You have spent vast sums of money and years in school acquiring your license as an emergency medical technician or paramedic. Now, a wrong decision, mistake, or misunderstanding puts your professional dreams at risk. Fortunately, you can fight your rights at an administrative hearing. However, administrative hearings are complicated, especially if the judicial system is involved. Navigating the proceedings requires the understanding and knowledge of the licensure process. At The Legal Guardian, we help professionals in Riverside County and the surrounding areas whose licenses are at stake. We can stand on your side and protect your rights.
Understanding the Role Played by Paramedics and EMTs
Being a paramedic comes with personal challenges since you are legally, morally, and ethically liable for all drugs administered, algorithms suitable for unique situations, or compliance with the treatment protocol. You must:
- Perform within a defined scope complying with the standard of care
- Keep abreast of trends, changes, and contraindications in the use and administration of the symptoms
- Document and observe the impact of the drug you have administered
- Understand through observation and interview the most suitable drugs to your patient based on symptoms
- Deal with a dangerous situation like responding to calls in areas popular for high morality and crime rates
As a guardian of the injured and the sick, you should be committed, tolerant, and able to satisfy the intellectual and physical demands put on you.
As an emergency medical technician, people's lives rely on your competent care and reaction, as you assist paramedics, offer basic life support, interview victims, assess victims, and take crucial signs and symptoms. Whether responding to childbirth, heart attack, car accident, gunshot wounds, or smoke inhalation, you should offer immediate medical care and transportation to the local hospital. Additionally, you must report your actions and observations to the emergency room personnel.
Usually, the duties of a paramedic or EMT become blurred in the public's eye. Your roles have limitations. Consequently, your conduct could be misinterpreted, putting the professional license regulated by the Emergency Medical Services Authority at the risk of charges of inaction or neglect or scrutiny.
The Mandate of Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA)
The Health and Safety Code 1798.200 gives the Emergency Medical Services Authority the power to investigate your off-duty and on-duty conduct. It also includes issuing and denying a professional license based on criminal conduct. The agency's enforcement unit is tasked with examining complaints against licensed paramedics or EMTs and unlicensed staff for breaking the Emergency Medical Services, Division 2.5. and Health and Safety Code.
Violating the EMS policies and criminal convictions are the main reasons why EMTs and paramedics receive allegations from the EMSA. A threat to the license could translate to a threat to reputation, income, and career. Common violations for EMTs and paramedics include:
- Fraud in obtaining a license or certificate
- Gross negligence: The departure from the standard of care under similar circumstances could have been exercised by a reasonable individual acting and trained in a similar capacity.
- Incompetence: Failing to have the level of skills, ability, and knowledge ordinarily exercised and possessed by a certified emergency medical technician or accredited and licensed paramedic
- Trying to violate or violating a state or federal regulation or statute that controls dangerous drugs, controlled substances, or narcotics
- Addiction to, misuse of, or excessive use of narcotics, alcohol, controlled substances, or dangerous drugs
- Practicing outside the supervision of medical control in the field care system functioning at the local level unless authorized by another certification or license
- Unprofessional behavior exhibited by physical abuse or a patient's mistreatment stemming from the application of force or failing to maintain the confidentiality of a patient's medical information
- Demonstrating irrational conduct or incidence of a physical incapacity to a level that a prudent individual would think that the capacity to do the expected duties could be impaired.
- A conviction of an offense that is significantly associated with your functions, duties, and qualifications such as sexual misconduct, violent conduct, theft-related offenses
- Committing a dishonest, corrupt, or fraudulent conduct that is significantly associated with your functions, duties, and qualifications
- Repeated negligence conduct: A repeated failure to use care of a prudent and reasonable individual acting and trained in an identical capacity
- Sexual misconduct while on the job
When one of the complaints or accusations is filed against you, you might think it will affect your occupation. Well, that isn't necessarily the case. It is because:
Investigations do not always result in disciplinary action.
Your defense attorney could negotiate for a more favorable plea or present a mitigating factor at the administrative hearing.
How Does the Board Learn About the Charge?
You should report all your charges, arrests, and conviction to the board. You should contact EMSA to analyze the reporting requirements and timeframe. Be sure to request your defense lawyer to confirm the details for you.
Also, the California Emergency Medical Services Authority often checks with the Department of Justice criminal record department. The DOJ permits EMSA to access convictions, tickets, and arrest records. After the board finds a record, conviction, or allegation against you, the agency will send you a notice of the discovery via mail. The notice will require you to reveal the necessary information about your incident.
Moreover, the DOJ could contact EMSA about your arrest or charge.
While you should cooperate with the licensing agency, you should not offer the board any information before consulting with a skilled license lawyer. Remember, whatever you say could be used against you.
Common Disciplinary Actions Imposed by the EMSA
Any person can file an informal complaint against you in Long Beach. After the EMSA receives the complaint, the board will commence an investigation.
Should the agency determine a reasonable basis for the complaint, it will serve you with a formal complaint. Your complaint should outline:
- Your alleged wrongdoing
- The applicable regulation or law that you have allegedly violated
Any EMT or paramedic served with a formal complaint should hire a legal counsel to represent them throughout the process.
The board can also take one of the following disciplinary actions against you at the hearing:
It means the EMSA conducted investigations and decided not to take any disciplinary action against you. However, should future incidents happen that necessitate review, both past and current evidence and facts will be put into account. The general public cannot access the warning letter.
A Citation and Fines
Although a citation is the least severe disciplinary action, it is a public record and can be accessed by your potential employers. Depending on the violation committed and the case circumstances, you can face fines that range from two hundred and fifty dollars to two thousand and five hundred dollars. Typically, the fine should be paid within sixty (60) days following the board's notice that the penalty has been imposed. You could negotiate to foot the total amount in one year by providing proof of economic hardships.
Please note, fines and probation are disciplinary actions for offenses that did not result in an injury. Also, you cannot face fines and professional license suspension for one offense.
You Might Face a Probation
Probation is another form of disciplinary action. When the license is placed on probation, so is the defendant.
Your career as a paramedic or emergency medical technician depends on whether you know and comply with your probation terms.
Your competent licensing attorney should be able to assist you in negotiating for the reduction of the terms. Additionally, they should help you understand what is required of you when under probation.
Common probation terms and condition include the following:
- Probation compliance: You should cooperate with the board in its evaluation, investigation, and monitoring of your adherence to your probationary order conditions. You should also execute and present all releases of information forms to the board that EMSA might require of you.
- Personal appearances: You should attend all meetings, evaluations, and interviews. Please note, you are responsible for the cost linked to this requirement.
- Quarterly reports: During your probationary period, you should present quarterly reports that certify, under penalty of perjury, and document your compliance with the probation terms. If you submit the quarterly reports using mail, ensure you use a certified mail.
- Employment notifications: During your probation period, you should notify the board of all employment jobs as an EMT or paramedic. The notice should include your prospective EMS boss's name, address, and contact information before accepting the employment offer.
- Working as an emergency medical technician: The probationary period should not run when you aren't practicing as an EMT or paramedic in California. Should you leave California during the probation period, you should notify the board of the departure date and return date to the state, if you return.
- Notification of termination: You should notify the board within three days after your termination with your employer. You should give a comprehensive statement of the circumstances and reasons for your termination.
- Abstinence from drug use and possession: You should abstain from injection, possession, or consumption (using any method) of drugs requiring prescriptions, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances unless prescribed by the law as medical treatment. You should also ensure that your doctor provides the board with a report of the medication, date of prescription, dosage, your diagnosis, and when the medication will not be needed within 14 days of getting your prescription.
Your professional license should be restored after completion of your probation.
What Happens if You Violate Your Probation Terms?
If you fail to adhere to the terms of your probation throughout the probationary period, the Emergency Medical Services Authority might initiate an action to dismiss your probation and suspend or revoke the professional license. Upon the beginning of the action or receiving a notice of the plan to initiate the action, the probationary period is still effective until the matter is solved. Actions to terminate your probation and revoke or suspend your license should be done per the Administrative Procedure Act.
Issues determined at the administrative hearing should be restricted by whether you violated any probation terms enough to warrant probation termination and implement license revocation or suspension. Both the board and you should abide by the admissions contained in the probation terms at your hearing.
Suspension to Stay
The board can choose to allow the suspension to be stayed following a license suspension and permit you to continue functioning while on probation or under supervision. It is not uncommon in allegations that involve substance use. Usually, probation can last for a maximum of five (5) years. Although the defendant will be restricted and monitored, their professional license could be restored if they comply with their probation conditions.
License Suspension or Revocation
Professional license revocation or suspension is the most severe form of discipline. A suspension or revocation causes you to lose the entitlement to continue practicing as a paramedic or EMT for a while or indefinitely, respectively. Fortunately, with legal assistance, you can reinstate your suspended or revoked license after completing the required paperwork, attending hearings, and waiting for a while.
EMSA Recommended Guidelines
The EMSA has a guide that the administrative law judges at administrative hearings must follow. The Recommended Guidelines for Disciplinary Orders and Conditions of Probation has various offenses under HS Code 1798.200 and other statutes that might result in disciplinary action.
The ALJ could choose to listen to mitigating factors presented by your lawyer or divert from the recommended guidelines permitting a settlement that every party is happy with.
The board's guidelines require the ALJ to consider the factors below:
- The allegation's severity
- Whether the injury stemmed from the crime
- The injury that might have occurred
- Your prior criminal history, when the crime happened, and whether terms of probation were complied with
- Aggravating or mitigating evidence
- Whether you enrolled in rehabilitation classes after alcohol abuse allegations
- Whether your boss took the disciplinary action and if so, it will be credited (It might reduce the board's discipline)
Some of the mitigating factors your experienced license defense lawyer can use include:
- You do not have a previous criminal record.
- You did not injure patients.
- You cooperated with the board's investigations.
- You voluntarily reported the incident to the board early.
- You have made restitution to victims and rehabilitative efforts.
Can a Conviction Result in Professional Discipline?
While criminal charges attract penalties if sentenced and stigma should your clients know about the crime, not every charge results in disciplinary action. And so are your previous convictions. A conviction affects your professional license depending on the charge circumstances and nature of the crime.
It is because a charge or conviction must have standards of professional conduct counted upon you or a significant relationship on duty. Nevertheless, the prosecutor will attempt to interpret the significant relationship more. Therefore, it's essential to engage an experienced defense lawyer.
Moreover, the EMSA will consider the following during your administrative hearing:
- How the criminal case was resolved. Typical case resolution strategies include: plead guilty, sentenced, charge reduction, found innocent, diversion sentencing, charge dismissal, or found guilty.
- Whether you have taken rehabilitative measures like alcohol rehabilitation
- Whether you were on professional license probation when you violated another law
You will face discipline irrespective of whether the offense is a felony, infraction, or misdemeanor. Nonetheless, if you were egregious, you might face severe discipline.
How to Defend Your License
If the board serves a respondent with an Accusation, they must present a Notice of Defense to safeguard their constitutional rights. The respondent should file the Notice of Defense within 15 days following receiving an accusation. Be sure to follow instructions and understand the document. An attorney should assist you.
Failing to file the Notice of Defense leads to Default Decision and Order that causes license revocation.
The next step is requesting discovery (requesting evidence that the EMSA has) and then developing defenses. If the respondent doesn't accept the allegations against them, their licensing counsel should work on effective defenses. It is realized by acquiring evidence of rehabilitation and mitigation.
Your allegations can be solved using either:
- Stipulated settlement: Both you and the board agree on case resolution. Although many cases are resolved by placing the license on probation, the case could be settled through surrendering the professional license, revocation, or dismissal.
- Administrative hearing: If the case is not resolved using a stipulated settlement, it proceeds to the administrative hearing.
Can a Prior Conviction Affect the License?
Your attorney should use strategies that help obtain a dismissal or acquittal of the charge and protect your professional license when you cannot avoid a conviction.
Luckily, if found guilty and lose your professional license, you could have your conviction expunged or criminal record erased. However, not all convictions qualify for expungement. Consequently, getting a governor's pardon or certificate of rehabilitation might be the way out.
If your charge is dismissed, you should look for a factual finding of innocence to boost the likelihood of maintaining the license.
What Takes Place If a Respondent Fails to Reveal a Previous Arrest or Conviction When Seeking their License?
Failing to disclose about your current investigation or charges, a misdemeanor or felony conviction in any place, expunged convictions, or no contest is considered fraud in the certificate procurement certificate. Per Penal Code 1203.4, it can result in disciplinary action or denial of your professional license.
You should disclose your prior incidents and convictions every time you're applying for your license. Remember to include court documents, records, and a comprehensive statement of what took place and remediation.
Moreover, the respondent must reveal if they had a certification, professional license, or accreditation on probation, suspended, revoked, or denied. You should reveal if you are under investigation or disciplinary action.
Find Legal Representation Near Me
If you are a licensed paramedic or EMT in Riverside County, the last thing you want is to receive a notice that a complaint has been brought against you with the EMSA. If not properly addressed, what might look like a less severe accusation could quickly go out of control. Your license and career can be jeopardized, and you require a skilled license defense attorney to defend your rights. The Legal Guardian has a background and experience in protecting healthcare practitioners and can listen to your needs, worries, and concerns. As a result, we can work aggressively to assist you in maintaining the reputation and professional license. Contact us now at 888-293-0396 to schedule your initial consultation.