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What is the effect of an arrest or conviction on my professional license?

What is the effect of an arrest or conviction on my professional license?

Many professional license holders in any state often wonder what the effect of an arrest and/or criminal conviction will be on their professional license.  An example of a fairly common scenario regarding professional licensees involves, for instance, a physician who is driving home from a family gathering or a social event after consuming a couple of drinks.  He feels completely sober upon deciding to drive home, however, this is not the case.  He is pulled over by law enforcement, given sobriety tests and later determined to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  This results in an arrest and a criminal complaint is filed against him charging him with the violation of driving under the influence laws.  The logical question upon such a licensee’s mind would be “What will happen to my license as a result of this mess I find myself in?”  Many states define the connection between such conduct and their professional practice granted under their licensure very broadly.  For instance, in California, the nexus between the alleged criminal conduct and the effect on the license is known as conduct that is “substantially related to the practice” of medicine, pharmacy, nursing, etc.  This is an intentionally very broad scope which most states follow in seeking to discipline a licensee who, at the time of the arrest or investigation, was nowhere near a patient or anyone the licensee is charged with protecting or otherwise owes a fiduciary duty to.  This is often met with surprise and we completely sympathize with that feeling.  

Disciplinary Measures and Actions

Most state licensing agencies and authorities will conduct their own investigation of such a licensee and may even choose to file a formal disciplinary action seeking to revoke such a license, even if a licensee is acquitted or found not guilty after trial or the criminal charges are dismissed by the prosecutor.  Many clients are amazed by this reality and that is completely understandable.  The most important things to keep in mind in such a situation are to avoid speaking to law enforcement until a licensee is able to consult with, and retain, qualified legal counsel.  Just because the criminal case may be disposed of favorably, it does not mean the appropriate licensing authority will agree and stop its own independent investigation. 

Many times, a licensing agency will request an in-person interview with a licensee who has been arrested and/or convicted and this is one of the most important times to retain counsel before any responsive statements are made to the licensing investigator.  These are quite adversarial proceedings in nature, and a proactive and cautious approach is imperative if the professional license is to be retained and revocation avoided.  Many state agencies are quite aggressive in attempting to elicit harmful statements from licensees being investigated, and this further bolsters the argument for the immediate retention of qualified counsel as soon as an arrest is made, or a patient or other complaint initiated.

How Can a License Defense Attorney Help?

Many states also have suspension options in place which may allow a licensing agency to immediately suspend a licensee from his or her respective practice pending the resolution of the criminal or licensing case.  These measures are drastic, often resulting in financial and personal devastation to the licensee facing them.  It is again imperative to seek and retain license defense counsel to aggressively defend a licensee in such a situation for all of these reasons.  As the attorneys at the Law Offices of Brown & Brown can attest, these are not “do it yourself” matters and when an individual’s career is at stake, the stakes could not be higher.

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