If you've gone through the difficulty of obtaining your professional license in the state of Florida, then you know how much is at stake when that license is in jeopardy for an accusation of misconduct. You've spent years of your life and untold resources on obtaining your professional license, and ultimately, whether you get to keep it is in the hands of a Florida licensing board.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to remember how hard you fought for that license to begin. You need to keep fighting. All is not lost just because a complaint has been lodged against you and you've received notice that your licensing board has decided to open an investigation. Instead of throwing in the towel, you need to retain an experienced Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor. Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team have helped countless professionals fight for and keep their licenses after formal complaints and investigations against them.
The first step in defending your professional license is seeking legal guidance, and the second step is educating yourself about the process of professional license defense.
Professional License Defense in Florida
Certain business practices require licensure by a board. For example, nurses in the state of Florida cannot practice unless they've been issued a license by the Florida Board of Nursing. The same is true for doctors, lawyers, architects, and other industry professionals. In addition to these specialized boards or commissions, licensed individuals may have to seek approval from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation ("DPBR") before setting up shop in the state.
Most licensed professionals will be subject to the approval of two regulating entities: their specific licensing board and the DPBR. If these professionals are accused of wrongdoing, they may lose both their license and operational approval within the state of Florida.
Florida Professional License Defense Processes
Understanding the basics of defending your professional license in Florida can help you prepare in more ways than one. First, knowing what comes next literally aids you and your defense team in preparing a response or preparing to submit evidence. Second, having a thorough understanding of the process helps you regain a sense of control. Being hit with a formal complaint can feel a lot like being lost and without a map, but with the guidance of an experienced Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor, you'll be armed with a wealth of resources.
The professional licensure defense process is similar across industries. The four critical components across the board include:
- The Complaint
- The Investigation
- The Hearing
- The Final Decision
In addition to the four common elements listed above, there may be a need for a fifth. The fifth element of the licensure defense process is The Appeal. In unfavorable outcomes, you may need to appeal the final decision.
Most often, your licensing board learns of wronging after it receives a formal complaint against you. Complaints can be made by anyone and don't just come from someone you directly interacted with or who was your client. It's incredibly easy for someone to file a complaint against you. Often, all they need to do is visit the licensing board's website and click a button or two. While some complaints carry weight, all too often, a person may file a complaint just because they didn't get the level of customer service they believed they were entitled to.
The state board will run a preliminary investigation to determine if a complaint against the licensed professional holds any validity. During this initial investigation, the professional may not know a complaint has been filed against them. If, however, the licensing board decides there's enough substance in the complaint to proceed with a formal investigation, a formal notice will be sent to the licensed professional.
If you receive notice of a complaint and impending investigation against you, you should receive a copy of the complaint. If you haven't already, this is the time to retain a Florida License Defense Attorney-Advisor.
During the investigation, the state licensing board will collect evidence against you. You should be utilizing this time to collect evidence that proves the complaint is wrong or that there were mitigating circumstances. Regardless of whether the complaint is legitimate or not, you should put your best foot forward in every interaction. Sometimes this means seeking treatment for substance abuse issues or emotional health problems.
The hearing can be daunting, even for professionals. It will often look and feel like a regular court hearing, even though it's not technically a civil or criminal matter and is instead an administrative issue. At the hearing, both sides will have an opportunity to make their case.
Generally, the licensing board won't suspend you or revoke your license. These outcomes are reserved for repeat offenders or for the most extreme instances of misconduct. Instead, the board may either find the allegations against you were in error, or they'll hand down a disciplinary plan that is commensurate with the wrongdoing.
In addition to revocation and suspension, penalties might include:
- A formal reprimand
- Required continuing education
- Completion of remediation programs
- Limitations on scope of practice
Your Attorney-Advisor and his Team will help you understand whether the discipline imposed upon you fits the nature of the offense. In some cases, it's a fair and appropriate course of action. Sometimes though, the punishment doesn't fit the offense, and the discipline handed out is egregiously inappropriate. In these cases, you'll want to appeal the decision.
Your Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor and their Team will help you initiate an appeal when appropriate. Licensees don't have much time to file the appeal, and as such, it's important you be aware of the rules and timelines impacting your industry. If an appeal is granted, you'll have a new hearing and be given an opportunity to address your concerns with the hearing.
Disciplinary Records are Accessible to the Public
Ensuring you're not disciplined beyond what is truly necessary is important. A prudent client will search a professional's name in the state licensure database and decide to go another route without giving you any opportunity to explain the situation.
Even if you believe it's not a huge deal because you didn't lose your license, you need to remember that your disciplinary record is available to the public. This could impact your ability to seek new employment opportunities in Florida, or it could impact your ability to gain new clients.
Actions That Might Jeopardize Your Professional License
There are many ways to lose your professional license in Florida. Even if you don't lose your license, it's all too easy to become the subject of a complaint and to have disciplinary actions taken against you. Misconduct can sometimes be obvious, but it can also be unintentional.
Ethical violations don't always amount to a crime under the law, and it can be difficult to understand and notice when you've acted unethically. In fact, sometimes you can even believe you're acting in the best interest of your client when you're committing an ethical violation. For example, what if you don't believe your client is able to adequately manage their own records, so you refuse to hand them back over to the client? This could constitute an ethical violation even when you believed you were doing what was right.
Another source of complaint is often tied to the mismanagement of finances. As an example, consider that lawyers and some other professionals may be required to hold client monies in a trust account. Sometimes an oversight, or poor management practices, lead to issues here. Again, this could trigger a complaint that would almost certainly lead to an investigation. Misconduct involving money can also trigger fraud investigations which carry serious criminal penalties. A criminal conviction will undoubtedly be examined by your licensing board even if the board didn't investigate the accusations that led to the separate conviction.
State licensing boards have perhaps never taken sexual misconduct claims more seriously. Whether you're accused of fostering a hostile work environment, or you're accused of a more aggressive form of sexual misconduct against coworkers or clients, you could quickly become the subject of an investigation by your state licensing board. If and when these allegations are mischaracterized, you'll need to get out ahead of the rumor mill. Often, the court of public opinion can be almost as damaging as the discipline imposed by the board.
Substance Abuse Issues
All too often, professionally licensed individuals experience substance abuse issues that wreak havoc on their personal and professional lives. Many of these high-earning, specialized careers are stressful. The dangers are two-fold when professionals abuse drugs or alcohol. If, for example, a nurse or doctor is accused of misusing prescription medication, they're ultimately jeopardizing their patients' safety in addition to their own.
Complaints of substance abuse aren't limited to prescription drugs or even abusing substances while on the job. Individuals arrested for DWI or DUI can also find themselves the target of an investigation. In most cases, the licensing authority will try to work with the professional to promote their rehabilitation, but that doesn't mean you should go through the professional license defense process without the help of an Attorney-Advisor like Mr. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team.
Florida Locations We Serve
The Lento Law Firm has vast experience defending professional licenses throughout Florida. Professionals reside in every corner of the state, and whether you need professional license defense help in Tampa, Orlando, Key West, or Tallahassee, the Lento Law Firm can provide you with valuable guidance.
Wherever you live in Florida, you'll answer to the same state licensing board for your industry. You'll be similarly subject to the DBPR regardless of what county you reside in. As such, the process for defending your professional license in Florida depends more on the quality of your defense attorney-advisor than it does on your geographical location.
How a Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor Can Help You
As a professional yourself, you may be used to taking the reins on important matters, but you shouldn't try to defend your professional license alone. When it comes to your future, the stakes are simply too high. Just as you'd want a brain surgeon to perform brain surgery, you similarly want an experienced Professional License Defense Attorney-Advisor to defend your professional license in Florida.
Professional license defense is not unlike a criminal or civil trial, but there are factors that distinguish it from such proceedings. Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team understand how important communication is to clients during the license defense process. Clients should know exactly what's at stake and what their best options are moving forward. For example, clients need to know if the recommended course of disciplinary action is fair and if it's the best choice. In the alternative, clients need to understand if the offer on the table is unjust and why an appeal might be necessary.
Attorney-Advisor Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team communicate clearly, early, and often with clients and with the investigatory body. It's important your Defense Team can adeptly negotiate and communicate with your licensing board to resolve the issues in a manner that allows you to maintain your ability to practice within your industry.
Contact The Lento Law Firm Today
Do not delay in retaining an experienced Defense Team when you need to defend your professional license against a complaint filed against you in Florida. Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento and his skilled Professional License Defense Team are ready to fight for your license. After all, it's more than a license; it's your future and your legal right to practice in a profession you sacrificed so much to build. To learn how The Lento Law Firm can help you, call 888-535-3686 or contact us online.