You have worked hard to complete your education and earn your license as a licensed professional. However, now a complaint against you is threatening your career. You have too much at stake to try and handle a complaint and potential disciplinary action on your own. Instead, call an experienced professional license defense lawyer to assist you in protecting your rights and your reputation. By getting legal representation, you can also get a better sense of the types of sanctions you may face in disciplinary proceedings.
Sanctions and Disciplinary Actions by Professional Licensing Boards
Professional licensing boards and agencies take complaints against professionals very seriously. They have the authority to investigate and prosecute any violations of the laws or rules that apply to a particular occupation or profession. If the board finds sufficient evidence or probable cause to conclude that the professional has committed such a violation, they can impose a wide range of disciplinary sanctions, depending on what the pertinent rules or laws authorize.
Generally, most licensing boards can impose the following types of sanctions when a professional violates a rule or law:
- Written warnings, private reprimands, or public reprimands
- Completion of required continuing education courses
- Ongoing monitoring or required reporting to the board or its staff
- Limitations on the types of practice-related activities that you can perform or work that you can do
- Imposition of administrative penalties or fines
- Compulsory participation in drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs
- Regular random drug testing
- Placement on probation with various terms and conditions
- License suspension
- License revocation
Each licensing board or agency operates under different rules and procedures. Therefore, the disciplinary process may differ substantially from one profession to the next. However, these are the most common types of sanctions available in all professional license disciplinary proceedings.
Common Criteria for Determining Sanctions in Disciplinary Proceedings
Many licensing boards or agencies have developed rules or are subject to statutes that outline the factors they must consider in determining the appropriate sanction for an individual facing disciplinary proceedings. In addition, some boards provide specific penalties for different types of violations based on severity. For instance, they may classify or group certain common violations in terms of severity and impose particular sanctions for each group. However, the licensing board or agency typically reserves the right to depart from the recommended or scheduled sanctions in appropriate cases.
Other licensing boards and agencies are not as specific in designating penalties for each type of violation. Instead, they identify general factors they must consider in determining the appropriate punishment in a particular case. While these factors differ from one profession to another, some are common to many professions.
Severity of the Violation
In considering the severity of the violation of a law or rule, a licensing board will often look at the nature of the violation, the circumstances surrounding the violation, and the seriousness of the professional’s actions.
Prior Disciplinary History
Licensing boards and agencies typically consider whether a professional has no prior disciplinary background, such as in the case of a first-time disciplinary proceeding, which can be a mitigating factor. On the other hand, a history of repeated violations can result in a harsher sanction than an individual with no prior history might receive.
Danger, Harm, and Financial Losses to Others Caused by the Violation
The danger, risk of danger, and financial losses that a violation creates not only to the complainant but to the public, in general, are always factors that licensing boards consider in determining the appropriate level of sanctions. For example, if a violation poses a danger or risk of danger to the public’s health, welfare, or safety, it is more likely to result in a more severe sanction.
Efforts Taken to Remedy the Violation
Efforts that an individual takes to remedy the violation and other mitigating factors can play a role in determining sanctions in disciplinary proceedings. For instance, if the violation relates to illicit drug use, voluntary participation in a substance treatment program, and other efforts to obtain sobriety before a board has imposed a sanction could result in a less severe sanction.
Level of Sanction Necessary to Avoid Future Violations
Licensing boards and agencies also will weigh potential disciplinary sanctions in terms of the severity necessary to deter future misconduct. The preference of the licensing board is that a professional commits no further violations of rules or laws applicable to their profession. Therefore, the board often wishes to impose a substantial or punitive sanction to prevent the individual from committing similar or additional violations in the future.
Due Process Rights to Challenge Sanctions
Professionals also typically have due process rights when they face disciplinary action, including the right to challenge proposed sanctions before a licensing board imposes them. In many professions, Texas law provides a means for informal conferences or hearings before a panel or full licensing boards. In many cases, the professional also may be able to seek a formal hearing on the matter, which the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) often conducts. Finally, many professionals have appeal rights if they disagree with the sanctions imposed following a formal hearing.
Count on Bertolino LLP, to Defend Your License from Disciplinary Action
When a complaint threatens your ability to earn a living, you need a seasoned professional license defense attorney on your side. We will defend you against these attacks on the credentials you have worked so hard to earn. Get in touch with the lawyers of Bertolino LLP today by calling (512) 515-9518 or visiting us online.