As a licensed professional land surveyor, you've worked hard to get where you are today. Between the years of schooling, more years of field experience, and grueling exams, obtaining your professional license was no small feat. Today, your career basically hinges on that license—it's the key to your livelihood. So, when allegations of professional misconduct put your license in question, it can be highly disruptive and fill you with uncertainty. What steps can you take to safeguard your career?
Whether the accusations or false or whether they result from a simple misstep or misunderstanding, you don't want to face your state licensing board without professional legal help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many licensed professionals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York whose licenses have been threatened. If you're a land surveyor accused of wrongdoing, the following questions and answers should give you context and help you be informed about your next steps.
Who Decides on Disciplinary Action When My Land Surveyor License Is Threatened?
Your state licensing board, the same board that issued your license, is the board that will decide the fate of your career if someone files a complaint against your license. If you're licensed in New Jersey, you'll be dealing with the State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. If in Pennsylvania, it's the State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists. If your license is in New York, you'll answer to the Office of the Professions, Department of Professional Engineering and Land Surveying.
What Offenses Could Cause Me To Lose My Land Surveyor License?
Most issues that could result in disciplinary action against your license involve some violation of the state's established standards of professional conduct or a breach of public trust that casts in doubt your ability to perform your job reliably. Examples may include, but are not limited to:
- Gross negligence or incompetence. Examples include making critical errors in surveys, failing to communicate critical information to clients, or compromising public safety in any way.
- Fraudulent or false advertising--e.g., making promises you don't deliver on, advertising services you don't provide (or are not qualified to provide), etc.
- Performing services outside the scope of your license.
- Allowing unlicensed employees to perform services that only a licensed land surveyor should perform.
- Failing to comply with federal, state, and/or local safety standards and ordinances.
If I'm Accused of Misconduct, What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Like?
Most disciplinary proceedings are initiated by a formal complaint made to the state licensing board alleging some type of wrongdoing. Each licensing board establishes its own procedure for handling discipline, but in most cases, the process includes the following steps:
- Investigation. The board conducts an inquiry to determine if there is enough evidence to back up the complaint. You may be asked to file a response in writing (or informally in person before the board). The board may also subpoena documents and interview witnesses.
- Consent decree. If the board finds substantive evidence to support the complaint, it may offer to let you sign a consent decree in lieu of a formal hearing. This is a legally binding agreement in which you acknowledge wrongdoing and voluntarily submit to the board's disciplinary actions.
- Formal hearing. If there is no consent decree, the next step is to call a formal hearing, which may be conducted in front of the board directly or before an Administrative Law Judge. You're permitted and encouraged to have an attorney represent you at this hearing and present your side.
- Board determination. The board will determine if your case merits disciplinary action. This could mean that your license as a land surveyor may be revoked.
Because this is not a trial, the board has a fairly low burden of proof and doesn't have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For this reason alone, your best hope of saving your license is to hire an experienced professional license defense attorney to represent your interests and make sure your rights are protected throughout the disciplinary process. The involvement of an attorney can make the difference between keeping your license and losing it.
Are There Alternative Forms of Discipline That Allow Me To Keep My Land Surveyor's License?
Yes. If the board can be convinced that your offense doesn't warrant losing your license, they may impose other penalties such as fines, conditional suspension, restrictions on the scope of your license, or a simple formal reprimand. Bear in mind, however, that even minor penalties could negatively affect your career because these disciplinary actions become a matter of public record. Prospective clients and employers can easily check out your license and find out if you've been disciplined in the past.
What Is the Benefit of Having an Attorney Represent Me When My Land Surveyor License Is in Jeopardy?
An experienced license defense attorney can dramatically increase your chances of keeping your land surveyor license intact. A good attorney can make sure you understand the complaint against you and help prepare a strong response to the complaint. The attorney can also gather evidence and witnesses on your behalf, represent you in all interactions with the board, and negotiate at multiple points for reduced penalties or to have the complaint dismissed entirely.
Regardless of whether the complaint against you is valid, or even if the offense is minor, it's unwise to face the licensing board alone. Even a seemingly minor complaint with minimal evidence could result in serious damage to your career as a professional land surveyor. Joseph D. Lento is a skilled attorney with a track record of success in helping licensed professionals like you who are facing possible disciplinary action. Take steps to protect your license and your livelihood. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your case and your options.