California Business and Professions Code 7028 - Contracting without a License

Getting caught contracting without a license could land you in more legal trouble than it’s worth. From major fines to negative impacts on your future licensing opportunities, charges for violating California’s Business and Professions Codes should be taken seriously.

If you are facing charges for contracting without a license it is highly recommended you seek a defense attorney who understands what could be a stake if convicted. An expert criminal defense lawyer will know how to fight on your behalf to achieve the most desirable results.

To gain a more critical understanding of what it means to violate this statute, let’s review how California defines contracting without a license.

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Defining Contracting without a License

California outlines what it means to contract without a license under Business and Professions Code 7028. It states you can commit this offense if you accept a construction contract without a valid license. You should stay up-to-date with all professional licenses regardless of whether you were already an established contractor whose license recently expired. 

Who is considered a contractor under BP 7028?

The state defines a contractor the same as they would a builder. Essentially, any individual who physically does the work or uses other people who make or do additions, alterations, construction, demolition, improvements, moves, repairs, substracts, or wrecks any building, development, excavation, structure, or any type of construction project, whether it’s a residential or commercial improvement job.

What does contracting without a license under BP 7028 prohibit?

This statute prohibits a person from serving as a construction contractor without a valid license issued by the California Contractors State License Board; and/or

Operating as a contractor while your license is suspended for failing to pay any civil penalties, or to be in compliance with an order of correction.

In some cases, any payments due for work that was rendered could be null and void. In other words, if a contractor fails to acquire an approved license they could be denied from getting paid at all for the work they completed. This statute also prohibits an individual from entering into a contractual agreement with an unlicensed contractor.

What if a legal contractor’s license was used?

If the defendant is also found to be using a legal license fraudulently, they can be charged with the fraudulent use of a contractor’s license number under Business and Professions Code 7027.3. This law is closely-related to BP 7028 and can be charged in addition to it.

California’s Business and Professions Code 7027.3 states it is a crime to use another individual’s contractor license number or to use a fake number to perform a contracting job. Aside from the legal repercussions, there could be difficulty getting paid for any work that was already performed.

Similar Offenses

Contracting without a license is similar to operating a business without a license. However, the legal punishments received depend on the type of business or service being practiced.

California Business and Professions Code 17500 - false advertising;

Announcing or publishing false or misleading statements to consumers regarding the nature of the products or services your business supposedly provides is strictly prohibited under this law.

California Business and Professions Code 2052 - the unauthorized practice of medicine;

It is illegal to practice, attempt to practice or advertise yourself as a practitioner of medicine. This includes engaging in or aiding another person in an unauthorized ‘medical’ diagnosis or treatment of any physical or mental illnesses or conditions.

California Business and Professions Code 6125 - the unauthorized practice of law;

This law makes it illegal for a person who is not a lawyer to present themselves as a legal attorney or to attempt to practice law as one.

The Prosecution

Certain facts must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before the prosecution can get a conviction for BP 7028. Also referred to as the elements of the crime, these factors are:

  • The defendant served as construction contractor without a legal license, and/or
  • The defendant operated as a contractor while their license was expired for:
    • Failing to pay civil penalties, or
    • Failing to comply with an order of correction.

The prosecution will work hard to get a conviction. With fines and potential incarceration time looming over anyone facing these charges, it can be difficult to know what your next steps should be. Maintaining some semblance of control over the outcome can seem impossible without the help of a criminal defense lawyer.

Further consequences will arise from the California Contractor State License Board (CSLB). If convicted, your contracting career could be affected. Depending on the details of your crimes, the board could either hold-up the license or reject issuing a license altogether.

Who Can Be Charged

The following cases illustrate the different situations that can lead to someone being charged with contracting without a license under BP 7028. If you or someone you know can relate to these instances, contact a defense attorney as soon as you can.

Example 1:

Rhys owns and operates his own construction company, Rhys Woods, LLC. He is currently under three contracts to complete work on several small businesses. When offered two more contracts for other buildings, he accepts even though he failed to renew his contractor’s license.

Although Rhys already had an established business and on-going contracts he could still be charged with BP 7028. He would be guilty of violating this statute because he continued his operations while his contractor’s license was expired.

Example 2:

Francine loved carpentry and built herself a workshop in the backyard. Once her friend Arnold saw it, he offered her a job working on his house. He asked her to build him a wrap-around deck along with a carport and backyard shed. She accepted the agreement which was worth over five thousand dollars even though she had no contractor’s license.

Carpentry may have been Francine’s hobby, but once she entered into a paid agreement to construct things for other people, she violated the terms outlined in BP 7028. She could be guilty of contracting without a license for accepting a five-thousand-dollar job.

Example 3:

Casey entered several agreements to perform roofing jobs for duplexes in his neighborhood. He accepted the work despite his contractor’s license being suspended for failure to pay civil penalties.

Not only would he be guilty of BP 7028, but Casey would also face multiple counts for every roofing job he performed while his license was suspended.

Example 4:

Don advertised his professional shed building skills in the local newspaper despite not have a license. He also made the claim he could complete the work in one weekend. Half a dozen people hired him to build their backyard sheds. Each job was worth just over twelve-hundred dollars. However, by the time he reached the third job, it was clear Don could not finish within the timeframe he advertised.

Don could be charged with BP 7028, contracting without a license. He would face multiple counts for each shed he had accepted payment for and built. He could also face charges for BP 17500 for falsely advertising his timely skill set. 

Legal Defense

With the right legal defense, anyone accused of Business and Professions Code 7028 could challenge the charge. An effective criminal defense attorney will be able to determine the best legal route for your case.

The following are just some examples of the common legal defenses that have been used to defend someone against allegations for contracting without a license.

Was the defendant an employee?

If you are doing contracting work for wages, meaning you work for a contracting company then you should not be liable for operating without proper licensing. The contracting company would be responsible for violating any of the terms set forth under BP 7028.

This statute does not apply to an employee. Any defendant who faces this charge should hire a defense attorney who can recognize this and get the charges dropped.

Shawn, for example, works as a painter for a contractor. He begins working on a commercial building and after three weeks refuses to continue until his boss, Don pays him. Don’s contractor’s license was suspended for failing to comply with an order of correction. Don had gone on vacation leaving Shawn to deal with the client. When he refused to complete the job, the client tried to report him for not having a contractor’s license.

In this case, Shawn is not required to have a contractor’s license when he is the employee. He would not be guilty of violating this law. He was also within his rights to stop working if he was not getting paid his wages. Even though Don was out-of-town at the time the contract was being fulfilled, he would still face charges under BP 7028 for contracting with a suspended license.

Is the defendant truly a contractor?

Under Business and Professions Code 7028, being a contractor has a specific definition. A contractor is someone who is a builder, construction worker, home improvement expert, or anything similar. If what you do does not fit into the definition of a contractor, then you should not be guilty of violating BP 7028.

For instance, Boyd loved interior design and was hired to redecorate several home offices. Two of his clients did not like his results and reported him for working without a contractor’s license. The interior design did not require any construction or renovation of the home offices. All Boyd did was rearrange the furniture and decorate the space. He would not be guilty of contracting without a license because he is not a contractor.

Was the project just a small job?

California also has exceptions to Business and Professions Code 7028. Aside from being excluded if you are an employee, charges can be dismissed if the job was a small operation. This exemption for small operations means if work was rendered under a contract for five-hundred dollars or less, you should not be guilty. These small jobs are referred to as simple projects that only required minor, casual, or inconsequential work. If this is the case, someone who performed a small job for less than five-hundred dollars and did not have a contractor’s license should not be guilty of BP 7028.

Dean, for instance, was the neighborhood handyman and was only hired for small jobs. Most of his work involved fixing up fences, porches, and decks. Each job was worth less than five-hundred dollars and he only helped out a few people throughout the year. A contracting company got wind of Dean’s work and reported him for contracting without a license. The odd jobs Dean picked up are considered minor and would not rise to the level of contracting as defined under BP 7028.

Penalties for BP 7028 - Contracting without a License

If convicted, you face misdemeanor penalties;

As long as six months in the county jail, and/or

Fines of up to five thousand dollars.

Summary (informal) probation in lieu of jail time is left to the judge’s discretion.

Enhanced Penalties

It’s not uncommon for people to face multiple counts for contracting without a license. This happens in cases where the defendant entered into more than one contractor agreement without a license. Each agreement would be considered a separate count and be charged as such.

Example

Stan forgot to renew his contractor’s license for the second time and still had four construction jobs he wanted to complete for different clients. Instead of pausing the jobs and taking the necessary steps to be up-to-date with the California Contractor State License Board, he continued to work on the projects.

Stan could be charged with four counts of BP 7028. Since this was his second offense, not only will he be facing increased fines, but he will also have to contend with longer incarceration times or stringent probation terms.

Penalties for a second conviction of BP 7028:

Misdemeanor;

A minimum 90-day county jail sentence, and

Possible fines of up to five thousand dollars.

Penalties for a subsequent conviction of BP 7028:

Misdemeanor;

Between ninety days and one year in county jail, and

Fines ranging between five thousand and ten thousand dollars.

Penalties for BP 7027.3 - fraudulent use of a contractor’s license

California’s Business and Professions Code 7027.3 - the fraudulent use of a contractor’s license;

Misdemeanor;

A possible one-year county jail sentence, and/or

Potential fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

A state prison sentence of up to three years, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

California BP 7028 and BP 7027.3 carry punishments that are compounded with every subsequent offense. This means steeper court fines, longer jail or prison terms, and more severe consequences from the California Contractor State License Board. The CSLB has the power to suspend your license or reject it completely. Their decision is based on your criminal record and they usually take into account any crime that was committed within the last seven years. Crimes that would most likely impact a contractor’s license approval would be if you committed a violent crime, fraud, or theft. Instances that can affect the CSLB license approval decision are:

  • If you were convicted of rape, murder, or grand theft within the last seven years,
  • Any crimes related to contracting jobs, such as:
    • Defrauding clients, or
    • Committing theft.

That said, being convicted for violating these laws does not bar you from facing personal litigation. Clients that hired a contractor to get a construction job done are within their rights to hold you accountable for any financial losses they suffered. This includes being sued to pay for the job getting completed or to replace the expenses they had initially invested when hiring you.

Being convicted of BP 7028 will impact your freedom and your finances but it can also affect your contracting profession. If you plan on continuing a career in contracting and want to fight for that future, get the help fo a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can.

Penalties for Similar Offenses

California Business and Professions Code 17500 - false advertising;

Misdemeanor;

A six-month count jail sentence could be possible, and/or

Possible fines of up to two-thousand five-hundred dollars.

California Business and Professions Code 2052 - the unauthorized practice of medicine;

Misdemeanor;

A possible county jail sentence of up to one year, and/or

Potential fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail, and/or

Fines as high as ten thousand dollars.

California Business and Professions Code 6125 - the unauthorized practice of law;

Misdemeanor;

A potential county jail sentence of up to one year, and/or

As much as one thousand dollars in fines.

Let Us Help

Are you or someone you care about facing charges for contracting without a license or any of the related offenses? Getting the help of a criminal defense attorney today can make a big difference.

If you are located in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Orange County and need professional legal advice, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. Attorney Yum has gained experience through her years as a former prosecutor. As a highly sought after defense lawyer, you can expect excellent representation in the form of an aggressive fight for your freedom and your future.

For more information on Business and Professions Code 7028 or any of the aforementioned offenses, call us at 619-233-4433. You can also reach out using our online contact form.

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