It is unlawful to practice medicine in California without a license. You can commit this crime in several situations, from working for a practice owned by an unlicensed person to allowing an employee to practice medicine without a license. The offense could also involve providing online medical services to a patient when the state of California does not license you. The California Business and Professions Code 2052 outlines the offense of practicing medicine without a license. It does not matter whether you are a physical therapist, nurse, doctor, or other healthcare professional. Practicing your career without a license is a crime. The court could charge the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of your case and your criminal history.

What Constitutes Unlicensed Practice Of Medicine In California

In California, veterinarians, medical providers, and other health workers can face severe financial, legal, and professional punishments for practicing without a license. In addition to practicing medicine without a license, practicing with a revoked, suspended, or outdated license is also a crime. It is also against the law in California to practice outside the scope of a healthcare provider's license. Several acts constitute the unlicensed practice of medicine. You could face charges if you do any of the following acts without a license:

  • Signing a chart using a false name or the identity of someone else who is licensed to practice medicine
  • Performing surgery or using devices to penetrate tissues when you are not qualified to do so
  • Control or ownership of a physician’s medical practice by a layperson
  • Attempting to diagnose or treat an illness or injury
  • Aestheticians giving injections like botox
  • Practicing medicine beyond the scope of training, a delegation of services, or unsupervised by a licensed physician.
  • Practice telemedicine for patients in a state where you are not licensed
  • Prescribing or dispensing medications or controlled dangerous substances

Employees and owners at non-profit hospitals, medical spas, midwives, and medical students are not allowed to practice medicine or offer services requiring a professional license. Hiring a person who does not have a medical license could make you face charges for aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine.

Additionally, according to the Business and Professions Code Section 2400 of the Medical Practice Act, corporations and other artificial entities do not have professional powers, privileges, or rights. For instance, non-physicians at the corporate level like managers cannot carry out the following:

  • Hire or fire physicians, medical assistants, or health staff based on clinical proficiency or competency
  • Assume responsibility for a patient’s overall treatment and care
  • Determine or order diagnostic tests for a particular condition or patient
  • Determine the number of patients a physician must see in a given hour
  • Determine the need for referrals or medical consultations

Your California Professional License And Unlicensed Practice Criminal Charges

In California, if the police arrest you and you face charges for unlicensed practice, your application for a professional license cannot go through. Even reinstating your license could be significantly compromised if the court convicts you of this crime. An arrest, conviction, or plea can also lead to losing your hospital privileges, job, specialty board certification, and membership in professional organizations. You could also be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) if you practice your healthcare profession without a license. In addition, you could be placed on the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Exclusions List and be excluded from the Medicare and Medi-Cal programs.

The unlicensed practice of medicine happens when you offer treatment or medical advice without a current and valid professional license. You could do so under a revoked or suspended license. It is also an offense according to Penal Code 2052 TO advertise a practice, attempt to practice, or practice any treatment of the sick, including:

  • Prescription for an ailment, disease, injury, deformity, blemish, or disorder
  • Operation or
  • Diagnosis of any other mental or physical condition without a license or authorization for doing so

It is also an offense according to Penal Code 2052 to conspire with others to commit these acts. You could face charges for violating this statute even if you did not cause any harm or bodily injury to someone else. However, if you cause damage or bodily injury to another person during a case of unlicensed practice, you can also face additional criminal charges.

In California, several offices and departments are actively targeting:

  • Registered nurses
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Medical doctors
  • Physician assistants and
  • Unlicensed people who are not following California’s licensing laws and regulations

The offices and departments include:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.)
  • District Attorney’s Office
  • The California Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Board of Registered Nursing
  • The Medical Board of California
  • United States Attorney’s Affairs

Why You Require An Experienced Attorney To Fight For You

If you face charges for unlicensed practice, you need to hire an attorney with both a licensing and criminal law background. A competent attorney has the necessary knowledge. The attorney will advise you on the implications of your charges from both licensing and a criminal law point of view.

Seeking the services of an administrative attorney to help you with the licensing board complaint cannot protect your rights in a criminal court. However, a criminal defense attorney can advise you on settling your criminal case. A criminal attorney can also convince you to accept to go through a diversion program to have your criminal charges dismissed. Unfortunately, this is not similar to the criminal dismissal of your case from the State licensing board’s point of view.

Unlicensed Practice And Injuries

Your unlicensed practice could leave a patient with temporary or permanent injuries. Catastrophic injuries could arise from wrong operations or prescriptions. A patient's catastrophic injuries could lead to a lifetime of medical costs. Under federal law 42 U.S.C. 3796b, a catastrophic injury could prevent a patient from carrying out meaningful work. An unlicensed practice could cause catastrophic injuries like:

  • Chronic lung damage
  • Severe burn injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Paraplegia or paralysis
  • Injuries causing deafness or blindness
  • Brain injuries that can result in mood imbalance, cognitive impairment, or physical disability

The Rights Of Patients

It is essential to understand that patients have rights that you should honor before administering any healthcare or carrying out a medical practice on them. Their rights could include:

  • Availability to treatment
  • Privacy
  • Consent for procedures and similar items given as rights via the state and federal laws

Litigation is necessary to ensure the patient's rights are maintained when a violation happens. This could also mean that if you practice medicine on someone else and violate Penal Code 2052, the law and the affected patient could take both criminal and civil action.

Civil Liability Against An Unlicensed Practice

If any person suffers harm in California because of your unlicensed practice, they can sue you for the damages in a civil court. Laws differ from state to state; however, if you practice medicine without a license, you will be responsible for any foreseeable harm resulting from your misconduct. In addition, unlicensed practice will raise a presumption that the care was negligent. A typical medical malpractice case could be substantial evidence of medical negligence.

It could be that you were once licensed, but you had not been authorized to practice medicine when you treated the patient. In this case, a patient can sue you in a civil court for practicing medicine without a license.

If you knowingly practice medicine without a license and you cause injury to a patient, this action can be sufficient to justify punitive damages. The jury and judge could determine that your unlicensed practice was so offensive that you must compensate the affected patient. You will not only compensate for the actual harm, but you could also face additional punishment for intentionally deceiving the patient.

Legal Options For Victims Of Unlicensed Practice

A patient in California can sue you upon learning that you treated them without a license. The first step the victim needs to take is to report you to the local law enforcement officers. The victim is required to involve the police because practicing medicine without a license is a serious crime. When the victim takes this action, you could be arrested immediately. The police will promptly respond to ensure you don’t continue committing fraud by treating or trying to treat other people illegally. The victim can also report you to the State Medical Complaint Board. The board will investigate and devise a remedy for arresting the misconduct in the future and warn other potential victims.

The victim of unlicensed practice could also file a lawsuit against you after suffering harm. The patient can recover all compensable damages. You do not need to harm the victim physically for them to file a lawsuit against you. One option for them is to sue you for civil battery, typically referred to as any non-consensual or offensive touching. You could have obtained the victim’s consent by fraud because you were not licensed. In California, a civil lawsuit and criminal charges are not mutually exclusive in cases of unlicensed practice, but they work hand in hand.

Exceptional Practices

There are some actions in California that are specifically not associated with the offense of practicing medicine without a license. For instance, offering advice, writing about nutrition or medical conditions, and applying home remedies does not amount to practicing medicine without a license. Carrying out other healthcare-associated activities, including acting as a dentist, pharmacist, or nurse, does not also amount to practicing medicine without a license. However, many states in the United States require individuals practicing these professions to be properly licensed.

Penalties For Violating Penal Code 2052

Depending on the state where the offense happened and the circumstances of your case, practicing medicine without a license can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony crime. The severity of the possible punishment related to the crime varies significantly among States in the United States. Some of the penalties for violating P.C. 2052 in California include:

Jail term

If the court convicts you of a misdemeanor of practicing medicine without a license, you could face a jail term that does not exceed one in county jail. If the court convicts you of a felony practicing medicine with a license, you could face a jail term of up to eight years or more in state prison.


You could also face a fine if the court convicts you of practicing medicine without a license. As with incarceration jail terms, the court could impose on you a penalty in the form of money depending on the state of your offense. The court could also fine you based on whether your offense is a misdemeanor or a felony. If the court convicts you of a misdemeanor, you could face a fine that does not exceed $1000, although, at times, the court could impose a higher amount. If the court convicts you of a felony, you could face a fine of up to $10,000 or more.


You could face a probation sentence if the court convicts you of practicing medicine without a license. Probation is meant to allow you to serve your penalty outside a prison or jail setting. Probation imposes a significant limitation on what you are allowed to do. You could take at least one year on probation, but multi-year probation sentences in California are common. The court expects you to adhere to the imposed restrictions during that period. The typical restrictions that the court imposes include:

  • Pay all needed restitution or fines – restitution refers to the costs that the victim incurred because of your actions.
  • Not committing any more offenses
  • Making regular reports to a probation officer
  • Seek the officer's permission before you leave the jurisdiction or move.
  • Allowing the officer to search your home at will


Any time you practice medicine without a license and you charge a patient for those services, the court will order restitution to the patient. Likewise, if you practice medicine without a license and a patient suffers a loss, the court will also order restitution to the affected patient. Restitution payments are meant to compensate the affected patient for any loss incurred, and the amounts vary from one case to another.

Any unlicensed practice is typically an offense, but some actions are harmful or more dangerous than others. In the United States, the states have statutes that impose additional punishments for these acts. Most states have enacted statutes that impose severe punishment if practicing medicine without a license causes a patient to suffer psychologically, financially, or physically. You could face more severe charges like manslaughter if a patient dies because of your act of practicing medicine without a license.

Defenses To Unlicensed Practice

You have a right to raise a legal defense once you are charged with unlicensed practice. You can allege the following:

You Were Falsely Accused

A person could raise false accusations against you while attempting to cover their criminal culpability. Someone could falsely accuse you because of anger, jealousy, and revenge. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is essential since the attorney can investigate your case and scrutinize witnesses who could assist you in getting around the accusations.

You Did Not Have A Legal Duty To Report

Even if you knew that unlicensed practice was going on, you would not face unlicensed practice charges unless you had a legal duty to report the offense. The legal duty to report a crime is conferred upon an individual by the law.

You Acted Under Duress

Unlicensed practice under duress means you did not carry the duty out of free will. Instead, someone else could have made you commit the offense. For instance, you could allege that you engaged in unlicensed practice as an accessory because someone else threatened to cause significant bodily injury if you failed to commit the offense.

Damages A Victim Could Recover From Unlicensed Practice

A person could recover the following damages resulting from your unlicensed practice:

  • Hospital bills for all the medical costs (both present and future) that the victim incurs in seeking treatment
  • Wrongful death if a person dies due to your unlawful practice of medicine
  • Lost wages for the time that the victim spends out of work because of the injuries sustained because of your actions
  • Loss of capacity to earn income, which is the inability to continue earning money in the future
  • Loss of consortium claim by the victim's spouse
  • Funeral and burial expenses if the victim dies

Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

A conviction for practicing medicine without a license can negatively affect your life. The convictions are often severe. If you are facing charges or being investigated for this crime, you need to hire a local criminal defense attorney to help fight the charges. If you hire an attorney before speaking with investigators or making any drastic decision, you can be sure all your rights are protected. Local attorneys understand the local statutes and how the area judges, prosecutors, and police operate. The Legal Guardian has competent attorneys who will fight to help you avoid a conviction and the wrath of the criminal justice system in Long Beach, CA. Contact us at 866-448-6811 and talk to one of our attorneys.