There's one thing doctors, nurses, architects, optometrists, physical therapists, and other professionals have in common: they all put untold time and resources into acquiring their professional degrees and licenses. Although it can take decades to become a practicing professional, you can lose your license in the blink of an eye. One wrong decision, one lapse in judgment, or one serious mistake can see your entire career spiraling down the drain if you don't act fast.
When your professional license is at risk, you need to contact a Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence in professional license disputes, and the slower you are to respond to the notice of the complaint and the investigation against you, the harder it will be for you and your team to catch up.
Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento and his dedicated Team of License Defense professionals at the Lento Law Firm understand how high the stakes are when you're accused of misconduct that could jeopardize your entire career. Don't hesitate; call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 if you've received notice of a formal complaint against you.
Professional License Defense in Washington, DC
Although Washington, DC, isn't a state, licensed professionals are still subject to government regulations implemented by their respective professional boards. For example, nurses must comply with DC Health's Board of Nursing. Dental Hygienists must comply with the Board of Dentistry, and of course, doctors of all types must comply with DC Health's Board of Medicine.
Each professional licensing board requires licensees to adhere to a strict set of ethical and professional standards. Additionally, each board takes any sort of criminal activity very seriously.
The DC Professional License Defense Processes
Few scenarios are as stress-inducing as receiving notice from your licensing board that a formal complaint has been made against you. Your first steps forward can feel isolating, but you don't need to go through it alone. An experienced licensed defense attorney-advisor will provide invaluable guidance. While it's unlikely you've been through anything like this before, Attorney-Advisor Lento has helped countless professionals defend their professional licenses.
Ultimately, the complaint and disciplinary process will be largely similar from one professional board to the next. Although each board will have a process unique to it, they each follow a general outline. First, a complaint is filed. Second, the board will evaluate the complaint to see if it warrants a formal investigation. If so, then the board proceeds with that investigation after which, a hearing is held. During the hearing, the adjudicating body will weigh the evidence and decide on what disciplinary action is appropriate. Depending on the outcome and your Attorney-Advisor's advice, it may be necessary to appeal the decision of the board.
Who Makes a Complaint?
While no one can argue that professional accountability is important, it may surprise you to learn that any person can lodge a complaint against you with your board. The individual doesn't have to be a client or patient, and in fact, all it takes is the click of a button on the board's website to file a complaint.
Although anyone can lodge a complaint against you, this doesn't mean your board will investigate every complaint. Instead, they should filter out all superfluous grievances, and you may not ever even know a complaint was made. For example, any complaints made to the District of Columbia Board of Medicine are first sent to the Complaints Review Unit to confirm (1) the jurisdiction of the board and (2) the veracity of the complaint.
What to Expect During the Investigation
Once the veracity of a complaint against you is deemed sufficient to warrant an investigation, you'll be notified of a formal complaint against you and the board's intent to investigate. Although these investigations aren't criminal investigations, the process can feel just as intimidating. The investigating body will gather evidence during its investigation that it will present at the hearing.
How to Navigate the Hearing
If the investigation yields enough evidence against a licensed professional, a formal hearing may be held. The hearing process can feel like a civil or criminal trial, even though it's actually more administrative in nature. The outcome of the hearing won't create any sort of criminal record, though it is likely to become public information.
If the complaint makes it to the hearing stage, you'll have an opportunity to present evidence that demonstrates why the issue isn't as serious as presented or why you shouldn't be punished by the board. This evidence can often include written communications, witness testimony, or evidence that suggests you've taken steps to rehabilitate your issue.
Understanding the Decision
After hearing the evidence gathered during the investigation and the evidence you've presented, the deciding body of the board will make a decision concerning disciplinary against you.
The disciplinary action taken against a professional license holder in Washington, DC, can range from probation to revocation or suspension. Some disciplinary actions are only a slap on the wrist, while others can have a huge impact on your business or your ability to work. In the most severe instances, your licenses will be revoked, and you'll have to reinvent your career.
Often, your disciplinary board will try to work with you and your attorney-advisor, so it's important your team facilitate communication and negotiation. You may be able to negotiate probation if you agree to remediation. For example, if the complaint stemmed from alcohol abuse, you could attend a rehab program to demonstrate your dedication to improvement.
Getting an Appeal
If the hearing doesn't go your way, you'll have an opportunity to appeal the board's decision. There could be any number of reasons why you might want to appeal the final decision. For example, it's possible you had an unfair hearing due to bias or discrimination. Perhaps the deciding body made a procedural error.
Typically, you won't have much time to file an appeal after the licensing board hands down its decision, so it's important your license defense team be prepared to move forward and file the appeal as soon as possible. If you miss the appeal window for lack of preparedness or inexperience, you won't get a second shot. You do not want to lose your professional license because neither you nor your defense team was paying attention.
Disciplinary Records are Accessible to the Public
While the disciplinary record maintained by your professional board doesn't constitute a criminal record, it can still be made public. Even if your license isn't suspended or revoked, this public information can have a devastating impact on your career. These days, consumers are apt to research professionals before making a hiring decision, and if they plug your name into the board's disciplinary record directory, they're almost certainly going to skip it over if they find negative results.
So, even if you think you can weather a bout of probation for something like "patient abandonment during surgery," you're likely to lose business.
Actions that Might Jeopardize Your Professional License
It's important to remember that civil suits and criminal convictions are separate from these professional license investigations, but that doesn't mean there isn't some overlap. For purposes of this discussion, we're sticking to professional license defense, but you should know that some of the issues discussed below also constitute criminal acts or acts which will create financial liability.
Money Management Issues
There are a number of white-collar criminal charges that will lead to professional license investigations. If you're a medical professional accused of Medicare fraud, then you can bet the DC Medical Board is going to investigate you for overcharging or requesting medically unnecessary treatments.
Finance professionals can run into license issues if they misuse client funds or fail to put funds in the required accounts. Even if this misplacement of funds is only an oversight, the ethical obligation is taken seriously. Your license could be suspended.
Mismanagement of Business Matters
When you spend time and money obtaining a professional degree that concerns caring for people, you may be less concerned with business practices, but the standard of conduct outlined by Washington DC's Massage Therapy Board requires licensed massage therapists:
- "Maintain client files for a minimum of three (3) years past the date of last contact for an adult and, for a minor, a minimum of three (3) years after the minor reaches the age of majority."
Failure to do this could lead to trouble with the licensing board.
Problematic Sexual Behavior
Complaints of sexual misconduct are some of the most serious acts a person can be accused of. There is a global movement that centers on elevating victims of sexual abuse and it's important for professionals to understand they are in a position of power. While a professional may believe they're in a consenting relationship, there's no guarantee the board will feel this way. Remember, the complainant doesn't even have to be the person you're accused of having a relationship with. If your professional code of conduct prohibits any sexual relationship with a client, then you could be reprimanded for violation.
Of course, it's important that victims of sexual misconduct have recourse, and it's important perpetrators of these acts don't continue practicing in a profession where they can take advantage of others. That doesn't mean, though, that it's always a black-and-white issue.
Alcohol and Drug Misuse
Alcohol and drugs can play a big role in the lives of professionals. Stressful jobs and busy home lives can lead to bad habits. For medical professionals, sometimes easy access to prescription drugs can prove too tempting. There is likely no professional board that doesn't take the misuse of drugs and alcohol while on the job as a serious ethical violation. Because professionals are held to a high standard, and because their work can mean the difference between a safe and a dangerous situation, there's little room for substance abuse.
Again, for example, thestandard of conduct outlined by Washington DC's Massage Therapy Board prohibits:
- "Practicing under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any illegal substances, with the exception of prescribed dosages of prescription medication that do not significantly impair the therapist"
The Architecture Licensing Board in DC doesn't specifically prohibit the misuse of drugs and alcohol, but it does provide the following in its code of ethical conduct:
- "In engaging in the practice of architecture, a licensed architect shall act with reasonable care and competence, and shall apply the technical knowledge and skill that are ordinarily applied by licensed architects of good standing practicing in the same locality."
Accordingly, this rule implies the use of skill, competence, and reason that wouldn't be readily available under the influence.
A Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor Can Help You
A Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor can help you navigate an unfamiliar situation. Most professionals haven't been through the disciplinary process multiple times. Instead, every time is their first time. Only with the guidance of a Dedicated License Defense Team can you move through the process with any degree of certainty and familiarity. As a professional yourself, you understand how important it is to hire the right person to do the job.
The sooner you retain legal help, the better positioned you'll be to gather evidence and fight back.
Retain The Lento Law Firm ASAP
When it comes to Professional License Defense in Washington, DC, you need Joseph D. Lento. He and his experienced Defense Team understand that the delicate art of professional license defense requires a nuanced understanding of the board's rules and regulations. He also knows that you, the professional, need guidance and assurance through frequent and honest communication.