Qualifying for any kind of professional license in Pennsylvania is no easy task. Whether you're a physician, dentist, nurse, K-12 instructor, counselor, or accountant, the fact that you are licensed means that you have invested countless hours and thousands of dollars into your education and training. It also means you're highly committed to your chosen profession. That's why it can be so devastating to learn that your professional license has been called into question by a complaint or allegation of misconduct. If you've been so accused, you may need to act quickly to safeguard your future. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team have extensive experience with disciplinary issues in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help Protect Your Pennsylvania Professional License
Understanding the stakes is crucial when your license to practice in Pennsylvania is challenged, whether the complaint arises from a miscommunication, a false allegation, or an error in judgment on your part. It may seem ironic, given the personal cost of obtaining a professional license, but all it may take is a single complaint to derail everything you've worked for. Pennsylvania state licensing boards possess extensive authority to impose disciplinary actions and require only a low burden of proof. To safeguard your rights and maximize your chances of a favorable outcome, you need a competent professional license defense attorney on your side.
Whether you're facing accusations of substance abuse, gross negligence, sexual misconduct, fraud, or some other violation, your best hope of a favorable resolution is to engage a Pennsylvania professional license defense attorney at the earliest indication of trouble is essential. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have a wealth of experience assisting licensed medical professionals in successfully navigating the intricate disciplinary process. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
Pennsylvania Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals
The licensing board that granted your professional license in Pennsylvania is also responsible for imposing disciplinary actions for violations or misconduct. For instance, doctors answer to the State Board of Medicine, nurses to the Board of Nursing, architects to the State Architect Licensure Board, etc. The disciplinary process in Pennsylvania is relatively uniform for all licensed professionals. Here's an overview of the standard disciplinary process.
Typically, a formal complaint filed against you initiates board disciplinary procedures. In Pennsylvania, members of the public can submit initial complaints against licensed medical professionals to the Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). The complaint may originate from various sources, including patients, clients, coworkers, colleagues, healthcare facilities, etc. Moreover, if you are a licensed professional convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, your conviction may be automatically reported to your licensing board by the courts, which can also trigger disciplinary actions depending on the crime.
Upon receiving and processing a complaint, the BPOA assigns an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to examine the issue. The BEI investigator manages the investigation and evidence collection, which may involve subpoenaing materials, interviewing the complainant and other witnesses, and requesting a response from you. The investigator may seek to interview you directly, possibly arriving unannounced at your office. In such cases, it is strongly recommended that you politely decline to answer their questions without your attorney present, as your statements could be used against you.
If the investigator's findings are insufficient to establish your guilt, the licensing board may dismiss the complaint and consider the matter resolved. If the evidence is convincing, they may choose to take the next steps.
Throughout the investigation and before a formal hearing, your state licensing board has the power to negotiate a consent agreement with you to resolve the complaint as an alternative to holding a formal hearing. A consent agreement effectively acknowledges your guilt and your agreement to comply with specific remedies prescribed by the board. In many cases, a favorable consent agreement can be negotiated, providing a pathway for full license reinstatement. However, you should not enter into a consent agreement without the guidance of a skilled license defense attorney to ensure the terms are advantageous to you.
If the complaint is not dismissed during the investigation phase or a consent agreement is not reached, you will be summoned to a formal hearing to show cause why the board should not revoke your license. The hearing takes place before a state hearing examiner, and you may appear with an attorney to present your case. At the hearing's conclusion, the examiner will issue recommendations to the licensing board regarding disciplinary action, which may range from a mild reprimand or fine to a more severe suspension or revocation of your license to practice.
The Importance of an Experienced Professional License Defense Attorney
It's not uncommon for licensed professionals to underestimate the gravity of a complaint, erroneously believing that they can resolve any misunderstanding by simply "explaining the situation" to the licensing board. In reality, the board's priority is to protect the public, not the licensee. As soon as a complaint is filed against you, they actively search for evidence to support the complaint. Furthermore, the board can impose discipline based on a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning they only need to be 51 percent certain of your guilt (as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt"). This puts you at a significant disadvantage unless you have a capable attorney to defend your rights and advocate on your behalf.
In many instances, a proficient professional license defense lawyer can negotiate with the board to have your complaint dismissed or to agree to more lenient penalties, greatly improving your chances of a favorable outcome and preserving your license. Here are some ways an experienced Pennsylvania attorney can defend your professional license:
- Represent you legally in all interactions with the board.
- Collect evidence and witnesses to support your position.
- Draft a compelling written response to the complaint (which can often persuade the board to drop the matter early in the process).
- Negotiate with the board to dismiss the complaint.
- Negotiate the most favorable terms for a consent agreement.
- If necessary, defend you at the formal hearing.
Areas We Serve in Pennsylvania
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm represents doctors, teachers, contractors, therapists, real estate agents, and other licensed workers all across the State of Pennsylvania. Many of our clients live and work in the more densely populated areas of the state, including the following cities and metropolitan areas.
Philadelphia is a vibrant and historically significant city located in the southeastern region of Pennsylvania in the United States. It's also Pennyslvania's largest city, with a population of 1.5 million and a surrounding metropolitan area that includes many more people. With its rich cultural scene, diverse culinary landscape, and passionate sports fans, Philadelphia offers a unique blend of historical charm and modern attractions. Penn Health, the area's largest health system, has its flagship hospital in Philadelphia. Other hospitals include Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and Roxborough Hospital.
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in Pennsylvania and has a population of 303,000. Located in western Pennsylvania at the junction of three rivers (the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio), Pittsburgh is known for its colorful history, steel industry, flourishing economy, and vibrant culture. It's home to numerous healthcare systems, including UPMC, Allegheny Health Network, and Highmark.
Located in eastern PA, Allentown is the third largest city in Pennsylvania, with a population of 125,000. It's known for its thriving economy based on manufacturers like Mack Trucks, Air Products and Chemicals, and Olympus Corporation. Allentown is also home to several healthcare systems, including Lehigh Valley Hospital and Sacred Heart Hospital.
Harrisburg is the state capital of Pennsylvania and has a population of 50,000. It's located in the center of the state, at the crossroads of several interstates. Harrisburg is known for its many museums, including the National Civil War Museum and the State Museum of Pennsylvania. The city also hosts Harrisburg Hospital, Pinnacle Health, and UPMC Pinnacle.
Located in the northeastern region of Pennsylvania, Scranton is home to about 80,000 people. Its economy has transformed from coal mining to healthcare, financial services, tourism, and education. Healthcare facilities include Geisinger Community Medical Center and Moses Taylor Hospital.
What Allegations Can Jeopardize a Professional License in PA?
The state licensing boards in Pennsylvania maintain rigorous professional and ethical standards for their licensees. The potential loss of your license typically stems from breaches of board regulations, ethical transgressions, or violations of public trust, such as immoral, criminal, or unprofessional conduct. Below are some prevalent offenses that may lead to disciplinary measures by a licensing board.
Various actions can be classified as fraud, including:
- "Upcoding" insurance claims to receive higher payments for certain services
- Overcharging insurance companies or patients
- Billing for services not rendered
- Accepting illegal kickbacks
- Offering services beyond your licensure (e.g., prescribing medications without being a licensed physician)
- Altering or falsifying patient records
- Misrepresenting your credentials
Patient Mistreatment and Severe Neglect
This broad category applies mainly to healthcare workers and includes any neglect or abuse that could compromise a patient's safety or well-being, such as:
- Physical abuse (e.g., hitting, sexual assault)
- Emotional abuse (e.g., verbal threats or intimidation)
- Unintentional abuse (e.g., pushing a patient beyond their emotional or physical limits)
- Breaching patient confidentiality
- Medical errors (e.g., incorrect prescriptions, unnecessary procedures, or unsafe practices)
Inappropriate Handling of Controlled Substances
Healthcare professionals who prescribe or dispense controlled substances face strict regulations due to the potential for misuse. Violations in this area include:
- Prescribing medications without a valid medical reason
- Overprescribing medications (e.g., opioids)
- Inaccurate record-keeping or inventory management for medications
- Diverting medications for personal use or illegal sale
- Dispensing controlled substances without a prescription
Sexual Misconduct and Inappropriate Relationships
Making unwanted sexual advances, harassment, or assault toward colleagues or clients are forms of sexual misconduct. Additionally, medical ethics prohibit healthcare providers from engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with their patients. These behaviors often result in license revocation, and even false accusations can endanger your license due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Accuracy in record-keeping is often crucial to public safety, both in the healthcare sector and in other areas (for example, engineers). Falsifying records or maintaining disorganized records could put your license at risk.
Substance Abuse and Addiction
For many professions, substance abuse is viewed as a violation of public trust as it can impair judgment and competence when treating patients or handling clients. Misusing prescription drugs, consuming illegal substances, or excessive alcohol use may lead to suspension or revocation of your license. Colleagues or coworkers suspecting substance abuse may also have an ethical duty to report it.
Criminal convictions, particularly those related to professional practice or moral turpitude, can result in the loss of your professional license. You could also face disciplinary action for failing to self-report a conviction to your licensing board--even if that conviction would not otherwise have put your license at risk.
Protecting Your Professional License in Pennsylvania
Licensed professionals in Pennsylvania must take any misconduct allegations seriously, regardless of their severity. If the state licensing board discovers sufficient evidence to presume guilt, your license may be suspended or revoked. Even if you receive a lesser penalty like a fine or reprimand, that action also becomes a matter of public record and can damage your professional reputation for many years to come. A professional license defense attorney can help you navigate the intricate disciplinary process and safeguard your career.
The Lento Law Firm assists Pennsylvania professionals facing potential disciplinary action from their licensing boards, including:
- physician assistants
- mental health professionals
- physical therapists
- real estate agents
- K-12 educators
- insurance agents
- Other licensed professionals
If you are accused of misconduct or an offense that could threaten your license, it is crucial not to wait until you are summoned to a formal hearing before seeking legal assistance. Involving attorney Joseph D. Lento and his License Defense Team early in the process significantly improves your chances of protecting your career and livelihood. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today, or fill out this contact form to schedule a consultation.