Obtaining a professional license is not an easy endeavor. Whether you are a doctor, nurse, lawyer, or teacher, you must generally go to school, complete certain requirements, and pass licensing tests to practice as a professional in these and many other professional fields. As a result, receiving a complaint against your professional license can be a crushing blow after you have worked so hard for so many years. Therefore, you need to contact an experienced license defense attorney to help you safeguard your license and livelihood.
Different rules, laws, and professional standards govern professionals as they practice in their chosen fields. These standards broadly prohibit unprofessional conduct and often specifically target some types of behaviors that will subject professionals to disciplinary action. Although the reasons that professionals can face suspensions of their licenses vary widely, some reasons frequently occur across all professions that may justify license suspensions.
Being Convicted of a Crime
Some professional rules and laws are quite broad in designating criminal activity as a basis for professional licensure discipline and suspension. For example, some rules refer to “unprofessional conduct” or crimes involving “moral turpitude.” These general references can encompass most types of crimes, giving great latitude to disciplinary boards and commissions in pursuing discipline against professionals who engage in criminal activity.
Other rules and laws that govern some professions are much more specific in the types of criminal convictions that can lead to disciplinary proceedings and license suspensions. Some of these enumerated crimes can include:
- Crimes of violence and those that cause harm to others, such as murder, robbery, and assault
- Sex crimes, such as rape or related crimes
- Crimes against children and the elderly, such as child or elder abuse
- Serious drug crimes, including offenses that usually go beyond simple possession of a small amount of drugs
Some professions include all felonies as a basis for disciplinary action, including suspension and revocation of licenses. Others include references to any crimes containing any element of fraud, dishonesty, or misrepresentation.
Using Illegal Drugs, Controlled Substances, or Alcohol
In most professions, criminal activity and convictions related to using illegal drugs, controlled substances, or alcohol serve as a basis for disciplinary action. Depending on the severity of the situation, license suspension for these crimes is possible.
Even if a professional is not charged criminally or not convicted of a crime, other incidents involving drugs or alcohol can lead to disciplinary action. For instance, being found under the influence while working or possessing illegal drugs at work can lead to discipline.
Furthermore, a first-time, low-level drug offense might lead to deferred adjudication in Texas. Under these circumstances, the individual would complete a term of probation which would defer prosecution of the offense. At the end of the probationary period, assuming that the individual completes all conditions, the case would be dismissed, and the individual would have no criminal conviction. However, even a deferred adjudication for a drug offense could lead to disciplinary action, including a professional license suspension, in Texas.
Committing Fraud, Deceit, or Misrepresentation
Another common basis for disciplinary action such as license suspension is any behaviors that involve fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. In some cases, this conduct involves criminal behaviors. In others, it may involve unethical behavior that violates rules of professional conduct but does not rise to the level of a crime. Most rules that govern professionals have specific and general prohibitions against dishonest behaviors.
Some examples of the types of behaviors that could lead to professional license suspension could include:
- Mismanagement of client funds
- Billing or insurance fraud
- False advertising
- Falsification of client or patient records
- Forgery of prescriptions for oneself or others
Most professionals owe inherent duties of care to their clients or patients. This duty of care is critical in the relationship between the professional and their client or patient. When the professional acts deceitfully or fraudulently, they violate that duty of care and destroy trust in the relationship. Arguably, these acts also damage the profession, which is why these types of professional rules exist. Therefore, any form of deceit, misrepresentation, or fraud can lead to disciplinary action.
Engaging in Sexual Misconduct
In some cases, clients or patients may file disciplinary complaints accusing professionals of inappropriate sexual behaviors, ranging from improper comments to unwanted touching or physical contact. The conduct may rise to the level of criminal behavior, but it does not constitute a crime in many cases.
Most rules that govern professionals prohibit all general types of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, including those that are offensive to clients or patients. As a result, complaints of sexual misconduct can lead to disciplinary proceedings. While an isolated complaint is unlikely to result in a suspension of one’s license, repeated complaints from multiple clients or patients or a pattern of similar behaviors over time can lead to several disciplinary actions, including a license suspension.
Professional malpractice or misconduct can also lead to license suspension or disciplinary proceedings. The type of conduct that leads to incompetent practice or malpractice depends on the rules of each profession. License suspension tends to be a more severe sanction in the range of penalties for professional disciplinary action. In most cases, incompetent behavior or misconduct that leads to suspension has harmed a client or patient.
For example, a doctor might commit medical malpractice by failing to properly diagnose a patient with cancer or administering the incorrect treatment for an ailment, thus causing harm to the patient. Likewise, a nurse might engage in incompetent treatment of a patient by giving him the incorrect medication.
Similarly, a lawyer could violate professional rules of conduct by giving a client incorrect legal advice. If the client relies on that advice, the client may end up with disastrous and perhaps irreparable results, even to the extent that he commits a crime or misses a legal deadline.
We Can Work to Protect Your License from Suspension
A licensing board complaint requires you to take immediate action to protect your license and career. You could be facing a professional license suspension, which could have severe consequences for your business and your ability to support yourself. However, you may be able to avoid or minimize these sanctions and maintain your clean disciplinary history. Get help from an experienced license defense attorney today. Contact Bertolino LLP today at (512) 515-9518 or visit us online.