Nearly one in five jobs in Texas require you to have some form of a state-issued license. Healthcare workers, engineers, mental health counselors, architects, podiatrists, and more all require licenses in order to practice in Texas. Licenses are issued by a wide range of state agencies, including the Texas Medical Board, the Board of Nursing, the Health and Human Services Health Care Regulation Department, the Texas Board of Pharmacy, and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, among others.
The sheer variety of licenses and the many different licensing entities in Texas make it vital that you understand whether you need a license to practice your particular profession and where to get that license if you do. (For example, did you know that if you are involved in weather modification, you need a license in Texas?) As a practical matter, with more than 400,000 nurses and 90,000 physicians in Texas, licenses in the healthcare professions make up a large share of the licenses that Texas issues, with Texas's more than 320,000 certified teachers not far behind.
For many licensed professions, you will need to spend a lot of time studying and practicing before you will be able to become licensed, and for many, you will also need to pass some sort of licensing or certification exam. This might be obvious for professions such as medicine or engineering, but it is also true for many other professions. To receive a certificate in hair weaving in Texas, for example, you need to have at least 300 hours of instruction from a licensed beauty school in Texas and then must pass both written and practical exams.
So no matter what the license you've earned, it represents a significant investment of your time and effort, and is the key to you being able to practice your profession and earn a living in Texas. This is why it's so important for you to take it seriously if you learn that someone has filed a formal complaint against you with your Texas licensing entity. If you ignore the issue, you risk losing your license, your good name, and your ability to make a living. On top of this, the complaint investigation and resolution process is one you're probably not familiar with and can be filled with traps that can cost you your career.
The Lento Law Firm: Professional License Defense in Texas
This is where attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team can help. They have years of experience helping advise and defend professional license holders across the country who are facing professional disciplinary investigations, hearings, and appeals. The Lento Law Firm License Defense Team understands the laws, regulations, and procedures that apply to a wide range of professional licenses, including those issued by the state of Texas.
Of course, each type of license has its own particular set of requirements, including those relating to license holder discipline. That said, there are many similarities among them, particularly when it comes to the way the agencies investigate and manage misconduct complaints. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team have experience helping professional license holders defend themselves in disciplinary proceedings, and if you find yourself involved in one, they can help you too.
A disciplinary complaint can be based on many different types of alleged misconduct. Healthcare workers can be disciplined as a result of allegations that they mishandled medication, failed to keep accurate patient records, abused patients, and other types of behavior. Many professional license holders are disciplined for working while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Claims of extreme negligence that threatens patient or public safety can also result in disciplinary action. And being convicted of a crime – even one that's not related to the license – can lead to disciplinary proceedings.
If you are notified that a complaint has been filed against you, or that your licensing organization is bringing disciplinary charges against you, you need to contact professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team immediately. The fact is that the sooner you get help defending yourself, the more likely it will be that you will have a favorable outcome.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in Texas
As noted, there are many different agencies that issue professional licenses in Texas. Among the more obvious, the Texas Medical Board licenses a wide range of physicians; the Texas Board of Nursing licenses nurses; the Board of Dental Examiners licenses dentists. A wide range of licenses for many completely unrelated professions are issued by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. And while teachers in Texas are not licensed, they are certified and can be disciplined by the State Board for Educator Certification.
While there are a number of licensing entities in Texas, most of them will follow a very typical sort of process if a formal complaint is filed against a licensed professional. In general, professional license disciplinary proceedings follow this kind of path:
Complaints can come from anybody but are most likely to be filed by a patient, client, customer, or a relative of any one of these. They also may be filed by a co-worker such as a supervisor. Sometimes a complaint will result from a notice that the licensing entity has received from a court clerk about a criminal conviction of a license holder; other times, the license holder self-reports (and is often required to self-report) a criminal conviction.
You may or may not be notified right away when a complaint is filed. Typically, the licensing body will first take a look at the complaint to make sure it meets all of the requirements for a valid complaint, and it may also check it to make sure it's complaining of the kind of behavior that the licensing body regulates. For example, most licenses don't require the professional to be polite to clients or patients (though, of course, it's never a bad idea to stay polite even in stressful situations). If a complaint alleges nothing more than rudeness, the licensing body may decide not to investigate the matter any further.
If you do receive a notice that someone has filed a formal complaint against you, this is the best time to contact an experienced license defense attorney-advisor. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team can help from the beginning in these types of situations, making sure that you are protected and defended through every step of the disciplinary process. Any disciplinary proceeding can be extremely stressful, but having an experienced attorney-advisor by your side throughout can bring you tremendous peace of mind and can make all the difference in the outcome.
Assuming the complaint passes the licensing agency's initial review, a formal investigation will typically follow. You'll be notified of this by the licensing body.
At this stage, the agency may appoint an investigator who may ask to interview you, your co-workers, family members, and the complaining witness. The investigator may ask for or subpoena records from your workplace, your own saved records, or from places you do business with, such as banks, brokerage houses, and even doctors and pharmacies. The process may feel very invasive; that's because it is invasive.
Having the help of professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team can make a big difference at this stage because they can act as your intermediary with the investigator, making sure that your rights are respected at every stage of the process. In addition, they can spearhead their own investigation on your behalf, helping you find evidence that you can use to defend yourself in the disciplinary process.
Negotiations and Consent Agreement
Once the investigation is complete, the licensing agency will typically review the investigator's findings and make a decision about whether to issue formal charges against you. If they decide not to, the matter is closed. But if they do bring charges, they are also likely to offer some form of a consent agreement, where you are asked to agree to a certain set of facts and accept a certain penalty as a result. The incentive to do this is to avoid a stressful and time-consuming hearing, and possibly more serious penalties that may result if you lose the hearing.
Potential penalties in these situations can vary widely. Typically, they can include simple verbal warnings, written censures that may appear on your record, an order that you take one or more remedial classes, temporary suspension of your professional license, or permanent suspension of your license. If substance abuse played a part in your situation, you may be required to enroll in a drug or alcohol treatment program as a condition of being able to maintain your license.
In some cases, it may make sense to agree to the proposed consent terms. In others, it may not. Professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team can help you evaluate the licensing agency's consent offer and decide whether to accept it or not. If appropriate, they can also negotiate on your behalf with the licensing agency to modify the terms of the proposed consent agreement so that they are more in your favor. And where the facts support it, they can also advise you when the best course may be to decline the consent agreement and proceed to a hearing.
Disciplinary hearings typically have their own set of procedures. You will usually receive a detailed notification of the charges that are being heard and the evidence that the licensing agency has against you. You will have an opportunity to respond to the state agency's evidence, and to introduce your own evidence in your defense.
At the actual hearing itself, you'll be able to review and object to evidence that the agency wants to introduce against you and cross-examine their witnesses. You'll also be able to put your own witnesses on the stand and make arguments against the licensing agency's case and in favor of your own.
When things get to this point, you will clearly benefit by having the assistance of a professional license defense attorney-advisor who has helped others in similar situations many times before. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team have been there. They know how hearings operate, how to carefully review and object to proposed evidence from the licensing agency, how to question and cross-examine witnesses, and how to make compelling and relevant arguments on behalf of their clients.
If the decision at the hearing is not in your favor, you usually have the opportunity to appeal it. Strong appeals are typically based on hearings where the license holder properly protected their rights, and having an experienced attorney-advisor by your side at the hearing will help make sure that happens. In cases where the hearing body made mistakes during the hearing process, Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team can help you craft and submit a strong and effective appeal to the decision.
Why You Need the Lento Law Firm to Help You Protect Your License
You are experienced at what you do for a living. You studied and trained for it for years, and your professional license recognizes your hard work and skill in your particular field. But dealing with a disciplinary investigation and proceeding is not something you do every day. It is, however, something that attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team have dealt with many times over. They understand how these difficult proceedings work, and they can help you at every step, including:
- Reviewing the complaint, conducting an investigation on your behalf, and acting as a buffer between you and the investigator assigned by the licensing body;
- Representing you at meetings, conferences, interviews, and other interactions with the licensing board or its investigator;
- Reviewing the written submissions from the licensing entity against you and working together with you to prepare responses on your behalf that are detailed and compelling;
- Negotiating with the licensing body on your behalf and helping you evaluate any proposed consent agreement that is presented to you;
- Attending the disciplinary hearing with you and acting on your behalf to review and object to evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and present your own evidence and witnesses.
Areas the Lento Law Firm Serves in Texas
The Lento Law Firm License Defense Team represents professionals involved in license defense cases all over Texas. No matter what kind of license you hold – as a physician, nurse, mental health care professional, engineer, geologist, or any other professional license – your license is key to your ability to practice your profession and make a living. If it's threatened by any kind of disciplinary investigation anywhere in Texas, Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team can help.
Among the areas in Texas served by the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team are some of Texas's largest, including:
Boasting a population of more than 7.5 million, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area is one of the largest in the country and is home to more residents than many states. In terms of health care, there are dozens of hospitals that serve the area, including Children's Medical Center, Baylor University Medical Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Medical City (Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington), Baylor Orthopedic and Spine Hospital at Arlington, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, and Texas Health Harris Methodist (Southwest and Fort Worth).
Just a shade behind Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, the Houston metropolitan area has a population of more than 7.1 million people. Some of the hospitals serving the Houston area include Houston Methodist Hospital (various campuses), Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Hospital (various campuses), Ben Taub Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, Texas Children's Hospital, and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
The San Antonio metro area is smaller than the first two – but still home to more than 2.5 million people. Hospitals in the San Antonio area include Methodist Hospital – San Antonio, Baptist Medical Center, Children's Hospital of San Antonio, and University Hospital.
While Austin is the fourth-largest metro area in Texas, with a population of more than 2.2 million, it still has more residents than 15 US states and the District of Columbia. Hospitals serving this region include St. David's Medical Center (North and South), Ascension Seton Medical Center, Dell Seton Medical Center, and Dell Children's Medical Center.
Types of Offenses and Allegations that May Jeopardize Your Professional License
The types of alleged misconduct that can result in a disciplinary proceeding can vary somewhat from one type of license to another. That said, there are certain types of conduct that tend to show up over and over again in disciplinary proceedings covering many different types of licenses. Some of these are as follows:
- Monetary fraud. This can include overbilling patients or clients for work that was not performed; artificially upgrading the types of work that are billed to insurance companies so that the companies end up paying more than they should have for work that was actually done; or convincing clients or patients to give money or other valuable items to the professional.
- Poor record-keeping. Failing to keep proper records of treatments given to patients or work performed for clients can be a violation of the standards that apply to a particular licensed profession.
- Sexual abuse. This can take the form of non-consensual sexual contact with a patient or a client, or a situation where the professional and the client enter into a personal relationship, including sexual contact that improperly blurs the boundary between the professional and the client.
- Mental or physical abuse. This can include actual physical abuse, often by a professional caregiver, or mental abuse by any number of types of mental or health care professionals.
- Negligence. When professional standards are disregarded, and harm comes to the patient or a client, the professional can be charged and disciplined for negligence.
- Criminal convictions. Many licenses require certain types of criminal convictions to be self-reported by the license holder to the licensing agency. Failure to do so can be its own violation of licensing standards, but in addition to that, certain types of convictions can result in the license holder being disciplined.
- Drug or alcohol dependency. When a license holder works while impaired by alcohol or drugs, they can be subject to professional discipline.
The Lento Law Firm: Professional License Defense for Licensed Professionals in Texas
If you are facing a professional discipline investigation or hearing, don't try to handle it by yourself. Just as your patients or clients rely on you for professional help in your particular area of expertise, you can count on professional license attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team to help you navigate this difficult situation. They've advised professional license holders all over the US who find themselves in similar situations and are ready and able to help you too.
Some of the many licensed professionals they have helped work in the following roles:
- Nurses and nurse practitioners
- Real estate brokers and agents
- Mental health counselors and other professionals
- Counselors and family therapists
- Elementary and high school administrators
- Other licensed professionals
Don't face a difficult and stressful professional discipline investigation alone! Call Joseph D. Lento today at 888.535.3686, or reach out to the Lento Law Firm License Defense Team online to set up a confidential consultation. They understand what you're going through and know how to help you get through this difficult time while still protecting your ability to practice your profession.