Professional licensing and employment issues can arise for many reasons--even issues that aren't your fault, and even in situations where you're actually a victim. A New York City nurse recently learned this firsthand when false accusations of domestic violence against her threatened her job and made her temporarily unemployable.
According to reports, Tricia Lara, a registered nurse, was attacked in her own home last June by a cousin who forced her way in and acted aggressively. After Lara attempted to defend herself, the cousin called 911 to accuse her of assault. Although Lara had video proof that the cousin was the aggressor via a surveillance Ring Camera, she says the police responding to the disturbance refused to look at it. After filing her own complaint against her cousin with the local precinct, she followed up several days later and found herself in handcuffs, accused of assault. It wasn't until months later that prosecutors finally saw the video, and her case was finally dismissed last month. Lara is now filing a lawsuit against the NYPD for their handling of the case.
When False Accusations Put Your Career at Risk
The big question we can ask from this story is to what extent being falsely and unfairly accused can impact your career as a licensed professional.
One key takeaway from the story is the way the pending charges against Lara negatively affected her career. During the months following the attack, even though the video footage clearly showed that she was the victim, rather than the perpetrator—and although the police had notably failed to follow correct procedure on several occasions—Lara says the accusations against her still put the presumption of guilt on her, particularly when it came to her career. For months, the pending charges against her prevented her from getting work and threatened her position as a school nurse with the agency that had hired her. Although the news reports don't specify whether the New York State Office of the Professions actually called her license into question during this time, it's established fact that state licensing boards have the right to investigate allegations of criminal activity. For registered nurses whose entire career is based on public trust, an accusation of assault has the potential to be career-ending. (Nurses, like doctors, are expected to "do no harm," so the idea that a nurse could attempt to harm another person can severely damage their credibility.)
What to Do If Your License Is Endangered by False Accusations
While it may seem unfair that the victim of violence could actually be the one whose career is jeopardized, it's important to understand that state licensing boards don't have to go by the "presumption of innocence" standard that applies when you're on trial for a crime. Nor do licensing boards have to prove your guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." In most cases, they rely on the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, meaning they can find you guilty of wrongdoing if the evidence suggests it's more likely than not that you are. Unfortunately, that means circumstantial evidence (such as being wrongfully arrested) can still work against you and make you look guilty to a licensing board.
That's why, if you are accused of something that could endanger your professional license, you need to consult an experienced license defense attorney right away. A good attorney can help level the playing field and ensure your rights are protected while awaiting the truth to come out. If you're facing unfair allegations against your license in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his License Defense Team can help. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.