As a licensed psychiatrist in New Jersey, you've worked hard and invested a lot of time and money to get where you are today. You have dedicated your life to helping others, which is a noble purpose. That's why it can be so world-shaking to be accused of misconduct. A single complaint could derail all you've worked for, and you could face losing your livelihood if your license is suspended or revoked.
If you are under investigation by the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, having an experienced New Jersey license defense attorney is important. The disciplinary process can be complex and difficult to navigate on your own, and the stakes are high. A good attorney can help you understand the charges against you and develop a strong defense to protect your livelihood.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has plenty of experience with cases like yours. He has defended licensed professionals in a variety of industries against allegations of misconduct, and he knows how to get favorable results. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Type of Conduct Could Result in Losing Your Professional License?
The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners has set certain standards of ethical and professional conduct which, if violated, could lead to an investigation against you and the loss of your license to practice psychiatry. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct. Having sex with a patient is a huge ethical boundary violation and will typically result in loss of license. Other examples of sexual misconduct include unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment, or sexual assault against patients, colleagues, or staff members.
- Inappropriate handling of prescriptions/medications. Examples include prescribing controlled substances to patients without a legitimate medical reason, keeping inaccurate inventories of medications, diverting medicines intended for patients for personal use, etc.
- Incompetence or gross negligence. Engaging in practices that are well below the acceptable standard of care or failing to provide adequate care to patients could result in an investigation.
- Violations of patient confidentiality. This could include sharing information regarding a patient's diagnosis or treatment with unauthorized individuals, divulging the contents of confidential conversations, or accessing patient records without a valid reason.
- Fraud. Examples are "upcoding" procedures to increase insurance payouts, billing for services not rendered, false advertising, misrepresenting your credentials, and so on.
- Substance abuse. Excessive alcohol consumption and drug use can make it difficult to give proper patient care and exercise good judgment in treating patients. The board has little or no tolerance for it.
- Unethical/discriminatory behavior. If you are accused of discriminating against patients based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristics, your license could be suspended or revoked.
- Criminal convictions. Certain criminal convictions can disqualify you from holding a license to practice in New Jersey.
What Does New Jersey's License Disciplinary Process Look Like?
In New Jersey, most disciplinary actions against psychiatrists begin with a formal complaint filed with the State Board of Medical Examiners. Complainants can be patients, colleagues, insurance companies, or other members of the public. Once a complaint is filed, the process moves forward as follows:
Request for Response
The board will inform you about the complaint and ask that you respond in writing. The complaint may be dismissed if you can provide a detailed explanation with supporting evidence. A knowledgeable license defense attorney can help you construct a persuasive written reply.
After the board submits the complaint, a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) will investigate to see if there is proof to back up the claims in the complaint. The PEC will appoint an investigator to look into the complaint, and they may interview the complainant and witnesses as well as request documents. You might also be asked to give testimony under oath.
If the evidence prompts the board to consider disciplinary action, it may offer to negotiate a consent order with you in lieu of a formal hearing. A consent order is a binding agreement in which you voluntarily submit to the board's recommendations for disciplinary action. A consent order might not be the best choice if you have compelling evidence in your defense, but in some cases it's a good solution, especially if it enables you to keep your license or at least provides a path for reinstatement.
If no consent order is offered or signed, a formal hearing is the next step. You will be summoned to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and show cause why your license should not be revoked. You can have an attorney represent you at this hearing. If the ALJ finds the evidence against you persuasive, they will make recommendations to the board regarding disciplinary actions. The board makes the final determination on discipline, including revoking your license.
Why You Should Hire a New Jersey Professional License Defense Attorney
In New Jersey, the State Board of Medical Examiners holds as sacred its obligation to protect the public. It has broad authority to take disciplinary action and a relatively low burden of proof to find you guilty of wrongdoing. In short, you can't expect a guaranteed presumption of innocence. Once a complaint is filed, you're on the defensive. This is why you need an experienced attorney on your side to protect your interests and preserve your livelihood.
A good attorney can help you at every stage of the disciplinary process, from filing a compelling response to the complaint to defending you at a formal hearing. Your attorney can also negotiate on your behalf with the Board or the PEC for lighter penalties, or even to have the complaint dismissed.
If your psychiatrist license is under scrutiny in New Jersey, hiring a skilled license defense attorney greatly increases your chances of keeping your license and saving your career. For more information on how we can help you defend your professional license in New Jersey, call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686.