Navigating your personal and professional life after facing a criminal conviction may be quite challenging, mainly because of the prejudice that may come with such sentences. Additionally, your licensed professional career is bound to hit a few bumps, as the licensing board may organize an administrative hearing to determine the nature of the crime. During such trials, the board will choose whether to suspend or revoke your license, among other options, as a punishment for your criminal record. Sometimes, you may feel like a board hearing will not be entirely fair for you and choose to go for a small trial organized by the Organization of Administrative Hearings.
Either way, you will need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will ease the load by helping you prepare for your hearings. At The Legal Guardian, we provide specialized legal defense services that focus exclusively on our clients' professional licensing in Long Beach, California. With our help, you will have a solid defense foundation for your hearing, creating better chances for a favorable hearing outcome.
Types of Criminal Offenses that Attract Disciplinary Hearings
Overall, licensing boards should operate on the requirement that any criminal conviction brought to deliberation must have a direct correlation to your professional obligations as a licensed practicing worker. Therefore, the board cannot summon you for offenses that do not affect your work line, as it would be dwelling on non-effective matters. On the other hand, most criminal offenses are bound to affect your licensed practice, depending on whether you commit them at work or not. Some of the criminal convictions that result in scrutiny from a licensing board include:
Sexual Harassment of Employees and Clients
The law prohibits any form of sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, where a harassing person may hold a higher position of office, forcing the junior to agree to the sexual engagements. If you were found guilty of harassing any of your employees or colleagues at the workplace, it would be a matter to be discussed in a licensing hearing, depending on the work field you are in.
Moreover, if you are in the medical field, your patients may report you for inappropriate behavior that counts as sexual harassment. Some of the activities may include indecently groping your patients or making advances when in a private examination room. Since the patient will be the complainant in such a situation, your practice clinic is likely to suffer a massive hit because of the negative reviews that may quickly spread, even before you are officially convicted. Your mandatory sex offender status after conviction will also linger on, preventing you from conducting your job at ease.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse at Work
The workplace is also supposed to be a drug-free environment that enables you to respond to all tasks and clients efficiently. Consequently, if you show up to work drunk or high continuously or decide to take drugs and alcohol during working hours, you will likely face a conviction for gross negligence in the workplace. In turn, the board in charge of issuing licenses in your professional field could also choose to call for a hearing, primarily because drug misuse at work may expose you and your employees to danger.
For example, suppose you are a licensed engineer who visits a construction site when intoxicated. In that case, you may become a safety hazard based on the poor decisions you make to walk around without caution or protective gear. A doctor who practices when drunk or high may also give the wrong diagnosis to patients, or use crude methods when administering drugs because of the poor judgment used at the time. Thus, getting convicted for abusing drugs at the workplace is also a severe malpractice element that may lead to license suspension or revocation.
Engaging in Theft at your Workplace
If you work for a more prominent firm where a company runs operations, you and other colleagues may collude to steal supplies and deliveries made to the workplace. For example, in the pharmaceutical field, drug supplies are offloaded during scheduled periods, ready for distribution in licensed sales. Thus, if you are involved in the illegal acquisition of drugs for personal use or resale, it will amount to a criminal conviction for grand theft, if the drugs were stolen cost more than $950. Even if the charges you faced were for petty theft, the criminal record you will obtain would still be disadvantageous in your professional life.
Subsequently, organizing or participating in theft crimes could lead to severe consequences, even after a criminal conviction. During your license hearing, the board members or administrative law judge handling your matter may issue severe penalties that involve stopping your practice definitely or indefinitely.
Engaging in Tax Crimes at Work
Another criminal offense that could lead to the loss of your professional license is committing tax crimes. In most cases, licensed practice owners may direct their employees to include tax-evading tactics when billing clients or patients to help them bag more profits. If you are arrested and charged with such a crime, the criminal record will affect your credibility as a licensed professional. For example, if you run a medical clinic that overcharges your patients to cover for tax charges. The word may reach the medical licensing board that will call for a disciplinary hearing.
For such criminal convictions, it may be relatively easier to find several defenses for your case, despite committing tax evasion crimes. While a smooth process is not guaranteed, the disciplinary board will be more interested in checking whether you delivered your professional services as expected. Nevertheless, the criminal record will also have to be discussed for an outcome.
How the Licensing Board Receives your Criminal Record Information
Suppose you are practicing your professional career on a license in California. In that case, it is vital to learn of the different ways a licensing disciplinary board uses to get hold of any criminal records. Knowing the various sources of information on your past convictions will help you prepare to refute and question some of the sources at a hearing. Moreover, you will also learn of your responsibility to make reports on your own, to avoid the issuance of false information. Some of the channels of data used by the board to discover your past criminal conviction include:
Reports from the Department of Justice
Since the Department of Justice must make all relevant reports to different licensing boards and employers concerning workers in various fields, it could send the appropriate board all pertinent records that prove you faced criminal charges. Typically, the department has all criminal records in place, so it is easier to retrieve your case proceedings and even send the board copies of documents to affirm your past position as a criminal defendant.
Reporting Yourself to the Board
Making personal reports to your licensing board is also an option you should consider because it provides several benefits. For example, you could use your action of making a self-report when raising a defense during the disciplinary hearing to help mitigate your case. Therefore, you are likely to receive a lower punishment in such a scenario because the board will appreciate your initiative to make personal reports.
However, it is crucial to follow all guidelines provided, to prevent giving false information that withholds all your past criminal engagements. If the board learns that you made misrepresentations when reporting yourself, you may be trying to escape full liability for your criminal record. As a result, you may attract more penalties and longer durations of license revocation because of providing false information. Thus, you will need to be well acquainted with all facts and details that led to your criminal charges.
Moreover, to avoid giving too much information that may later be used against you during the trial, it is better to bring your criminal defense lawyer when making the self-report. This way, you will avoid making statements that could attract more attention to details that you do not need to reveal.
Results from Regular Board Checks with the Criminal Record Department
Additionally, your licensing board conducts its due diligence by running several checks with the criminal recordkeeping department annually. In doing so, the committee aims at discovering new information that could have otherwise been overlooked, concerning any criminal convictions you may have faced. After the licensing board contains your records and verifies them, you will receive a message that informs you of their discovery.
In some cases, the board may give you a chance to respond to their claims of discovery that also allows you to get hold of your criminal defense lawyer to plan for the defenses you will raise. However, some licensing boards will opt for immediate action to prevent you from fabricating information that justifies your criminal activities and conviction.
The Disciplinary Hearing Process
Usually, a summoned professional will face a board of licensing officials who will handle the administrative hearing by asking questions about your criminal charges and giving you a chance to answer each. The committee will provide a hearing date to help you prepare yourself for the matter, including hiring a criminal defense lawyer who will help you navigate some of the difficult questions that the disciplinary board members may ask.
Since an administrative hearing does not emphasize evidence and burden of proof, like in criminal cases, you do not need to go out of your way to gather witnesses or footage for the hearing. However, it is essential to make adequate preparations to answer all questions accordingly. Once the trial begins, the board members will decide on the best method of questioning for your case. Some of the factors they will rely on to make a final determination include:
The Type of Crime You were Involved With
Discussing the nature of your criminal activities before a conviction is among the essential matters touched on during a disciplinary hearing. It gets to the actual malpractice you engaged in. Hence, if you participated in an offense that amounted to misdemeanor charges, it may be easier for your defense lawyer to negotiate the issuance of less severe punishment for your license retention or suspension.
However, suppose you engaged in serious crimes like rape or fraud in your professional workspace. In that case, the board will be reluctant to allow you to continue practicing, mainly because such offenses put your clients or patients at risk if they were to re-occur.
The Nature of Your Criminal Charges
Apart from analyzing the type of crime you engage in, it is necessary to check whether you received any official charged for the offense. Sometimes, the police may conduct an arrest but release you soon after for lack of a proper probable cause, or mistake of fact. Thus, you may not be officially charged for any crime, yet the records may indicate your name, especially if you had undergone the police station's booking process.
You must understand that facing a disciplinary licensing board without any official record of criminal charges places you in a better position to negotiate with the board members. In a best-case scenario, you may even evade severe penalties and receive only a warning letter.
The Period of Practice
During your disciplinary hearing, the board may be interested in checking whether you are a repeat offender by gathering information on your practice period. Such questions aim to develop a quick analysis of your overall behavior and competence levels that are detectable by going over your entire practicing record.
Therefore, if you have been in the professional field for long without any prior convictions or incompetence reports from your clients, you may persuade the disciplinary board to consider your excellent track record, and let you off on a warning. However, it is up to the board to exercise discretion when issuing the final decision based on the gathered information.
Upon the conclusion of your disciplinary hearing, the licensing board will direct you to come in at a later date that should not be too long after the end of your trial for the final verdict. In some cases, the board may need only a few hours to make the final determination, especially if your matter was straightforward or minor.
Alternatively, your professional's licensing authority may decide to apply for an administrative hearing in a small court trial headed by the Organization of Administrative Hearings. An administrative law judge will preside over the matter to come up with the final decision. Usually, the licensing board carries the burden of proof that you received a criminal conviction for an offense related to your profession. To do so, the licensing board will obtain your criminal records from the Department of Justice and use the information to justify their claims.
After hearing both sides, the administrative judge will then recommend a licensing board decision. In this case, it is up to the board to exercise the ultimate discretion and decide whether to follow the judge's recommendations or choose an alternative route. Thus, the judge's decisions are merely advisory and cannot be binding on the licensing authority.
Possible Outcomes for Your Disciplinary Hearing
After concluding the disciplinary hearings, the board may settle on different directives to issue, depending on the severity of your past criminal engagements and their effects on your professional practice. The four primary outcomes you can expect from the disciplinary hearing are:
Making A Public Citation and Payment of Fines
If the board orders you to make a public citation for your offenses, it could be detrimental to your business because your potential clients will learn of your criminal engagements. Therefore, it will be challenging to acquire new leads for clients because of the negative citation that you must publicize. Moreover, the effects of a free quote may be severe because word of mouth among clients may put you out of business for a long time, forcing you to close down your office or clinic. The fine penalties may also be costly to pay, resulting in significant losses.
Receiving a Private Censure
When the board decides on a private censure, it is the best possible outcome for your hearing because it does not affect your practice in any way. A private criticism is also known as a warning letter containing statements of reprimand and warnings for engaging in criminal behavior again in the future. Since the message is private, you will be the only recipient expected to follow the requirements and regulations set in the letter, meaning that you can continue working as long as you adhere to the letter's provisions.
A License Probation
Receiving license probation means that the board will prevent you from facing a license suspension. In this case, the board will allow you to continue practicing under scrutiny until the probation period is done. The outcome is also quite favorable, considering you get to continue working as long as you fulfill all your probation requirements.
License Revocation or Suspension
A decision by the disciplinary hearing committee to suspend or revoke your license is the most severe form of punishment. It involves closing down your practice for a significant period. In a license suspension, you will be unable to practice for a specified period as punishment. For example, your license may be suspended for six months, requiring you to stay away from work for half a year. Alternatively, you may receive a license revocation that attracts worse restrictions. Unlike a license suspension, the period you are required to stay out of work is unspecified and may mean a complete restriction from ever working again.
With the help of your criminal defense lawyer, you may raise defenses to avoid a license suspension/revocation, to help you obtain the less severe penalty options. It is important to note that each argument will depend on the nature of your crime. Some possible arguments include:
- You started a rehabilitation program after conviction
- You paid restitution to affected clients after conviction
- You did not expose your patients/clients to physical harm
- You do not have any other criminal charges in your record
Get in Touch With a License Defense Attorney Near Me
A license disciplinary hearing could be the determinant for your continuous service delivery in your professional career. Therefore, you need to consider hiring a professional license defense attorney who will help you defend yourself during the license committee hearing to help you retain your professional license and continue working. At The Legal Guardian, you will receive the best license defense services in Long Beach, California, to avoid losing your practice because of a previous criminal record. Give us a call today at 888-293-0396.