If you work as a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, an engineer, or a cosmetologist, you know: your license is your most valuable possession. Without your license, you can't attract customers, patients, or clients. You can't let them know that you're educated or that you're trustworthy. More importantly, you can't practice your profession without breaking the law, since the state of Alaska demands you to be licensed first.
You probably know this as well: it only takes one complaint to put your license in jeopardy. A single customer, supervisor, or co-worker who reports you to your Alaskan licensing board can be enough to instigate a lengthy investigation, require you to defend yourself at a hearing, and raise the possibility of serious sanctions. Your state agency has the power to put you on probation, suspend you from working, or even revoke your license altogether.
The risks are far too great to try handling this situation on your own. Procedures can be complex, and you can't count on your licensing board to take your side. You need the best legal representation you can find. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team know the law. They also know how the licensing system in Alaska works. Most importantly, they're on your side. They'll do whatever they can to protect your license and keep your career secure.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in Alaska
Every industry in Alaska has its own licensing board, including social workers, geologists, attorneys, teachers, and engineers. In fact, some fields have multiple boards. For example, there are boards for every type of healthcare professional.
- Physical Therapists
- Speech-language Pathologists
- Massage Therapists
Each of these boards has its own set of rules and procedures for investigating and adjudicating professional and ethical violations. However, for the most part, they all follow a basic four-part process.
- Someone lodges a complaint against you
- The board undertakes an investigation
- You are issued a Letter of Concern, or Consent Order
- You're given the chance to defend yourself at a hearing
One thing that makes licensure defenses so difficult is that almost anyone can lodge a complaint against you with your state agency.
- A patient or client
- A colleague
- Another practitioner
- An employee
- An insurer
In fact, your own agency can accuse you of a violation. Most conduct periodic reviews and inspections, and if you aren't meeting professional standards, you can find yourself facing an investigation.
In addition, your board may have rules about ethical and professional conduct that govern your behavior outside of work. An indictment or arrest for a DUI or domestic violence could also be enough to trigger an investigation, even if they have nothing to do with your profession. In these cases, the complaint usually originates with a county clerk who reports your name to your agency.
In any case, it is your agency's job to receive the complaint and respond to them in one form or another.
The first thing a licensing agency will typically do when it receives a complaint is to conduct a preliminary investigation to see if the complaint warrants an in-depth investigation. Basically, this means someone will consider whether the complaint is credible and whether it's actionable. Keep in mind that not every dispute is under your agency's jurisdiction. Rude behavior or fee disputes may not be enough to trigger a full investigation.
A full investigation goes deeper into the case in an effort to uncover the facts. Typically, your agency will provide you with a copy of the official complaint and keep you apprised of any evidence it uncovers. This information allows you to begin building an active defense as the investigation proceeds.
You can expect investigators will want to interview you about your side of the story. In addition, though, they'll likely talk to your colleagues and supervisors as well as anyone else who might have been involved in events. There may also be physical evidence to collect and sift through.
A thorough investigation into a complex matter can take several months to complete. Once it's done, investigators submit a report of their findings to the agency. The agency then examines this report and makes decisions about whether or not a violation has occurred and, if so, what type of penalty you should face.
Consent Orders and Other Temporary Actions
If your licensing board decides you are guilty of a violation, it has the authority to assign sanctions. These might include virtually anything, but the most common sanctions are probation, suspension, or full revocation of your license.
The official findings, as well as the sanction, are typically reported in what's known as a Letter of Concern, or Consent Order. This letter is sometimes private, a document primarily for your own records. However, more often, it is public, and meant to assure other members of your profession and potential clients that the licensing board takes professional and ethical violations seriously.
It is important to note, though, that consent orders aren't issued until you have a chance to contest the board's decisions. If you disagree with the findings or you feel the sanction is more severe than the violation deserves, you have the right to defend yourself at a formal hearing.
Sometimes a hearing is the best option; in other cases, it makes more sense to accept responsibility and the punishment that goes with it. That's not always an easy decision to make. This is yet another way in which Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team can be invaluable. They are highly experienced in handling licensing cases and can offer useful advice on how you should proceed.
Any time you are challenging the board's decisions, you have the right to defend yourself at a hearing. This offers you an opportunity to present your side of the case, through evidence and witness testimony. To ensure that justice is served, your agency will likely have a number of due process protections in place as well. Among these, you should be entitled to legal representation; you'll likely be considered innocent until proven responsible for a violation; and you have the right to cross-examine any witnesses against you.
In fact, in their general outline hearing resemble court trials. However, there are some significant differences. Your hearing, for instance, probably won't have strict rules of evidence. In addition, decisions may not be based on the legal principle "beyond a reasonable doubt." Instead, your board will probably use a far less rigid principle known as "preponderance of the evidence." According to this standard, they'll find you guilty if they are more than fifty percent convinced you committed a violation.
Should the board find you guilty, it will then issue the consent order.
Again, in most cases, you have the right to be accompanied at all investigative meetings and hearing procedures by an attorney of your choice. If, for some reason, your board doesn't allow this, it's still vitally important that you consult with Joseph D. Lento before your hearing. They can help you develop a strategy, work with you to collect evidence, and even give you practice in examining and cross-examining witnesses. With their knowledge and background, Joseph D. Lento and his team give you the very best chance of successfully defending yourself and holding on to your license.
Just What Can Joseph D. Lento and His Team Do For You?
It bears repeating: your license is your livelihood. Without it, you're faced with the prospect of beginning a brand new career. That is never easy, but it can be especially hard if you've been working in your profession for a number of years. The loss of your license means giving up all you've worked for up to that point.
Meanwhile, responding to a complaint is no simple matter. Alaskan licensing boards frequently employ archaic rules and procedures, and just navigating the bureaucracy can be tricky.
In short, if you're facing a complaint, you simply can't afford to try representing yourself. You need an attorney, and you need the most qualified attorney you can find.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team are both knowledgeable and experienced. What can they do for you?
- They can review the complaint against you, make sure you understand the charges, look for holes in the case, and help you develop a strong defense strategy.
- They can help you with all aspects of preparing your case, including tracking down evidence, interviewing witnesses, and drafting necessary documents.
- They can serve as your official legal counsel at any investigative meetings, advising you on how to answer questions and ensuring investigators don't violate your due process rights.
- They can draft a response to the complaint itself. A response can sometimes help to minimize the complaint's damage. In fact, in the right circumstances, it can even resolve the case before it begins.
- They can pressure the board to simply close the case at every step along the way.
- If you are ultimately found responsible for a violation, they can negotiate with the board for the minimum sanction.
- They can represent you at the hearing, making arguments on your behalf, presenting evidence, and cross-examining any witnesses.
Areas We Serve in Alaska
The Lento Law Firm works with clients in all of the major cities in Alaska and their surrounding areas. This includes
- Anchorage: By far, Alaska's largest city, with over 40 percent of the state's population.
- Juneau: Alaska's capital, a major cruise destination, and a cultural center for Alaska's native tribes.
- Fairbanks: the second largest city in Alaska, located in the heart of the state.
- Ketchikan: Home to some of the country's most stunning scenery, including a network of waterways that wind through the city.
Allegations and Offenses that Could Jeopardize Your License
Just what sorts of complaints and offenses can jeopardize your license? Here's a partial list of what you need to worry about.
- Fraud: Simple fee disputes won't normally trigger a board investigation. Fraud, on the other hand, always will. Up-coding a patient's condition for insurance purposes or filing a claim for services you didn't actually provide can certainly lose you your license.
- Abuse or Gross Negligence: Likewise, you probably don't need to worry about accidents and honest mistakes. If you've abused a patient, though, or someone's been hurt because you failed to do your job properly, you're likely facing an investigation.
- Sexual Misconduct: Unwanted sexual advances will always get you in trouble with your licensing board. In fact, a consensual relationship with a patient or client can be grounds for license revocation.
- Inappropriate Handling of Materials: Whether you're a doctor who's mishandling pills or a contractor who's mishandling dangerous chemicals, if you aren't following guidelines for the materials you use, you could be facing a complaint or a citation.
- Inaccurate Record Keeping: Most licensing boards also expect you to run your business appropriately, and that means keeping accurate records.
- Substance Abuse/ Addiction: If you're a doctor, a pilot, or an attorney, substance abuse can be enough to trigger an investigation.
- Criminal Conviction: In addition, many professional organizations and licensing boards hold you responsible for criminal convictions, even if these have nothing to do with your career. If you're a physician, for instance, a DUI could certainly be enough to put your license in jeopardy.
What Can Joseph D. Lento and His Team Do For You?
Maybe you're dealing with an unfair complaint. Maybe you did make a mistake, but your licensing board is being far too aggressive and trying to impose a penalty that your mistake just doesn't deserve. Maybe you just want to make sure your professional agency treats you fairly while you're being investigated. Whatever your situation, the Lento Law Firm can help.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced Professional License Defense Team understand your situation. They've helped hundreds of other professionals through similar situations. They've studied it. They keep up with the most recent changes and how precedents continue to grow and evolve. They also know the licensing system in Alaska. They know who to talk to and what to say to get you the very best possible resolution to your case. You can trust the Lento Law Firm to get you the justice you deserve.