The Necessity and Value of a Professional License
Professionals have enormous interests in protecting and preserving their professional licenses. Doctors, dentists, nurses, chiropractors, therapists, pharmacists, psychologists, and counselors in the healthcare field, and accountants, architects, social workers, and professionals in other fields, must all have a professional license to have a job and career in the field. A job as a professional can have great economic, social, and personal value. Doctors and other highly qualified professionals can make a lot of money. They can also do a lot of good and draw a lot of satisfaction from it. Professionals also pour a lot into gaining their professional education and license, and maintaining their license over the years. Professionals know to guard their license as if their professional life depended on it. It does.
Professional License Risks
No professional invests years in professional education and licensure, planning to promptly lose the license. Professional license risks are not generally planned. Those risks instead tend to appear suddenly, unexpectedly. Some license threats fall into the should have known category. The professional who enters a sexual relationship with a current patient or client should know of the potential for charges that the professional abused the professional relationship. The professional who drinks excessively or abuses illegal drugs should know of the potential for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, or drug possession convictions. And the professional who secretly but intentionally pads invoices with false charges should know of the potential for discovery, civil liability, and fraud prosecution.
Other license risks, though, can involve errors in professional systems or judgment that don't seem so predictable and preventable. They just happen. The surgeon may cause a fatality or serious injury with one small slip. A psychologist or counselor may inadvertently disclose a confidence with one mistaken computer click. Or a social worker may encounter a mentally and emotionally unstable client with a distrustful family who believes the client's exaggerations and fabrications about the social worker's alleged embezzlement, abuse, or neglect of duty. Professionals face multiple license risks, some of them plainly avoidable, others not so. To preserve their license, job, career, and reputation, professionals must remain conscious and cautious about license risks.
Professional Licensing Standards
Professionals work under professional standards with which they must ordinarily comply to maintain their professional license. The competent performance of other qualified professionals, otherwise known as a customary practice, may establish those standards. The professional who does something harmful to a client, patient, or the public that other professionals do not do violates professional standards. Professional conduct codes also establish professional standards. The profession may have published professionalism rules, ethical standards, or conduct rules the violation of which subjects the professional to license discipline. Those rules can address professional performance, relationships, finances and billing, mental and physical health, and character. Professionals must know and meet professional standards.
Professional License Discipline Proceedings
The professional who violates professional codes and standards runs the risk of facing a license discipline proceeding. Professions have agencies, commissions, boards, or other bodies that receive and investigate complaints of professional misconduct. Professions must maintain the public's trust if the profession is to serve its public role. Public trust benefits each individual professional within the profession. Public trust depends, though, on keeping incompetent, dishonest, and dangerous persons out of the profession. Professions police themselves. They do so through their licensing bodies. The professional whose conduct triggers complaints may face a licensing proceeding. The licensing body reviews and investigates complaints to determine whether to demand that the professional answer the complaint, if necessary, in a formal trial-like hearing. A misconduct finding can result in discipline from a reprimand to license suspension, restitution, and license revocation.
State Licensing Board Jurisdiction
Licensing bodies are typically state rather than national entities. State boards, commissions, or other bodies ordinarily license professionals, investigate complaints, and mete out discipline, not national boards or bodies. Because professionals usually practice only or primarily within the state of their licensure, their alleged misconduct usually arises from within that licensing state. For instance, a New York physician would typically face complaints from New York patients about conduct occurring in New York. In those cases, the jurisdiction, meaning the power or permissible reach, of the state licensing board is not a question. State licensing boards clearly have the power to regulate professional conduct within the state. State codes and statutes give them that power.
Licensing Board Jurisdiction over Out-of-State Misconduct
Sometimes, though, the professional's alleged misconduct occurs out of state, in a state where the professional has no license. For example, a New Jersey pharmacist may get a drug-possession charge on a Florida vacation. If the charge had instead happened in New Jersey, that state's licensing board would clearly have had jurisdiction to commence a license discipline proceeding against the pharmacist's New Jersey license. Yet because the alleged misconduct occurred in Florida, the New Jersey board would first have to confirm its authority to discipline in New Jersey, based on conduct occurring in Florida. Jurisdiction rules of professional licensing bodies can be complex. State licensing boards generally have the authority to consider out-of-state misconduct when it implicates the professional's character to perform professionally within the state. But if you face such a question, then you should have expert representation from professional license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. You may have a jurisdictional defense to your license discipline proceeding based on out-of-state misconduct.
Out-of-State Licensing Board Interests
The professional who faces home-state licensing board discipline for out-of-state trouble may wonder whether the foreign-state licensing board or another body may also take action. Would the licensing board of the foreign state where the misconduct occurred also take action against the professional, even if the professional wasn't licensed in that state? The answer is generally no. State licensing boards typically take action only against professionals who hold a license in that state. Yet, the foreign state may have other laws, rules, and bodies that would investigate and punish for the misconduct, even though the professional did not hold a license in that foreign state. If, for instance, the misconduct involved professional practice without a license in that foreign state, then the foreign state may have a law or rule, and start a proceeding to punish the professional. That foreign state punishment could then become grounds for the home-state licensing board to discipline the professional, suspending or revoking the license. In short, a professional can, in some circumstances, face out-of-state professional consequences for out-of-state trouble.
Disclosing Out-of-State Misconduct
Professionals who face out-of-state misconduct allegations will wonder whether their home-state licensing board will discover their out-of-state problem. The professional who faces out-of-state misconduct allegations should first consider whether their home-state licensing rules require that they voluntarily disclose the out-of-state problem. Law generally regards professional licensure as a privilege, not a right. That stance means that when it comes to their license, professionals have no constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. If the licensing body requires disclosure, then the professional must disclose. A refusal to do so would be its own violation. As the saying goes, the coverup can be worse than the crime. A disclosure requirement, though, doesn't mean that the professional must make the worst of it. If you face out-of-state problems that could require your disclosure to your home-state licensing board, then retain premier license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to advise and represent you. You need to know whether and how to make the disclosure.
Discovering Out-of-State Misconduct
The professional who fails or refuses to disclose out-of-state misconduct risks the home-state licensing board discovering the misconduct anyway. Depending on the misconduct's form, records of it may appear in a national registry or internet searchable online database. The home-state licensing board may have access to out-of-state criminal arrests, criminal convictions, driving infractions, restraining orders, protection from abuse orders, bankruptcies, loan defaults, administrative agency actions, and civil lawsuits. Licensing boards and investigators in different professions and different states adopt different investigatory practices. They may have aggressive or lax online monitoring programs. But even if the board itself is unlikely to discover out-of-state misconduct, the professional's colleagues, employer, clients, patients, and other acquaintances may know or learn of the misconduct and feel compelled to report it. Hide and seek is a bad professional strategy. Don't live an anxious hope-they-won't-discover-it lifestyle. Instead, consult license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento about your disclosure responsibility and strategy. Better to disclose than to have a board discover what you should have disclosed but didn't do so.
Reacting to Out-of-State Misconduct Charges
The professional who faces a license discipline proceeding may feel like the matter is a lost cause. Professionals generally hold themselves to high standards. Any allegation of misconduct, no matter how small and inconsequential, may seem like a hopeless disaster. Receiving a licensing board's request for investigation can be a professional's worst day on the job. Emotions can run high. The professional facing the misconduct charge may be tempted to throw in the towel, admitting to all allegations, whether exaggerated or not. Some professionals make the mistake of ignoring licensing proceedings entirely, either assuming it will disappear or expecting to lose the license. The temptation to ignore the proceeding can be greater when the allegation involves out-of-state misconduct. Doesn't what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas? These are natural reactions. Expect to experience these reactions. But then do the right thing in responding rationally, not emotionally.
Responding to Out-of-State Misconduct Charges
Emotional reactions are not a professional response to misconduct charges. Instead, the professional who receives a licensing board's request for investigation should promptly read the notice fully and carefully. Investigation notices typically describe the professional's duty. That duty will likely include responding timely in writing with a full explanation of the matter. Many professional-misconduct charges have appropriate professional explanations. Patients and clients can get things very wrong when they complain to licensing authorities. Many times, the professional's records and files will show that the professional did everything according to standards and that the complaint is simply erroneous. The same can be even more true for charges based on out-of-state allegations.
Defending Out-of-State Misconduct
Out-of-state misconduct allegations raise distinct defense possibilities in the professional's home-state licensing proceeding. Don't give up when facing a license discipline proceeding. Consider mounting an aggressive defense with expert representation from license-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. The jurisdictional defense discussed above is one defense possibility. Whatever happened in the foreign state may have no implications whatsoever for the professional's conduct in the home licensing state. Again, what happens in Vegas can stay in Vegas. But the out-of-state allegations may also not be true. The professional may not have contested those allegations because they happened in another state. The professional may, though, mount a vigorous defense to those untrue allegations when they become the subject of an important licensing proceeding in the professional's home state. The professional may also not have had due process in the foreign state, which may instead have rushed to judgment without hearing the professional's explanation. Defending out-of-state misconduct allegations is possible.
Retain Expert License Defense Representation
Just because you face professional license discipline proceedings based on out-of-state trouble doesn't mean your defense is difficult or hopeless. The opposite may well be true. You may have defenses in the license discipline proceeding that you would not have had if the trouble had occurred in your home state of licensure. In-state proceedings based on out-of-state trouble raise unusual jurisdictional, procedural, and evidentiary issues. Expert representation from premier license discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can turn those legal issues in your favor. A successful defense to misconduct charges based on out-of-state trouble may not only be possible, but may be significantly more likely than if the trouble were in your home state of licensure. The best strategy in such cases is to retain the best available representation. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or use the online service.