They don't hand out professional licenses to just anyone in South Dakota. A license is something you have to earn, through education, hard work, and testing. Whether your license is in engineering, education, or medicine, you have to qualify to get it and commit to maintaining high standards. After all, a license is a sort of badge that tells your clients and customers that you have earned the public's trust.
Given just how much effort and energy you've put into getting and keeping your license, the last thing you want to hear is that your license is being threatened. The fact is, though, that it can happen to anyone. A patient, a student, a client, a supervisor, or a coworker can file a complaint against you with the state agency that issued your license. That's the whole point of having a license: public accountability. But it means that despite your best efforts, you could still find yourself defending your actions and your record and trying to hang on to your career.
If you're facing a complaint and worried about the state of your license, you need to know that Joseph D. Lento and his experienced Professional License Defense Team are here to help. They know the South Dakota licensing system. They know who to talk to, and they know the best strategies for handling official complaints. They've helped hundreds of professionals just like you deal with state licensing boards, and they can help you to do the same.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in South Dakota
As you might expect, the process for defending your license when it's threatened varies a good deal based on exactly what kind of license you hold. South Dakota has many boards overseeing many different kinds of professionals in many different industries. For instance, the medical field alone has different licensing boards for
- Physical Therapists
- Speech-language Pathologists
- Massage Therapists.
This list doesn't even take into account other fields like social work, geology, and financial professions.
Even so, most disciplinary procedures are the same no matter what type of board you might be facing. Usually, you can expect:
- A Complaint
- An Investigation
- A Consent Order or Other Action
Almost all licensing issues start with a complaint against you to the state agency that licenses you. The complaint itself might originate from
- Another practitioner
- A colleague
- An employee
- A patient or client
- An insurer
Keep in mind that your licensing board likely has strict rules that cover arrests and indictments as well. If you've been charged with a crime—federal, state, or local—you may be subject to disciplinary procedures, even if your crime seems wholly unrelated to your profession. A DUI, for instance, or a domestic violence charge, can be enough to put your license in jeopardy. In these cases, it's usually a county clerk that is actually lodging the complaint with your state licensing board.
In any case, it is your agency and its board that will actually be responsible for receiving and responding to complaints.
Complaints don't automatically lead to disciplinary action, of course. Your agency will have a set of procedures in place it must follow. First, it will conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the complaint against you is credible and actionable. Not every complaint even fits within a board's jurisdiction. If you've violated your professional code of ethics, for example, that will likely fall under the agency's jurisdiction. Fee disputes, though, or rude behavior aren't usually subject to board oversight.
If the agency does decide to act on the complaint, it will normally assign an individual or committee to conduct a more thorough investigation into the facts of the case. Most agencies alert you if you are under investigation, and they may also send you a copy of the specific complaint to use in preparing your defense.
An investigation can have many components, depending on your profession and the nature of the specific complaint. You can expect investigators to review your professional record and to interview you and others at your workplace. They may want to talk to any witnesses involved in the incident. Here again, an investigation does not necessarily mean you will be “charged” with violating your license. The investigators must file a report of their findings with the board, and the board must then decide whether or not to pursue “disciplinary action” against you.
From the moment you know there's a complaint against you, it's important to have the right legal representation. An attorney can help you respond to questions, make sure investigators consider your evidence and your witnesses, and generally protect your rights. Joseph D. Lento and his team understand licensing investigations, and they're ready to stand beside you from start to finish.
Consent Orders and Other Temporary Actions
If your licensing board decides the complaint against you has merit, it then takes disciplinary action. As part of that action, it will issue a Letter of Concern, or Consent Order. This letter could be private—an agreement simply between you and the agency as to what disciplinary action the agency is taking against you. In most cases, though, that letter is public, and designed to assure members of your community that the board has taken your case seriously and responded in an appropriate manner.
Disciplinary action can include almost anything, but most often involves sanctions such as probation, suspension, or the outright revocation of your license.
A Letter of Concern generally indicates that you accept the investigative findings, the judgment of the agency board, and the sanction against you. You're under no obligation to accept these findings, though. If you believe you are innocent of the charges, you have the right to defend yourself at a full hearing.
Here again, attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced Professional License Defense Team can advise you as to your very best course of action, depending on the specific facts of your case.
If you cannot reach an agreement with your licensing agency on a Consent Order, then the last step in the process is a hearing. This is your chance to offer up your entire case, either proving your innocence or demonstrating that the sanction the board has in mind is too severe.
Hearings work much like a trial, at least in terms of the general parameters. That is, both sides in the case are allowed to present evidence in support of their arguments. That includes witness testimony if it's relevant. You also both have the right to cross-examine each other's witnesses and question the validity and reliability of any physical evidence. Ultimately, the board itself serves as judge in the case, making a final determination as to your level of responsibility and what the most appropriate sanction should be. That determination is then published in the Consent Order.
In serious cases, where your license is on the line, most licensing boards allow you to be represented by an attorney, or at a minimum, to be accompanied by an attorney at the hearing. Even when this isn't the case, though, it's crucial you consult a lawyer as you prepare for your hearing. Nothing less than your career is at risk, and attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can work with you to come up with a solid strategy and make sure you're fully prepared when you face the board.
Just What Can Joseph D. Lento and His Team Do For You?
Here's the bottom line: your professional license is your livelihood. Lose it, and you could find yourself looking for a new career. Complaints against you—any complaints, from any person—represent a serious threat to that license. That means you don't just need legal representation. You need the best legal representation you can get, someone both knowledgeable and experienced, and someone who is prepared to represent you in all matters related to the complaint.
You need attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team. South Dakota administrative boards can be daunting—mired in bureaucracy and difficult to navigate. Only Joseph D. Lento and his team have the background to handle these complex cases. What can they do for you?
- First, they can review the complaint against you and work with you to develop a strong defense that is specially designed for your particular situation.
- They can help you prepare the case, including drafting any necessary documents, gathering evidence, and tracking down and interviewing witnesses.
- As your legal counsel, they can represent you in any meetings or proceedings, whether those be in front of an investigator, an investigative team, or the full hearing board.
- They can Draft a response to the complaint itself as a means of minimizing the damage or even getting the case closed.
- They can negotiate throughout the investigation for the board to drop the case.
- They can negotiate with the board for the least disruptive sanctions, if it comes to that.
- They can represent you in a formal hearing before the board, if necessary.
Areas We Serve in South Dakota
The Lento Law Firm represents clients across South Dakota in all types of licensure cases. That includes
- Sioux Falls Area: The most popular region of the state, located in the Southeastern corner, including the city of Sioux Falls and the towns of Vermillion, Yankton, and Madison
- Black Hills Area: The scenic Western region of the state that includes the Badlands and Mount Rushmore, as well as Rapid City, Ellsworth Airforce Base, Deadwood, Hot Springs, and Sturgis.
- Pierre Area: The central region of the state, the seat of the state government, including the towns of Pierre, Chamberlain, Gettysburg, Platte, and Wagner
Allegations and Offenses that Could Jeopardize Your License
Licensing agencies and boards are typically most concerned with professional and ethical standards. Again, most boards are unlikely to investigate general complaints about pricing. Rather, they would tend to get involved with
- Issues of Fraud: Fees aren't typically a matter for a licensing board, but fraudulent billing practices certainly are. If you've over-charged a patient, up-coded their insurance, billed for services you didn't render, or accepted kickbacks, your license could be at risk.
- Abuse or Gross Negligence: If you're a healthcare professional who has inflicted physical or emotional harm on a patient, made serious medical errors, or violated patient confidentiality, you could face serious sanctions.
- Sexual Misconduct: Sexual or romantic relationships with patients and any unwanted sexual advances towards patients or coworkers can certainly be grounds for investigation.
- Inappropriate Handling of Materials: If you mishandle prescriptions or dangerous chemicals, or try stealing them for your own use, you can face penalties.
- Inaccurate Record Keeping: In some instances, it's vital that you maintain proper records. Sloppy record-keeping, or worse, falsified records, can result in loss of license.
- Substance Abuse/ Addiction: Certain professionals, such as doctors, dentists, and pilots, can lose their licenses for alcohol or other substance abuse.
- Criminal Conviction: Many boards will also revoke licenses for professionals who are convicted of crimes. Even a DUI or a domestic abuse conviction could be enough to trigger and investigation.
What Can Joseph D. Lento and His Team Do For You?
It doesn't really matter whether you're a CPA or a kindergarten teacher, an architect or a cosmetologist. If you're licensed, you know: your license means everything. If it's being threatened for any reason, it's important you get help immediately and that you get the best help you can find.
Joseph D. Lento and his experienced Professional License Defense Team know what you're up against. They know the law, and they know the licensing system in South Dakota. They've helped hundreds of professionals defend themselves from all sorts of allegations, from student abuse to insurance fraud.