Optometrists or opticians are experts who help patients with eye-care needs. The main responsibility of these professionals is to make a diagnosis, manage, and treat illnesses of the eye. Optometrists invest years of intense studies and a hefty amount of money to build a career and achieve optometry licensure.
The last thing you want is being served with a notice of inquiry or official accusations by the State Board of Optometry because of complaints against your character or medical capabilities. These accusations can result in license suspension or license application denial threatening your livelihood. You should act promptly by seeking the services of a proficient license defense attorney.
At The Legal Guardian, we understand how much effort, time, and money you have invested in your career and reputation. And despite this, it only takes one mistake to jeopardize your license. Remember that even if you are faced with false allegations, the court might suspend or revoke your license if they believe the story. As such, our license defense attorneys in Long Beach, CA, are ready to apply every defense strategy available and take any necessary legal measures to reduce or defeat any disciplinary actions taken against you by the board.
The Critical Roles of an Optometrist
Many people overlook the importance of having eyesight until they begin experiencing eye complications. It is during this time that they turn to opticians or optometrists for help. Optometrists have many responsibilities like:
Performing comprehensive eye and vision tests
Diagnosing eye defects like myopia, glaucoma, and astigmatism
Prescribing medications, contact lenses, and eyeglasses
Analyzing vision tests, diagnosing sight issues, and prescribing the correct lenses or glasses require the right resources, training, and attention to detail. With the introduction of laser surgery in the list of procedures optometrists can perform, a good optician must have in-depth knowledge, experience, and ability to use highly specialized equipment. Acquiring these skills and expertise takes years of studying and working to create a reputation and trust among your patients.
However, despite providing these valuable services and undergoing rigorous training, tests, and licensure processes, a single ethic complaint or mistake could jeopardize your license. A single mistake or complaint can turn your career upside down. When faced with serious accusations, you could end up losing your optometry license permanently. Loss of your practicing license means you will not be legally able to practice optometry. Providing for your family finances will be a huge task because you will have no income. Fortunately, with the help of The Legal Guardian, you could contest the disciplinary action you are facing.
We understand that most complaints lodged against optometrists are invalid. A simple mistake like misdiagnosis, unrealistic expectations, false allegations, or an act of negligence could see you subjected to disciplinary actions. Some mistakes should not be career-ending, but those making the complaints through the board’s consumer site exaggerate the facts, resulting in severe consequences for an optometrist.
A profound optometry license defense attorney will not judge you by your actions. Instead, the attorney will work hard to protect your license and career using all the applicable legal defenses.
Optometry Licensing in Long Beach, CA
The State Board of Optometry is the body mandated to license and discipline optometrists in the entire state. The board usually receives complaints through its consumer fair website. After analyzing the complaints to determine their validity, they issue you with a notice of investigation if the complaint is valid. When this happens, you should reach out to your license defense attorney right away.
Remember that acquiring an optometry license is not a walk in the park. On top of the educational requirement, there are multiple professional requirements that an applicant must meet. The provisions will remain even after you have been issued with a license, and a violation of these requirements could result in disciplinary action.
Any disciplinary action made by the board will significantly affect your business, even if your license is not suspended. Any penalty imposed on you by the agency, including suspension, probation, denial of license application, or fine, will be posted online for the public to view. This, too, will affect your optometry business because of a bad reputation. Even if the license is later reinstated, retaining prior customers or gaining new ones in the future will be a problem. Employers will also use this to turn down your job application. For this reason, you should invest your resources and energy in fighting any possible disciplinary action by the board.
The Undertaking of the Board of Optometry
One thing you need to understand about the board of optometry in California is that it doesn’t exist to assist optometrists. Instead, the agency exists to protect patients and consumers from unsafe or sub-standard eye medical care. Their stated mission is to work for the general public and opticians by boosting and putting into effect guidelines that safeguard the safety of the eye patients and ensure quality eye care or treatment.
Take note that although the body is not necessarily in place to serve optometrists, it doesn’t mean the board’s decisions are always against you and other optometrists. Still, they are not certainly in your favor. You will need an optometry license defense attorney who understands how the board works and how to negotiate for a better outcome. However, without an attorney on your corner, the agency might overlook critical mitigating circumstances in your favor and believe invalid complaints to please the public. Doing so is unfair and could see an innocent optometrist facing harsh disciplinary action.
Every complaint made against you, whether valid or invalid, is a threat to your optometry license. It is for this reason that we at The Legal Guardian are here to bridge the breach and share your story with the board for a fair ruling. Our attorneys have good negotiation skills that will ensure you end up with a favorable outcome.
There are manifolds of possible complaints that can be registered against you with the board and result in disciplinary action. Highlighted below are some of these allegations:
Acquiring an optometry practicing license fraudulently
Practicing optometry without a valid license
A prior sentence that significantly communicates your capacity to carefully and skillfully continue providing eye care.
False or misleading advertisement strategies
Operating your practice from an illegal location
Drug or alcohol addiction, mainly when it occurs at work or when treating a patient
Falsifying or failing to keep proper records
Prescribing drugs without an appropriate medical examination
Letting unlicensed assistants work under you
Negligence, gross negligence or incompetent care
Unwarranted treatment or prescribing
Operating outside the scope of your license
Failing to honor patients requests for their records
Breaching the terms of your license probation
Not adhering to infection control and other H&S standards
For purposes of ensuring uniformity in disciplinary actions for similar complaints, the board uses uniform disciplinary guidelines. These guidelines are available online and can be used by administrative law judges, also called ALJ, attorneys, opticians, and even the board when dealing with cases involving substance abuse.
If the ALJ hearing your case or the board determines that you lack the capacity to practice eye care securely and professionally, you will end up with license revocation. You could also get a stayed revocation but with probation.
Note that you will cover the cost the board uses to investigate your disciplinary case, and in case of probation, you will pay for the cost of monitoring. If you cannot raise the money, have you, attorney, negotiate a workable payment plan with the board. The plan will see you make payments for a particular period until the money you owe is cleared. Missing out on the payments while in probation will result in the cancelation of the probation so, it’s critical to come up with a reasonable payment plan.
Sometimes you can reach an agreement with the board without having to go for an administrative hearing. Other times an agreement will be reached during the hearing. Either way, the ALJ and the Board must determine if a settlement is valid before approving it. An experienced license defense attorney will first work the case to try and get a dismissal. Still, if that’s not possible, they will enter into negotiations to try and get a settlement before the case goes for an administrative hearing.
Apart from the typical disciplinary action, the court might issue a citation followed by a particular amount of fine. Additionally, you might be ordered through an Abatement order to stop the activity that resulted in the fine. Although a citation might appear as a lesser consequence, you should fight it by all means because it will taint your reputation once the public learns about it.
Facts in Aggravation or Mitigation of Discipline
An administrative hearing is somehow different from a court trial because it is not only a matter of establishing whether a practitioner is guilty or not. In some instances, your defense attorney can petition the case to be dismissed by presenting evidence in your favor, like having expert witnesses, poking holes in the opposing side’s evidence or arguments, and cross-examining witnesses brought forward by the prosecution.
However, in other instances where no defense strategy can save you from disciplinary action, your attorney can present mitigating evidence, seeking to reduce penalties. The prosecution, on the other hand, will present aggravating factors to enhance the consequences. When providing for discipline in your case, the ALJ will consider aggravating and mitigating evidence. The evidence in aggravation of field includes:
Things that put the trust, health, or safety of the patient in jeopardy
Patient’s or employer’s violation of trust through things like fraud and embezzlement
Having a history of prior discipline
You have patterned conduct with at least one prior violation or conviction similar to the current one.
A violation of the terms of probation imposed by the board
Refusing to provide a sample for testing in violation of probation terms
Committing a crime against a child or in the presence of a minor
If these circumstances are present in your case, an ALJ will impose harsher penalties. Thankfully, your defense attorney can counter these aggravating factors by presenting the following mitigation evidence:
Recognition or admission by the respondent of wrongdoing
Demonstration of the unlikelihood of the issue reoccurring
Cooperating with the board during the investigation
Lack of a prior criminal or disciplinary action
Lapse of a substantial amount of time after the violation or conviction happened
Cooperation with the investigators
The disciplinary action or terms of probation the ALJ will impose depend on how your attorney and the prosecution present the mitigation and aggravation evidence, respectively. You will need an experienced attorney who has faced situations like yours in the past and came out with a favorable outcome.
Uniform Standards for Substance-Abusing Optometry License Holders
The State Board of Optometry understands practitioners addicted to substance risks the health, safety, and trust of patients. Therefore, the board has stringent guidelines when it comes to uniform standards in these cases. First, the board might order a clinical diagnostic evaluation often conducted by an optometrist who holds a valid and unrestricted license. The board’s evaluator must be approved and have thirty-six months of experience evaluating practitioners with substance abuse or addiction problems.
Once the evaluation process begins, you will be requested to stop practicing, and as you wait for the evaluation, you might undergo at least two random testings per week.
If you end up with probation, the probation officer will determine if you need any treatment and the type. You might also be ordered to take part in support groups. If the probation allows you to continue practicing, you will have someone monitoring you at work. Keep in mind that a violation of these terms might result in the cancelation of probation and license revocation.
In case you pass the evaluation, you will continue practicing. However, failing the assessment will allow you to continue practicing but under the restriction of probation terms and conditions.
Your attorney has a chance to negotiate for more favorable terms of probation before they are imposed. A successful negotiation will result in less restrictive probation terms or a minimum probationary period.
Time Limits on Defending against these Allegations
If you are served with formal allegations, you only have a half a month from the date the order was mailed to register a notice of defense. So, you should act right after getting the notice by contacting an optometry defense attorney. Besides, you shouldn’t overlook a citation because you might get a bad record that may taint your professional reputation. An attorney will try and have the fine lowered even in situations where it’s impossible to remove a citation. Specific settlements and other board actions could also have you face lesser disciplinary action or keep the matter away from the public, thus preserving your reputation.
Take note that even if the ALJ overseeing the proceeding makes a ruling, the State Board of Optometry must review the verdict for a final decision. However, even this final decision by the board can be challenged if you register an appeal within thirty days.
Optometry License Defense
When faced with formal accusations of violating the State Board of Optometry regulations, you shouldn’t lose hope. You have the right to defend yourself against the allegations in a hearing before an ALJ. During the hearing, your attorney will have the chance to challenge the findings of the board’s investigations. You can also issue a request for discovery, documents, and subpoena to compel witnesses to appear in court.
At times, the board might tell you that you don’t necessarily need an attorney to defend your professional license. However, this is not true because the board is there to protect the general public and advocate for their health and safety. The only person who will protect your rights and interest is your license defense attorney. Therefore, don’t waste your time and risk your professional license because you want to defend yourself. By not knowing the procedures to follow or making a slight mistake can cost you the case.
However, by hiring The Legal Guardian, you can be guaranteed a positive outcome. Our attorneys will present a powerful and compelling assertion to the ALJ so that if there is any disciplinary action the board has taken, it can be reduced.
Finally, do not discuss your case with the board, Attorney General, or investigators before speaking to your optometry license defense attorney. Instead, reach out to an attorney right after the notice to discuss your situation and the various defenses you can apply to protect your source of livelihood and years of hard work and sacrifice. Retain the services of an attorney throughout the stages of the administrative hearing. That way, your rights are protected.
Find an Optometry License Defense Attorney Near Me
The Legal Guardian protects the rights and careers of Long Beach, CA healthcare professionals, Optometrists included. Regardless of the kind of disciplinary action you are facing, we are ready to guide you through and ensure a favorable outcome. Remember that your income is in jeopardy when your license is at risk, hence the reason you should act fast. Contact us today at 888-293-0396 to discuss your case.