As a licensed funeral director in New Jersey, you've worked hard to build a career based on helping people during an especially difficult time in their lives. It's a career that's both rewarding and fulfilling—but it's not without its risks. Yours is a very sensitive profession relying heavily on ethical and professional excellence—and any whisper of wrongdoing can quickly escalate into a full-blown investigation into your license. All it takes is a single complaint filed with the State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey, and if they decide to take action your career could be over.
Fortunately, you don't have to face this crisis alone. If your funeral director's license is under investigation, having an experienced attorney on your side can make the difference between saving your career and losing it. With Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his exceptional license defense team, you can be sure that your case will be handled with the utmost skill and care. They have extensive experience with disciplinary issues and an excellent track record of resolving these cases favorably. To discuss your case, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
What Allegations Could Endanger a Funeral Director's License?
Most accusations of wrongdoing that could jeopardize your license have to do with violating state regulations and/or the public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Gross negligence and incompetence. This is one of the most common infractions that can get a funeral director into trouble--most notably, mishandling the remains of the deceased. Examples include commingling ashes with someone else's, improper embalming, burial at the wrong gravesite, unethical handling of the body, etc.
- Misconduct. Examples of this behavior could include exploiting emotionally distressed clients with "upselling" services, mishandling customer funds, and even verbal or emotional abuse.
- Fraudulent practices. Examples of such unethical practices include unjustly inflating prices, deceiving customers through false advertising, and engaging in fraudulent insurance billings.
- Substance abuse/addiction. Drug and alcohol abuse can call your competence as a funeral director into question, especially if you're reported as being under the influence while at work.
- Criminal convictions. Being convicted for certain crimes (especially crimes of moral turpitude) could put your license at risk.
Overview of the License Disciplinary Process in New Jersey
In most cases, the disciplinary process against funeral directors in New Jersey begins when someone files a formal complaint with the state Board of Mortuary Science. Once the Board has received a complaint against you, your case will move through the following stages.
Request for Response
The Board will start by sending you a written notification stating the allegations against you and allowing you time to submit a written response. This step is critical not to overlook because it affords you your first real opportunity to state your side of the story clearly and succinctly. When accompanied by supporting evidence, a compelling written response can often result in having the complaint dropped with no further action. A skilled attorney will know best how to draft this response for you.
The Board will then form a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to further assess the complaint. As part of this process, the PEC may assign an investigator who will look for evidence to support the complaint by conducting interviews with relevant parties, obtaining subpoenaed documents, or having you testify under oath if necessary.
If the PEC acquires enough evidence that corroborates a complaint, they may choose to suggest a consent order in lieu of organizing an official hearing. A consent order is essentially an agreement between you and the Board where you agree to their recommended disciplinary actions voluntarily. This is a binding agreement that you shouldn't sign without experienced legal advice—but in cases where disciplinary action is likely, an attorney can use the consent order to negotiate lenient terms for you, including allowing you to keep your license or at least stipulating a pathway for reinstatement.
If the process moves to the hearing stage, the Board will file a formal complaint against you, and you will be summoned to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to show cause why you should be allowed to keep your license. It's highly recommended that you have an attorney represent you at the hearing, as a result will have a profound effect on your career. After both sides have presented their arguments, the ALJ will make a ruling either for or against you and will present recommendations to the Board regarding any disciplinary action--up to and including revoking your license.
How an Attorney Can Help
The license defense process for funeral directors in New Jersey can be both time-consuming and complicated--and you're entering the process at an inherent disadvantage because there is no guaranteed presumption of innocence. The Board has a duty to protect the public interest, and to that end, they need only determine your guilt based on a preponderance of the evidence. An experienced attorney can provide invaluable assistance by not only helping you prepare your initial response but also representing you at all stages of the disciplinary process.
A lawyer can provide perspective on what to expect and position your case in a way that is most favorable to you. This includes providing evidence to refute the allegations, negotiating at multiple points in the process for leniency, hammering out a favorable consent order, and/or defending you vigorously at a formal hearing. With the help of an experienced licensed defense attorney, you have a much better chance at emerging from the disciplinary process with your funeral director license still intact.
You've invested too much into your career to have it derailed by an allegation of misconduct. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team are ready to fight for your rights, striving to protect both your license and your livelihood. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.