Fire safety professionals provide vitally important protection to the public. That is why the Texas Commission on Fire Protection (TCFP) takes misconduct allegations seriously, imposing serious consequences when individuals face disciplinary action for a complaint. However, fire professionals facing misconduct allegations have rights during the disciplinary process.
A Texas Commission on Fire Protection license defense attorney can help protect those rights. As a reputable law firm that stands up for fire safety professionals, Bertolino LLP understands what is at stake and will help you safeguard your license and career.
Why do I Need a Fire Protection License Defense Attorney?
If the allegations against you are unfounded, you might wonder why you need help from a vocational license defense attorney.
While you may understand your job and can respond to work-related complaints, you may not know how to protect your license.
Having a powerful legal advocate on your side could prove invaluable as you work to clear your reputation and protect your future. An experienced fire protection license defense attorney can assist in critical ways, including:
- Hiring legal experts: Because fire professional licenses are legal agreements with the state, legal experts can defend against allegations made against you.
- Advocate for you: When dealing with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, a lawyer will advocate for your defense. That’s because the TCFP focuses on protecting public interest, which may or may not be in your favor.
- Provide experience in handling complaints: An attorney understands the complexities of TCFP regulations and can provide knowledgeable legal advice if you face disciplinary action or license revocation.
At our law firm, defending careers is our sole focus, and we are committed to achieving the best outcomes for all clients. We can guide you through complex legal systems and help you understand your case’s ramifications.
What Is the Texas Commission on Fire Protection?
The TCFP is a government agency responsible for regulating and overseeing fire departments and firefighting standards across Texas. It supervises whether the state meets the highest standards in fire safety regulations and works to ensure public fire departments remain compliant with these standards.
The agency also works with governmental and private organizations to improve public safety by guarding citizens from fire risk. Commission members are appointed by the Texas state governor and will hold their title for six years.
Our team of skilled attorneys has years of experience in providing clients with a thorough understanding of the strategies and approaches to benefit their cases. In addition to the TCFP, we can help represent your interests before the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Texas Department of Insurance, Texas Medical Board, and other Texas professional licensing boards.
Texas Texas Commission on Fire Protection License Defense Lawyer Near Me (512) 476-5757
What does It Mean If I Receive a Letter of Investigation from the TCFP?
If you received an investigation letter from the TCFP, it means the agency has received a complaint about your conduct or actions as a firefighter or other member of the fire service.
The letter is a formal notification that the agency is investigating the matter. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, you could face disciplinary action or other penalties. Taking the letter seriously and cooperating fully with the investigation is important.
How Should I Respond to Allegations Made Against Me?
If you were accused of misconduct, responding appropriately and taking the allegations seriously is important. Some steps you can take include:
- Review the allegations: Carefully read and understand the allegations that have been made against you.
- Gather information: Collect relevant information or evidence that may help clear your name or show that the allegations are false.
- Consult with legal counsel: Seek the advice of an attorney with experience in fire service-related misconduct cases. An attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations and advise you on the best action.
- Cooperate with the investigation: Follow the TCFP’s instructions or the agency conducting the investigation. Until legal guidance, provide information or evidence that they request. Be honest and transparent throughout the process.
- Be professional: Maintain a professional demeanor throughout the investigation and avoid making any statements that could be used against you or perceived as uncooperative or unprofessional.
- Be prepared to face the consequences: Depending on the outcome of the investigation, you may face disciplinary action, including suspension or termination of your employment. Be prepared for the potential consequences and have a plan in place.
It’s important to remember that the allegations are not proven at this stage, and you are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Our legal team often stops board investigations with powerful and in-depth upfront responses to misconduct allegations.
Common Allegations Made Against Fire Professionals
Accusations and complaints against licensed professionals are far more common than you think. The most common types of allegations include professional misconduct and negligence. While some complaints may be valid, others are unfounded.
Either way, misconduct allegations can lead to personal and professional consequences like financial strain, loss of future job opportunities, and a damaged reputation. That is why it’s crucial to seek knowledgeable legal counsel as soon as possible. By learning your rights and available defense options, you can protect yourself from potential civil litigation resulting from unfounded allegations. The following are common charges made against fire professionals:
Internal Departmental Issues
Texas firefighting departments continue to face scrutiny as allegations of discrimination, harassment, and other internal misconduct issues are being brought to the forefront of society.
Because claims of discrimination, harassment, and misconduct can have significant consequences for your department and your future, it’s vital to defend yourself and your license. An attorney can protect your rights throughout any potential investigation.
A firefighter overtime scandal is when you may have been accused of improperly collecting overtime pay or engaging in fraudulent activities related to your overtime hours.
Because legitimate overtime scandals can cause significant financial losses for taxpayers, damage the department’s reputation, and lead to legal and disciplinary action, the TCFP takes this claim seriously.
An experienced lawyer can provide invaluable expertise and support throughout the investigation and ensure justice is served. They can help you understand the legal repercussions of any potential wrongdoing and help you negotiate for reduced charges.
Sexual Misconduct Charges
Allegations of sexual misconduct typically involve harassment, unwanted touching, verbal abuse, and other forms of inappropriate behavior. These types of claims can have a significant impact on your TCFP license. Depending on the circumstances, the TCFP may investigate the allegation and take disciplinary action against you.
This could include revoking or suspending your license or imposing other penalties, including fines or mandatory training. If you were found to have engaged in sexual misconduct, the TCFP may also report the violation to other relevant agencies, including law enforcement, which could lead to additional legal consequences.
An experienced lawyer can investigate allegations of engaging in criminal activity. They may do this by reviewing statements made by involved parties, following up on inspection reports, and developing a defense to combat allegations.
Sick Leave Abuse Claims
Allegations of sick leave abuse commonly revolve around improper documentation and the potential misuse of employee benefits. If proven true, you may face penalties, including loss of pay and dismissal from the department. Furthermore, your license may also be endangered.
A professional license defense lawyer can help defend these charges by providing guidance, evidence gathering, and case strategy planning. They can scrutinize the circumstances surrounding your sick leave abuse claim to determine the most viable arguments for the defense.
Substance Abuse on the Job
Fire professionals are prohibited from drinking alcohol or consuming intoxicating substances while on duty.
This means a firefighter cannot be in the presence of, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages or dangerous drugs while carrying out their duties and responding to emergencies. Common substance abuse accusations involve drinking while operating a motor vehicle.
Working with a lawyer who has experience dealing with on-the-job drinking allegations can prove invaluable. They can guide you through the lengthy and sometimes stressful legal process. An attorney can also negotiate with the employer, prosecutor, or judge on your behalf.
Depending on the individual charges and the evidence available, an experienced lawyer may convince the court to impose lighter criminal penalties or even have all charges dropped. They can also provide legal advocacy during hearings.
Fraud uses deception or pretenses to gain an unfair advantage over another person. Common fraud allegations typically involve making false statements, misuse of funds, embezzlement, or misrepresenting facts.
If you face accusations of engaging in fraudulent activities, seek immediate legal representation to protect your rights.
Your attorney will look at how the alleged fraudulent activity was discovered and the evidence presented against you. They will investigate the accusations while working closely with the client to build a strong defense.
Additionally, the lawyer may demonstrate that even though there could have been negligence or ignorance on behalf of the accused, the alleged fraud was not intentional or purposeful. This often provides strong grounds for mitigating any possible penalties associated with the claims.
Pension fraud is the illegal practice of seeking to profit from these funds by misrepresenting contributions or by diverting benefits for improper purposes. This fraud can range from simple transactions like falsifying funding records to more complex arrangements like improperly valuing assets and investments.
If you were accused of pension fraud, your license might be in danger. A vocational license defense attorney can investigate the charges you face and any inconsistencies in inspection reports and other documents.
Negligence or Gross Incompetence
Negligence involves failure to exercise proper care in circumstances where others would have acted accordingly.
Depending on the severity of the alleged misconduct, the TCFP may revoke, suspend, or place conditions on you. Additionally, you may be required to take additional training or education to address the issues that led to the claim of negligence or incompetence.
It’s important to note that the specific actions taken by the TCFP will depend on your case’s specific facts and circumstances.
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Who Can File Complaints Against Fire Professionals
The TCFP allows anyone to make complaints or allegations as needed. Individuals who wish to file complaints with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection must add specific information, including their name and contact information, as part of the allegations of violations in question.
Under the Texas Public Information Act, complainants’ names may be public in certain circumstances. The information complainants must include in their complaints to the TCFP include:
- The complainant’s name
- Email address
- Phone number
- Street address
- The address where the incident or event occurred
- The date on which the incident or event occurred
- The nature of the complaint as described in the TCFP drop-down menu
- The name of the entity the complaint is against if it is a TCFP-regulated agency
- A description of the complaint, including who is involved, what happened, when, where, and why the individual is making the complaint
Once the TCFP has received a complaint, it will need to review it to determine its validity. If they find grounds to pursue the details of the complaint, they will move forward with an investigation. Under Texas Government Code, Chapter 419, §419.011(b) and (c), the commission will also report back to the complainant about any progress.
Understanding the TCFP Disciplinary Investigation Process
After the Texas Commission on Fire Protection has received a complaint, they will verify the information to see if it has merit. They will notify you about launching a disciplinary investigation if they deem it valid.
You have the right to legal representation to advise you throughout the process. A lawyer may accompany you to discussions or hearings when an investigation has been opened against you. An attorney will carefully examine the details of your case to determine how to approach your license defense best.
This might include submitting a response to the complaint or attending a preliminary conference where you can negotiate a resolution and ask questions. Your attorney may also attempt to have the complaint dismissed by requesting that it be recommended for closure.
How Complaints Could Affect Your Life as a Fire Professional
When complaints or allegations of violations are made against fire professionals, their lives can be negatively impacted in several ways. If the Texas Commission on Fire Protection finds the complaint against you is valid, they may attempt to settle.
While you may be skilled in performing your job as a licensed professional, you will likely be unfamiliar with the review and negotiation process. However, license defense lawyers can safely guide you through the procedure. The terms of the settlement could include the following:
- Monetary fines or sanctions: Fines may be imposed to cover hearing costs and victim damages.
- A formal reprimand: Depending on the details of your case, the commission may issue a verbal or written reprimand.
- A probationary period: The commission has the authority to place you on probation to ensure you meet the requirements to keep your fire professional’s license active.
- Mandatory requirements or restrictions: The commission may decree you must take certain steps for continued licensing, including completing community service or continuing education requirements.
- Restriction of your fire professionals license to practice: If your license is restricted, you may only be allowed to perform certain tasks or functions.
- Suspension or revocation of your fire professionals license: The commission has the authority to suspend or revoke your license for a specific amount of time or indefinitely, with or without the opportunity to reinstate your license.
- Supervised license approval by another fire professional: You may be allowed to retain possession of your fire professional’s license as long as another fire professional of greater experience supervised you.
Alternatively, if the commission finds the complaint invalid, the proposed settlement may suggest the complaint against you be dismissed entirely. This can be beneficial because you will not have to face any further court action, your reputation will remain intact, and you could also avoid paying attorneys’ fees or other costs associated with a lawsuit.
Regardless of how the complaint review goes, it would help if you had an experienced Texas Commission on Fire Protection license defense lawyer to review and advise on any settlement discussions. Trying to handle it alone will leave you vulnerable to an unfavorable decision.
How a Criminal Conviction Can Impact Your Professional License
Criminal activities are investigated by Texas Professional Licensing Boards and law enforcement agencies within their scope. The following conducts are considered to directly impact licensed professionals’ abilities to perform their duties and responsibilities:
- Offenses under the Government Code, Chapter 419, concerning the Texas Commission on Fire Protection
- Criminal activities under the Health and Safety Code, Chapter 481, relating to controlled substances
- Criminal offenses under the Texas Penal Code
This list of criminal activities is not exhaustive. For more information on punishable actions, visit the Criminal Convictions Guidelines listed under the Texas Administrative Code.
When a professional’s conviction of a misdemeanor or felony relates to the responsibilities and duties of the certificate holder, the TCFP can:
- Deny examination for a certificate
- Deny the certification application
- Place a new certificate under probate suspension
- Refuse certificate renewal
- Revoke, suspend or probate a certificate suspension or revocation
- Limit practice areas
If you were convicted of a criminal offense, a license defense attorney could establish your eligibility to apply for a license or license renewal with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.
How to Fight Possible Disciplinary Actions
Only after conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations against you will the Commission determine whether it is appropriate to impose sanctions or penalties.
Your fire professional license defense attorney will help protect and exercise your rights. They will provide detailed and thorough guidance through every step of the process.
The TCFP can place a professional with a suspended license on probation. What is more, the agency may impose a series of requirements if a regulated individuals suspension is probated:
- Regular reports on issues relating to the probation
- Limit the practice area
- Renew or continue professional training and education
When determining penalties and disciplinary actions, the Commission bases the final decision on a series of factors, including:
- Severity of the violation
- Compliance history
- Threat to the fire personnel and the public
- Mitigating factors
Once you were notified of the commission’s intention to revoke or suspend your certificate, you are entitled to a hearing.
A professional license defense attorney can help you prepare for the hearing. They will guide you through each stage of the process and build a strong defense to protect your future.
The Texas Commission on Fire Protection License Reinstatement Process
According to the Texas Administrative Code, you may send a request to reinstate your license for consideration after one year from the revocation or suspension.
The written request must detail why you should have your license reinstated. If your application for reinstatement has been denied, TCFP may consider a subsequent request only after a year passed from the denial date.
The Commission will base its decision on several factors, including:
- The severity of the act that led to the license suspension
- The applicant’s conduct
- The time after the revocation or suspension
- The applicant’s compliance with the previously stipulated conditions
The applicant must appear before an administrative law judge to present their case and prove they are fit to have a reinstated license.
If the applicant fails to appear before the commission-appointed judge at the scheduled date, they may only appear before an administrative law judge after six months. However, special circumstances may be considered.
Aggressive Legal Representation for Licensed Professionals
If the TFP contacts you, you should immediately exercise your right to legal representation and contact a license defense attorney. We are uniquely qualified and trained to defend your rights as a professional. Our experienced attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the regulations and processes of obtaining and maintaining your license.
Avoid engaging directly in any questioning without legal representation while under investigation by your licensing commission. Having knowledgeable legal counsel to navigate the complexities of licensure defense cases will ensure your rights are upheld.
An experienced fire protection license defense attorney can also provide invaluable advice on how to protect your license from potential revocation or suspension by:
- Providing pertinent information about filing procedures and timelines
- Negotiating with prosecutors for reduced penalties
- Participating in settlement talks with prosecutors
- Mounting a vigorous defense against any accusations or charges brought against you
Our legal team collaborates with clients to build a personalized approach to each defense case.
Throughout our practice, we have represented licensed professionals from different fields, including fire safety experts, law enforcement officers, and medical personnel. Our main goal is to offer discreet legal counsel to protect your career and reputation.
Get Help With Your Texas Commission on Fire Protection License Defense Case Today
Fire protection professionals have rights, and the experienced attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help protect them. Defending your license can take months; during this time, your career hangs in the balance.
The sooner you involve our team, the sooner we can work on defending you and your license. Call today to schedule a case evaluation if your fire protection professionals license is under attack.