Hawaii CPA Professional License Defense

There's a lot to be said about life as a professional. You're well-educated. You're respected. You make good money. You work in a nice office. The process you went through to get here, though, wasn't easy. There were the years of school, then studying for the CPA exam, all the paperwork involved in getting your license, all the hassle of renewing your license every other year, and the continuing education hours.

So, if your license is being threatened by a complaint or a misconduct charge, it's serious business. Obviously, you can't operate as a CPA in Hawaii if your license should be revoked. And even a reprimand could hurt your business. Keep in mind that Hawaii maintains a publicly searchable database of complaints against licensed professionals.

We get it. As attorneys, we have to deal with licensing issues too. That's one reason the Lento Law Firm is so dedicated to helping licensed professionals like CPAs defend themselves. In fact, our Professional License Defense Team is solely focused on making sure professionals get fair treatment and the best possible resolutions to their cases. We know the law, and we know how the Hawaii licensing system operates. Most importantly, though, we're on your side and ready to fight to make sure you get justice.

We're also nearby. Whether you work in Honolulu, Lanai City, Kii Landing, or Pahoa, we can represent you in all CPA licensing matters.

To find out more, call 888-535-3686. Or, take a little time now to fill out our online questionnaire and tell us about your case.

Just What Can Put Your CPA License at Risk?

CPAs in Hawaii are governed directly by the Hawaii Board of Public Accountancy. That Board is under the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). As you no doubt know, though, you are ultimately subject to Hawaii state law under the Public Accountancy Act. Among the many offenses for which you can be charged, the most common include

  • Deception with regard to obtaining your license
  • Dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or "gross negligence" with regard to your work as an account or filing your own taxes
  • Performance of any fraudulent act
  • Violation of any rule adopted by the Board
  • Violation of any professional conduct standards established by the Board.
  • Conviction for any crime involving dishonesty or fraud
  • Conduct that reflects negatively on your “fitness” to engage in accountancy

You may notice that many of these offenses are open-ended. A matter of "fitness," for instance, could include anything from tax fraud to sexual harassment. That gives the Board wide latitude when it comes to charging you.

You can be certain, though, that no matter what specific charges you may be facing, the Lento Law Firm is fully prepared to defend you. Over the years, we've represented hundreds of professional clients in all types of licensing cases. We'll help you navigate the Hawaii system and make sure you're treated fairly.

The Disciplinary Process for CPAs in Hawaii

The rules you're expected to follow as a CPA are a matter of Hawaii law. The procedures used to investigate and adjudicate complaints are also included (Title 8, Chapter 91, which deals with “Administrative Procedures” in relation to “Public Proceedings and Records”). In general outline, those procedures are reasonably straightforward. There are five phases to the disciplinary process.

  • Cases typically begin when someone lodges a complaint against you, either with the DCCA or the Board of Public Accountancy.
  • The DCCA then undertakes some form of investigation into the matter.
  • Should the investigation uncover grounds for the complaint, the DCCA then undertakes a formal hearing.
  • If you are found responsible, the Board then assigns an appropriate sanction.
  • Finally, you have the right to appeal the hearing outcome in Hawaii district court

While this outline may be straightforward, each step in the process can be complicated.


Part of the problem of maintaining a professional license is that complaints can come from virtually anywhere. Your accuser could be

  • A client or customer
  • A colleague
  • A supervisor
  • An employee
  • A professional society like the Hawaii Society of CPAs (HSCPA)
  • Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI or the DEA
  • Other government agencies like the SEC and the IRS

The Board itself can accuse you of misconduct as well. Hawaii maintains an active peer review process for CPAs, and it is not unusual for this process to produce complaints.

You may feel like a complaint isn't serious enough to warrant hiring legal representation. Most people think lawyers are something you need only if you're going to trial. In reality, you need to contact the Lento Law Firm the moment you think there might be a problem. You can never tell whether a complaint—no matter how small—can suddenly threaten your license. In addition, your Lento Law Firm attorney may be able to intervene, even at this early stage in the case, to persuade the DCCA that the case lacks merit or to negotiate directly with the Complainant so the case doesn't go any further.


Hawaii administrative procedures do not deal directly with the investigative process. However, you can expect the DCCA to perform some type of investigation before formally charging you with misconduct. Not all complaints, for instance, warrant DCCA intervention. Not all are under the department's jurisdiction, and not all involve actionable violations. An investigation determines whether or not a case needs to proceed.

At a minimum, you should expect

  • The DCCA should provide you with notice of the complaint. This notice should include details of the allegation, details which can help you begin preparing your defense. In addition, it should apprise you of your due process rights, such as the right to a presumption of innocence.
  • The DCCA should also offer you the opportunity to respond to the complaint, either in writing or in person. This is your first chance to give your side of the story, and it is important you represent yourself as well as you possibly can.
  • In addition to talking with you, investigators meet with the Complainant (your accuser) and any other relevant witnesses to the event.
  • Investigators collect any physical evidence with a bearing on the case.

One of your most important due process rights is the right to legal representation. By this point, you should definitely have contacted the Lento Law Firm. In many ways, the investigation is the most crucial part of your case. It determines whether your case is dismissed or it proceeds to a formal hearing. Your Lento Law Firm attorney can help guide you through the entire process. Among their responsibilities, they'll

  • Work with you to develop your defense strategy
  • Help you draft your response to the charges
  • Accompany you to any depositions or other investigative meetings
  • Help you answer investigative questions
  • Interview witnesses on your behalf
  • Gather and submit evidence in support of your case
  • Monitor the progress of the investigation
  • Conduct negotiations with all parties on your behalf

It's your attorney's job during the investigation to protect your rights and to make sure you don't make any missteps that could cost you later.


In most cases, investigators submit a written report of their findings. The Board then considers this report and decides whether to drop the case or to proceed to a hearing. If they believe you are guilty of an offense, they may offer a summary resolution. Basically, you have the option to admit your guilt and accept a proposed punishment. You always have the right, though, to request a hearing.

A hearing is your best opportunity to make the full case for your innocence or to present mitigating factors that might explain your actions. Here's how the process usually unfolds.

  • Throughout the investigation, you get to review all evidence. That means from the moment you receive notice of the complaint, you and your Lento Law Firm attorney will begin building your defense.
  • The DCCA has the authority to compel witnesses to testify. You have the right to request witnesses who will help your case.
  • Your Lento Law Firm will file pre-hearing motions on your behalf and respond to motions from the other side. The purpose of these is to determine how the hearing will proceed.
  • Your Lento Law Firm attorney is your representative at the hearing. They handle all aspects of the case for you. For example, they'll make opening and closing statements on your behalf.
  • Your attorney will also submit evidence and raise questions about the prosecution's evidence. They'll call witnesses, and they'll cross-examine any witnesses against you.
  • Once both have made their case, the Board then decides whether or not to hold you responsible for an offense. If you are found responsible, it also determines appropriate sanctions.


Hawaii state law gives the Board of Accountancy eight options when it comes to sanctions.

  • License revocation
  • License suspension
  • License denial
  • Reprimand, censure, or limits on the scope of your CPA practice
  • Administrative fines not to exceed $5,000 per offense
  • Probation
  • Required peer review
  • Required continuing education hours


Neither the Board nor the DCCA conducts an appeals process as such. However, Hawaii state law gives you one final and important right: the right to judicial review of your case. Such a review takes place in a circuit court in Hawaii without a jury. You must file within thirty days of the Board's decision.

Ordinarily, the court only reviews the record of the hearing before rendering its decision. However, if new evidence has arisen with a bearing on the outcome, you are allowed to present this evidence.

Finally, should the circuit court rule against you, you may also appeal this finding to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Here again, you can count on your Lento Law Firm attorney to be familiar with all judicial rules and procedures and to use these rules and procedures to your best advantage.

What Can the Lento Law Firm Do for You?

It's likely clear at this point why you need a Lento Law Firm attorney on your side. For the sake of review, though, we'll mention three important reasons.

  • Everything about your career is at stake in a license defense. Obviously, if the Board should revoke your license, you can't practice as a CPA in the state of Hawaii. You won't be able to practice elsewhere either since most states have laws that prevent you from obtaining a license if you've been disciplined in another state. Even if you're just given a reprimand, though, that can have a serious effect on the success of your business. It can be difficult to secure a position with a firm and difficult to attract clients once you have a disciplinary record.
  • License defenses are enormously complex. Complaints carry the weight of Hawaii law. You cannot simply explain why you are innocent. You need to understand what the law means, and you need to be able to interpret it in light of the specific allegations against you. Likewise, the judicial procedures in these cases are set by Hawaii law. A successful defense requires the ability to navigate these procedures.
  • Neither the Board of Accountancy nor the DCCA is on your side in these cases. You may be used to thinking of these agencies as advocates, and in most circumstances, they are. They lobby the Hawaii state legislature for appropriate laws. They provide educational opportunities that can help you advance your career. They provide state and national news on the industry. They maintain the licensing and renewal systems. Once you've been accused of misconduct, though, they're responsible for deciding whether or not you are guilty. You need someone else to manage your defense, someone who is looking out for your interests. You need someone from the Lento Law Firm.

The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team was founded to help professionals get the fair treatment they deserve and to defend their licenses in all kinds of situations. We're focused on professional licensing law and have represented hundreds of clients over the last several years. We also understand the Hawaii state licensing system. As a result, we can help CPAs working anywhere across the state, including

  • Honolulu
  • Pearl City
  • Hilo
  • Waipahu
  • Kailua
  • Kaneohe
  • Kahului
  • Mililaini Town
  • Ewa Gentry
  • Kihei
  • Kapolei
  • Mililani Mauke
  • Makakilo
  • Kailua
  • Wahiawa

To find out more about exactly what the Lento Law Firm can do for you, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or use our online form.


Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are committed to answering your questions about Physician License Defense, Nursing License Defense, Pharmacist License Defense, Psychologist and Psychiatrist License Defense, Dental License Defense, Chiropractic License Defense, Real Estate License Defense, Professional Counseling License Defense, and Other Professional Licenses law issues nationwide.
The Lento Law Firm will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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