Can you still cut hair if you once possessed an alligator?

This year the General Assembly passed an important reform to expand employment opportunities to people with conviction records seeking work. This new law makes several changes to how occupational licensing boards treat applicants or potential applicants who have conviction records.

One of the changes was to require a licensing board not to deny a license to an applicant with a conviction record unless there was “clear and convincing evidence that the applicant’s criminal history is directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the job.” In other words, having a conviction record for, say, a youthful indiscretion wouldn’t be enough. It’d need to be something that would call into question your suitability for the job.

A recent article in the Fordham Law Journal by University of Vermont political scientist Alec C. Ewald looks at how licensing boards in different states use criminal backgrounds in making determinations to license or not (for barbers and nursing assistants). It’s an interesting look at the problem. Here is a selection from the abstract:

People with criminal backgrounds are not flatly excluded from occupational certification. Indeed, significant percentages of those who manage to navigate the application process do become licensed barbers and nursing assistants, according to officials and available state data. But neither licensed barbers nor nursing assistants are restored to full and equal standing. They are in a kind of liminal state, one that is uncertain and precarious. Even when they succeed, people with criminal records seeking licensure often need to navigate a process that reinforces their diminished status and their vulnerability to state authority and private power.

At one point the article discusses a list of “permitted offenses” in Florida rules:

The list contains dozens of different types of offenses, including common infractions such as DWI, narcotics possession, “selling” or “trafficking” drugs, larceny, robbery, burglary, and driving with a suspended license. It also states that a conviction for “Possession of Alligator” will not disqualify a would-be barber.


An “American murder log” in action

Exempting unlawful alligator possession from the list of disqualifications to becoming a licensed barber in Florida may be more important than it sounds. First, Florida is the only state in the Southeast to have more disqualifications in law than North Carolina that could prevent someone with a criminal record from getting an occupational license.

Second, in Florida, unlawful possession of an alligator is a felony of the third degree. In North Carolina, the state doesn’t regulate alligators among other crocodilians, and it appears from this cursory excursion* through the General Statutes that the state delegates regulation to the counties and cities. Violation of county and city ordinances are, unless otherwise stipulated, considered misdemeanors or infractions.

So to answer the title question, no, it would appear that possessing an alligator would not prevent you from cutting hair. Not in North Carolina, and not even in Florida.

But if you were convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for, say, throwing a live alligator through a drive-thru window, that would probably suffice.

* “Cursory” because I didn’t want to spend all afternoon on how state law deals with possession of alligators.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

Reader Comments