Your passion for geology has led you down a long road to be able to do it for a living: years of education and study, more years of field practice, and qualifying for licensure, among other things. Now, as a licensed New Jersey professional geologist (or, as New Jersey refers to you, a "site remediation professional"), you have built a rewarding and satisfying career. That's why it can be so devastating to find out that your license is under investigation over an alleged violation or act of misconduct.
Your professional license is your most prized possession because without it, you can't do what you do. And yet, one complaint is all it takes to put your license and job prospects in jeopardy. The New Jersey Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board will investigate any and all alleged misconduct with a rigorous determination that can lead to disciplinary action--including, potentially, the loss of your license.
Fortunately, you're not beyond hope. By hiring an experienced New Jersey licensed defense attorney at the first sign of trouble, you can greatly improve your prospects of getting through the investigation with your license intact. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his licensed defense team have years of experience in this arena, and they know how to get you the most favorable outcome possible. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation.
What Allegations Could Put Your Professional Geologist License at Risk?
Like most states, New Jersey has an established code of conduct that all geologists must follow to ensure they operate at maximum standards of ethical and professional excellence. Most allegations that could jeopardize your license involve some sort of violation of these rules. Examples may include, but are not limited to:
- Acting outside the scope of your license. If you are found to be offering services outside of the scope of your geologist license, you could face stern disciplinary measures.
- Fraud or deceit. If you're accused of lying about your credentials or participating in any fraudulent practices, repercussions could include the revocation of your license.
- Failing to act in the interest of public safety and the environment. If you are accused of negligence or recklessness that puts people and the environment at risk, then expect to face serious disciplinary action.
- Sexual misconduct or harassment. (For example, making unwanted sexual advances toward coworkers, employees, clients, etc.)
- Criminal convictions. Certain criminal convictions on your record can potentially jeopardize your license—especially crimes of moral turpitude.
How the Disciplinary Process Works
In New Jersey, the disciplinary process against professional geologists is usually triggered when someone files a formal complaint against you with the Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board alleging some violation of state codes of conduct or other regulations. Once the Board has received a complaint against you, the process goes through the following steps.
Request for Response
Once a complaint is reported to the Board, you will receive formal notification and be asked to respond in writing to present any supportive proof or clear up any misunderstandings. This initial step allows for your side of the story to be heard and can make all the difference when it comes to resolving the complaint. A good licensed defense attorney can help you draft a convincing initial response; if the Board is convinced, they will drop the complaint at this point.
The Board will next appoint a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to look into the complaint further. The PEC will assign an investigator for your case to search for evidence that supports the complaint. This process could include interviewing those involved, issuing document subpoenas, and having you testify under oath, if necessary.
If the PEC gathers adequate evidence to back up the complaint, they might suggest a consent order instead of organizing an official hearing. A consent order is an arrangement between you and the Board in which you voluntarily accept their advised disciplinary steps. Because this agreement is binding, you don't want to sign one if you can provide compelling evidence of your innocence. But if disciplinary action is inevitable, a good attorney can often negotiate for favorable terms in the consent order, including allowing you to keep your license or at least providing a pathway for reinstatement.
If you do not come to terms with a consent order or if the Board decides on more rigorous disciplinary measures, your case will be submitted for an official hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You are allowed to have representation at this hearing, and both sides shall provide their arguments. When the hearing concludes, the ALJ will make a ruling either for or against you and will present recommendations to the Board regarding any disciplinary action.
Why You Need a New Jersey License Defense Attorney
When your professional license is in question, you don't have the advantage of presumed innocence. The Board's primary objective is preserving public safety, not defending its licensees--so as soon as a complaint is filed, they actively begin looking for evidence against you. They can find you at fault based only on the preponderance of the evidence standard, meaning they can take away your license only by being convinced that you are more likely than not to have committed the offense in question. As you can see, this puts you at a huge disadvantage because the burden of proof of your innocence is basically on you.
This is why it's important to bring in an experienced licensed defense attorney who can help you build a solid defense case with compelling evidence and arguments. A good licensed defense attorney will know how to make sure the Board hears your side of the story and understands that your actions were performed in good faith and not maliciously or negligently. They can also advocate for more lenient penalties if you are found at fault, and a particularly good attorney can often negotiate a resolution to the complaint without a need to take it to a formal hearing. In short, you have a much better chance of keeping your professional geologist's license if you hire an attorney to help you navigate the process.
Whether the complaint against you stems from a misunderstanding or an honest mistake, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team are prepared to fight on your behalf to help save your license and your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.