As a licensed professional in the State of Washington—whether you're a physician, nurse, dentist, accountant, plumber, architect, therapist, or any other type of licensed professional—your license is the key to your livelihood. When you consider the time and money spent on your education and field experience, obtaining that license was no easy task, either. That's why it can throw your world upside down to find out that your license is in jeopardy due to allegations of wrongdoing. A single complaint from a patient, coworker, client, or any member of the public can derail everything you've worked for and put your livelihood at risk. Fortunately, you don't have to face this crisis alone, and quick action on your part may avert the worst outcomes and save your license. Consult Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team immediately upon learning of a complaint against you.
Your Washington Professional License Defense Attorney: The Lento Law Firm
Obtaining a professional license authorizes you to work in a specific, specialized profession and identifies you as someone worthy of public trust. But it also comes with a high level of accountability. The licensing boards of Washington State hold their licensees to high standards of ethical and professional conduct, and if they believe those standards have been violated, they have broad authority to issue reprimands, impose fines, suspend you from practice, or even revoke your license with only a minimum burden of proof.
The types of violations that can cost someone their license are often common across many professions. Allegations of fraud, gross negligence, or substance abuse, for example, can jeopardize your career whether you are a realtor or a CPA. Sexual misconduct is a common allegation among professions that involve lots of personal public interaction, such as doctors, therapists, and teachers. And certain types of criminal convictions can disqualify you from holding any kind of professional license.
Because so much is at stake, promptly consulting a skilled Washington professional license defense attorney is crucial to protecting your career when you're accused of misconduct. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can employ negotiation tactics and proven defense strategies to significantly enhance your chances of a positive outcome. Reach out to the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today to discuss your situation.
Disciplinary Action Procedures for Licensed Professionals in Washington State
Washington's regulatory licensing boards oversee a diverse array of licensed professions and specialties, ranging from physicians and nurses to audiologists, counselors, plumbers, and cosmetologists. Although each board has specific methods for managing disciplinary proceedings, the overall process is fairly similar for all professions, following a set of stages similar to the following.
Typically, a disciplinary action begins when someone files a formal complaint with your licensing board. While any member of the public can submit a complaint, the complainant is usually a customer, client, patient, or business associate (e.g., healthcare professionals often receive complaints from patients, colleagues, fellow practitioners, insurance providers, or medical facilities).
Once a complaint is filed, your licensing board will appoint an investigative team to look into the complaint--first, to determine if it is within their authority to pursue it, and second, to look for evidence to corroborate the complaint. The investigative process may include gathering evidence, interviewing the complainant and witnesses, reviewing relevant documentation, etc. You may also be asked to interview with the investigators or provide a written response. Attorney Lento and his License Defense Team can advise you on the best way to respond to the complaint, and in some cases they may be able to interpose early in the process to negotiate a resolution that ends the investigation.
Once the background information and evidence have been collected, an individual or team from the board will conduct a review to see whether there is enough evidence to pursue formal action against you. If they deem the evidence insufficient, they may close the case at this point. Otherwise, it may move forward.
If the investigation uncovers substantial evidence to substantiate the complaint, the board may propose a consent order, which serves as a settlement agreement between you and the state. A consent order is effectively an admission of guilt and demonstrates your willingness to accept the board's disciplinary actions instead of going through a formal hearing. This option may not always be ideal, but if disciplinary action is unavoidable due to overwhelming evidence, a competent attorney can often negotiate more favorable terms, such as retaining your license or outlining a path to reinstatement.
Formal Hearing and Decision
If a consent order is not signed or proposed, the board will file a formal complaint, and you will be summoned to a formal hearing where you must show cause why you should be permitted to keep your license. You can choose to have an attorney represent you during this phase, with both parties presenting evidence and providing testimony for evaluation. After the hearing, the board will make a final decision regarding your guilt or innocence and what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken against you.
The Importance of a License Defense Attorney
Some licensed professionals underestimate the severity of a license investigation, mistakenly believing that simply "clarifying their position" to the board will result in the complaint's dismissal. In reality, this is rarely the case, and a misstep during any disciplinary stage can have grave consequences. You are not granted the presumption of innocence, and if the board is more than 50 percent convinced of your misconduct, they have the authority to impose penalties, potentially even revoking your license to practice. In short, it is a serious matter, and you enter the process at a disadvantage.
Engaging the services of an experienced Washington license defense attorney can help level the playing field and offer a viable chance to protect your license. Your attorney can analyze the complaint, assist you in drafting your response, collect evidence for your defense, negotiate with the board for reduced penalties or dismissal of the complaint, and provide guidance throughout the hearing process to give you the best chance for success. Ultimately, having a skilled license defense lawyer could mean the difference between retaining or losing your license.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have a distinguished track record of success, achieving favorable outcomes for many clients facing allegations of misconduct. The Lento Law Firm can:
- Evaluate the charges against you and gather compelling evidence and testimonies to exonerate you.
- Draft a powerful, persuasive written response that may lead to the early dismissal of the complaint.
- Represent you legally in all interactions with the board and/or Administrative Law Judge.
- Skillfully negotiate with the licensing board to either dismiss the complaint or agree on more lenient penalties.
- Defend you in a formal hearing, if necessary.
Areas We Serve in Washington
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team proudly represents a wide range of licensed professionals, including doctors, teachers, contractors, therapists, and real estate agents, throughout the State of Washington. Most of our clients understandably work and live in some of Washington's more populous areas, but bear in mind we can help individuals in cities and towns across the state.
The Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue metropolitan area represents the largest population hub in the state, including the first and third largest cities in Washington (Seattle and Tacoma, respectively) and hosting a combined population of more than four million. Seattle is known for its picturesque landscape, surrounded by lush evergreen forests and breathtaking waterways. The city boasts a vibrant tech industry, a rich coffee culture, and iconic landmarks such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. Tacoma is a growing city with an impressive array of cultural attractions, including the Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Noted healthcare systems in the area include Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and UW Medicine.
Located in eastern Washington, Spokane is the second-largest city in the state with approximately 230,000 residents. The city's economy relies heavily on health care, higher education, and tourism. The city has a diverse landscape ranging from the Palouse grasslands in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west and is also known for its vibrant arts and entertainment scene. Major healthcare systems in the area include Providence and MultiCare Health System.
The Vancouver metropolitan area straddles the Oregon/Washington border, with roughly 410,000 people living within Clark County. Situated along the Columbia River, this area offers a relaxed lifestyle with an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy. Vancouver is the fourth-largest city in Washington and is well known for its Columbia River waterfront. It is also home to healthcare systems that include PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.
Types of Allegations that Could Jeopardize Your Professional License in Washington
The regulatory licensing agencies in Washington State uphold stringent ethical and professional criteria for their licensed professionals. Consequently, most allegations that could end in license forfeiture are related to breaching these guidelines or otherwise compromising public trust. Some commonly encountered accusations include the following.
Sexual Misconduct and Unethical Relationships
For healthcare professionals especially, engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with patients is deemed highly unethical and can result in loss of license. Across the board, alleged behaviors like unsolicited sexual advances, distasteful comments, harassment, or assault may not only tarnish your reputation but also jeopardize your license.
Dishonest activities, such as exaggerating insurance claims, billing for services not provided, manipulating patient or customer records, misrepresenting your credentials, or accepting kickbacks for referrals, can all result in license suspension or revocation.
Gross Negligence and/or Mistreatment of Patients/Clients
Physical, verbal, or emotional abuse towards patients or clients can lead to the revocation of your license. Other forms of neglect, like failing to deliver essential care, improper prescription of medications, misdiagnosing conditions, violating confidentiality, conducting unnecessary procedures, or endangering patients, can also contribute to license forfeiture.
Improper Management of Medications
In the medical professions, specifically, state and federal legislation tightly control the distribution of controlled substances to protect patients from potential harm. Actions such as prescribing without a valid medical purpose, administering drugs without a prescription, disorganized drug inventory, mismanaging controlled substances, diverting medications for personal consumption, or suspiciously prescribing opioids, can result in license suspension or revocation.
Inaccuracies or Neglect in Record-Keeping
Precise record-keeping is vital in every profession, with public safety depending on it in certain cases, such as the medical field. Washington regulatory boards take record-keeping violations seriously, and neglect in maintaining accurate records or deliberately modifying documents may lead to license revocation.
Licensed professionals who abuse drugs or alcohol could endanger public safety and raise questions about their competence in their respective professions. Those accused of working while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs may also find their licenses in jeopardy.
Certain criminal convictions can render you ineligible for a professional license, and crimes of moral turpitude, like fraud, theft, sexual assault, or drug-related offenses, may result in license revocation. Moreover, failing to report a conviction to the licensing board can lead to disciplinary action even if the crime itself does not disqualify you from obtaining a professional license.
Defending Professional Licenses for Washington Licensed Professionals
If you are a licensed professional in Washington confronted with misconduct allegations, the Lento Law Firm is prepared to help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have successfully represented numerous professionals in disciplinary cases in Washington and nationwide. They can assist various types of licensed professionals facing licensure challenges, including:
- physician assistants
- mental health professionals
- physical therapists
- real estate agents
- K-12 educators
- insurance agents
- other licensed professionals
Do not allow allegations of professional misconduct to jeopardize your career; protect your future by engaging a proficient Washington license defense attorney at the earliest indication of trouble. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today, or fill out this contact form to schedule a consultation.