocation. Additionally, if the board finds that an application has been intentionally fraudulent, or that false information has been intentionally supplied, it will report its findings to the Attorney General for prosecution.
Section 3907 relating to social workers was amended so that the requirement for clinical social workers to be fingerprinted every ten years is removed. However, clinical social workers must still be fingerprinted for the purpose of subsequent criminal background checks.
Senate Bill 98 is available here: http://www.legis.delaware.gov/LIS/lis147.nsf/vwLegislation/SB+98/$file/legis.html?ope