- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Court records show the Texas Department of Public Safety has denied professional licenses to people accused of something as little as stealing socks or sleeping in an abandoned house while homeless.

The state issues licenses to hundreds of professions, and the Department of Public Safety can withhold licenses for specific crimes.

DPS says it has to be careful in licensing employees as security guards, locksmiths and alarm companies, because those professions deal with people with extra vulnerability. A spokesman told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that the agency had followed its rules.

Christopher Owen was denied a state employment license because he had been arrested for stealing socks from a Goodwill drop-off trailer after losing his job.

Krystal Turner was arrested for criminal trespass after staying in an abandoned house while homeless. Five years later, the state also denied her an employment license.

Owen and Turner both appealed their rejections to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Judges said each applicant deserved the license they had requested, but their decisions were strictly advisory. The Department of Public Safety will now decide whether to accept those recommendations.

Owen applied last year for an alarm salesperson license, but was denied by the agency due to the November 2014 arrest. He was arrested as he was going through a job loss, a divorce and the destruction of his home in a fire, according to court records.

Turner said she was homeless in late 2011 when she entered an abandoned house near the University of Texas and was arrested the next day. She received a 15-day sentence at the Travis County Jail.

She eventually received housing through her church and work at a lube garage. She would become a store manager at another shop and started to take classes at a local community college. Her boss said her “honesty and work ethics are impeccable.”

But the trespassing case was cited by DPS in denying her an application for a state vehicle inspector’s license.

Agencies are allowed to weigh mitigating factors and the efforts someone has made to change against a criminal record. But Jason Ray, a former attorney for DPS who now specializes in administrative law as a private lawyer, said DPS “has traditionally been one of the agencies least likely to exercise its discretion.”

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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