An investigation by a professional licensing board is, without a doubt, disruptive. It could also harm your future career prospects. The investigations are often lengthy and complex, and resolving these matters could take weeks, months, or even years. Unfortunately, regardless of the verdict, an investigation into your professional license will be a weight you have to bear for the rest of your life. In this blog, we'll discuss the potential impact of an investigation on your career prospects and what you should do if you are subject to a licensing board investigation.
Events That Could Lead to an Investigation Into Your Professional License
Having your professional license suddenly revoked can be devastating to your career. When you learn that a professional license is being investigated, it could lead to a suspension or a revocation, which could prevent you from working in the field for which you received your training. Even though it often comes without a warning, it can still be devastating. Numerous things can lead to an inquiry at any time if they were discovered.
The following acts could jeopardize your professional license:
- Failing to adhere to the appropriate narcotic prescription process
- Over-prescription of narcotics
- Mental health problems affecting work performance
- Physical conditions that affect productivity at work
- Criminal offenses that could affect your ability to function at work
- Neglect and mistreatment of patients
- Failure to comply with documentation requirements
- Fraudulent billing
- Not assessing a client's needs adequately
- False advertising
- Departure from normal care standards in your field
- Disclosure of confidential information
- Interference between you and the patient's privacy
- Failure to make student loan payments or child support obligations
- Practice outside of what your license allows (for example, a psychologist can't perform surgery)
- Being dismissed from your work for any of the aforementioned reasons or other reasons
If you participated in any of these activities, you should be prepared for an investigation and review at any time. There may not always be sufficient grounds for taking action against your license. Instead, the inquiry is meant to ensure that no misconduct occurred that would necessitate the imposing of penalties. This is irritating since receiving a notice of inquiry can be stressful and confusing, especially if you don't think you committed any wrongdoing.
Department of Consumer Affairs or Board Enforcement Unit Investigations
When you get a letter or a call from a DCA or a Board unit investigator (for example the California Board of Nursing), then your professional license to practice, livelihood, and career could be at risk.
Interview requests and investigations by the Board are not casual, despite popular belief. The investigations conducted by the Licensing Board are usually critical and serious. Licensing board investigations are carried out by specially trained investigators, sometimes from law enforcement. You should seek legal advice to learn about your rights and the possible outcomes of your actions, as unrestrained participation could result in further disciplinary action.
A licensed investigator's role is to find evidence of misconduct following the Practice Act provided by the board. To conduct the investigations and interviews, the DCA and each Board's Enforcement Division use special investigators as well as law enforcement investigators.
It is crucial to speak with legal counsel before having any conversations with the investigators. Your professional reputation and livelihood could be at stake.
Furthermore, the investigator could use everything you say against you in court. Thus, it is crucial to differentiate between a sworn peace officer and a special investigator to determine whether or not they have the authority to make arrests.
Procedural Steps After a Professional License Investigation
Typically, either one of the following things could occur after an investigation:
- There will be a consent decree or a dismissal of the case
- There will be a scheduled official hearing
- If there is not enough evidence to support the allegations made against you, the matter could be dismissed
If the matter is dropped, the investigation into the case can be considered closed. The licensing board could be willing to discuss a possible settlement of the case. In such situations, it is important to have an attorney familiar with Administrative Laws and professional license defense speak for you to safeguard your rights and interests.
Consent Decrees are legally enforceable arrangements between an individual, the board, and the state. The licensee here consents to a specific course of action to be taken or a stipulated penalty under this agreement. With consent decrees, penalties can be negotiated without the formality of formal hearings, which could help the licensee win the board's favor since the board would like to forgo the costs and time of the proceedings.
Formal hearings, conducted in front of either the Administrative Law judges or the, are typically designated for the much more serious licensing violations. Despite the absence of a jury, witnesses and evidence are presented like how they are handled during court trials. Even though some matters are handled by Administrative Law Judges, the board always has the final say.
Possible Repercussions of a Professional Licensing Investigation
If a professional licensing board takes action against you for any reason, the very first step you should take is to talk to a certified professional defense lawyer. Even though you believe that the inquiry is unsubstantiated or that it is a consequence of misunderstandings, the risks are too great for you to casually hope that everything will turn out fine in the end.
After a hearing, the licensing board could issue various directives depending on the seriousness of the offense and whether or not you have any prior convictions. You need to be aware of the potential orders that a licensing board could make following the disciplinary proceeding.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can explain the potential repercussions of the state licensing board. Below are the potential consequences of a disciplinary hearing:
Paying Hefty Fines and Receiving Public Citations
Your business could suffer if the licensing board requires you to file a citation for your offense, as word of the violation would likely spread among your clients. A poor citation will make it difficult for you to attract new clients. The resulting fines and penalties may be so high that you have no choice but to close your business permanently. Additionally, the penalties could be exceptionally high, which would cause your company to suffer serious losses.
Getting a Private Censure
Following the completion of the disciplinary proceeding, the board could also choose to issue a private censure. It entails sending you a letter with warnings to make sure you don't commit crimes again. Please take note that communication is usually private.
Since you are the intended recipient of the message, you should abide by the rules and conditions stated in the censure. You can carry on doing business as long as you abide by the letter's provisions.
Executing a License Probation
When given license probation, you'll not have your license revoked or suspended. In this situation, the licensing body will see to it that you continue using your license in complete compliance with the provided terms.
This could be a good thing because you can still use your license to practice. If the board decides to put you on probation, be sure to strictly follow the probationary licensing conditions. Your situation can get worse if you violate your probation.
Revocation or Suspension of Your Professional License
The licensing board's most severe penalty is the suspension or revocation of your professional license. Whenever this happens, the board suspends the license for a considerable amount of time. If you face a suspension of your license, you won't be able to run your medical practice or other business for a given amount of time. For instance, the board could suspend the license for 6 months, in which case you would be prevented from working.
On the other hand, losing your license is the worst thing that could happen to you. When your license is revoked, you won't be able to run your medical practice or other types of business for an undetermined amount of time. Your lawyer can assist you in creating a strategy to counter the license suspension or revocation.
Your choice of defense will rely on the specifics of the offense. The following arguments may be raised by your lawyer to contest the penalties:
- You made compensation payments to the victim
- You started your rehabilitation after your conviction
- You did not put your patients or clients at risk of harm
Permanent license suspensions are usually only given for the most severe offenses. However, these extreme cases can be encountered by professionals who are struggling with issues such as addiction, distractions, mental health concerns, or financial difficulties.
Several situations call for second chances and leniency. You deserve to deal with a professional who will fight for your rights and explore all the alternatives. It is critical that the licensing board feels you are deserving of a second shot.
Rebuilding Your Professional Image
The licensing board investigation itself can affect your reputation and career, even if the fines imposed by the board are minimal. When looking to retain the services of professionals, potential customers and patients will frequently do their research on that person's background, including any disciplinary proceedings that could have been taken against them.
With platforms like Yelp and Google Search readily available to the public, reputational crises are all too common. This, fortunately, indicates that you are not alone in trying to rebuild your reputation following disciplinary action or an investigation for failing to adhere to the terms of your practicing license.
Restoring your good reputation could take some time, but one strategy is to focus on resolving the underlying problems that led to the problems. Use the resources that your community, licensing board, or even the internet has to offer. You can gradually regain people's trust by finding methods to give back to the community.
The best method to prevent reputational harm is to work with a lawyer who can guarantee that your constitutional rights as well as your integrity are safeguarded throughout investigations or disciplinary procedures, along with getting any necessary therapy.
What Should You Do If a Board Investigator Contacts You?
If you're called by a DCA investigator or a Board investigator, the first thing you need to do is seek legal counsel. This communication could take the form of a letter, a phone call, or even an in-person meeting. Whatever the case, it is crucial to safeguard your license by getting in touch with a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible.
Board Investigators normally contact licensees when there is an issue. It can be associated with a grievance made against you or information about malpractice compensation. Some California Board Investigators have the powers of peace officers. Any statement you make to an investigator could be used as evidence in a legal action, and it could serve as grounds for initiating an arrest.
A board investigator could be cordial and accommodating. While licensees aren't required to do so, the board could inform you that you're more than welcome to speak with or employ an attorney. However, no matter how friendly the investigator is, keep in mind why they're speaking with you in the first place. They are seeking evidence that you committed wrongdoing. Cooperation and speaking with the investigators without legal counsel will rarely result in a successful conclusion.
Licensees are subject to certain duties and rights under California law. For instance, if a California Medical Board Investigator demands an interview from you, you will have to go even though you have a right to legal counsel.
Most professionals who possess a California license spent several years (and a significant sum of money) to get their license. Protect yourself and your professional license by speaking with a professional license defense attorney as soon as you can if your career is in danger as a result of a Board inquiry.
FAQs Regarding Board Licensing Complaints and Investigations
Commonly asked questions about licensing board investigations include:
Can I File A Defamation Or Slander Lawsuit Against Someone Who Makes A False, Anonymous Complaint About My License If I Find Out Who They Are?
No, you cannot. Any complaint submitted to the state licensing board, whether anonymous or not, is protected. Regardless of whether the complaint is without merit, it is neither defamation nor slander. This is because the complaint was submitted through a system of accountability rather than being broadcast to the public.
Your case would be dismissed if you try to sue an individual for submitting a false report to the licensing board, and you could even be obliged to cover the defendant's legal costs as a result. The best thing you could do is to refute the underlying issue. If it's unfounded, it would likely be rejected with no long-term negative effects on your profession.
Are Disciplinary Proceedings Mandatory After a Board Investigation?
No. California's professional licensing boards receive many grievances each year regarding licensees. The board has a responsibility to look into the allegations, either with their staff or with those from the DCA's Division of Investigation.
A board investigation's goal is to evaluate whether or not disciplinary action is necessary. Depending on the circumstances, this procedure could lead to a variety of consequences, such as:
- Closure of the submitted file
- Referring the grievance to the Attorney General's Office for punishment
- Referring to the allegations of criminal activity
- Issuing citations and fines for minor violations
If you want to avoid criminal or disciplinary action, you can benefit from hiring a defense lawyer with experience. They can assist you to get a favorable result, like the closure of your file or getting a fine and citation. Even while enforcement actions may be necessary for situations that involve more serious claims, your attorney can take measures to lessen the potential repercussions to safeguard your license and means of support.
A lawyer could be able to influence the outcome of disciplinary proceedings by conducting a comprehensive investigation, speaking with experts, reviewing relevant case law, and developing mitigation packs for the Board.
Will this Impact My Career?
Yes, it can. The specifics of accusations involving public disciplinary measures are made public on the Board's website and on sites that verify licenses. Additionally, they could be filed with the National Practitioner Data Bank. Additionally, a provider's public disciplinary proceedings are accessible for the duration of their profession.
You could be required to declare these actions if you later apply for licenses or credentials. Factual conclusions in public disciplinary proceedings have occasionally made it difficult for healthcare professionals to land a job in specific environments. Understanding the procedure and putting up a strong defense is crucial given the potential long-term impact these acts could have on your profession.
Find a Professional License Defense Attorney Near Me
When you commit certain professional violations, the licensing board has the authority to suspend or revoke your professional license. A license revocation can have serious consequences for your future. For instance, if you miss work due to a suspension of your license, you could suffer significant financial losses. Therefore, if you believe that your professional license is being investigated, you should consult with a seasoned professional licensing defense attorney.
We at The Legal Guardian in Long Beach can assist you in defending against the allegations that could hurt your California professional license throughout Long Beach. We are conversant with state rules, particularly those governing professional licensure. Call us today at 866-448-6811.