As a professional, your reputation stands above almost anything else—your standing in the community, and among your peers, really matters. For real estate professionals, building relationships underpins the entire business, as does your license from the state.
Criminal charges—such as theft charges against real estate professionals entrusted with showing properties and handling client funds—can destroy that reputation. When you face theft charges as a real estate professional in the Orlando area, a professional theft defense attorney could help defend you and your professional license from disciplinary action.
Theft charges have criminal consequences and can range from petty theft to grand larceny, depending on the allegedly stolen property. A criminal conviction might make one’s community only view them as a criminal and not as someone deserving of trust.
But a criminal conviction also affects a professional’s standing with a state regulatory agency and the professional’s license, without which a realtor cannot salvage their business. In Florida, the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) generally regulates licensed professionals, and the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) specifically regulates real estate professionals.
FREC has statutory authority to discipline real estate professionals for legal violations. Florida Code Section 475.25 authorizes the Commission to take disciplinary action against a real estate professional, which could be an applicant for a license or a current licensee, if that professional violates FREC regulations or the applicable statutes. Disciplinary actions include:
The most immediately applicable violation for an Orlando real estate professional facing theft charges is a failure to report a criminal conviction. As defined in the list of violations for DBPR and FREC in Florida Code Section 455.27, a real estate professional must self-report conviction of a crime, a guilty plea, or a plea of no contest. That self-report must come in writing to FREC within 30 days of the guilty result.
Importantly, the statute requires self-reporting of a finding of guilt of any crime, “regardless of adjudication.” If a real estate professional in Orlando goes to trial for theft charges and gets convicted, they must report within 30 days, even if they appeal their conviction.
The best way for a real estate professional to protect their license in the case of theft charges is to report to FREC early. That way, self-reporting of a conviction or other guilty plea later becomes easier and expected. Being upfront with FREC can only help show a person’s responsibility and remorse for their behavior.
Professionals should also take note that their conduct itself can be the basis for license revocation or other punishment by FREC. A conviction must be reported, but actions such as fraud, embezzlement, and mishandling or stealing funds can also lead to the disciplinary actions listed above. These actions are discretionary in that FREC has the authority to discipline real estate professionals but retains the option not to do so.
An Orlando attorney may work with a real estate professional to communicate with FREC and fulfill any requirements of its discipline. For example, a professional could be placed on probation and required to take ethics courses, perform specific services, and show their professional responsibility in order to renew their license in full. A lawyer could also assist in rebuilding a real estate agent’s relationship with the community while not misrepresenting the conduct and consequences of their actions.
Defending against theft charges as a real estate professional already forces you to deal with the criminal justice system, but you need to keep your professional license and requirements in mind, as well. Self-reporting to FREC must come within 30 days of a criminal conviction, no matter the severity of the crime or plans for an appeal.
One of our experienced defense attorneys could support you and your efforts in reporting the case to the proper authorities and in protecting yourself from harsh disciplinary action. We can also show you how to keep or renew your license, as well as maintain your relationship with the Orlando community. Contact us now for a free consultation.
The Umansky Law Firm Criminal Defense & Injury Attorneys