Joseph P. Hougnon, Attorney at Law

California Medical License Defense Attorney


Pursuant to its website, the purpose of the Medical Board of California is to protect the public by licensing and regulating physicians and surgeons, as well as vigorously enforcing California’s Medical Practice Act. From this, we can see that the Medical Board takes its job quite seriously, as well it should.

If you are a physician or surgeon who has become aware of a pending disciplinary case, you need to prepare to defend your license with equal vigor. While there are several ways for a disciplinary investigation to be triggered, this article will focus on one of the most common – a failure to mandatorily report a criminal conviction.

Pursuant to the California Business and Professional Code, the Medical Board requires that all licensed physicians disclose any felony charges that have been filed against them in criminal court. It also requires the disclosure of all misdemeanor convictions. It should be noted that sometimes the Board is notified of a pending or completed criminal matter by the California Department of Justice of by the local court systems themselves. However, this potential notification does not obviate the physician’s responsibility to self-disclose. However, a failure to self-report a pending felony charge or misdemeanor conviction will always trigger disciplinary action once the Board learns of the matter.

THINK OF DEFENDING YOUR MEDICAL LICENSE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING

One of the best ways to mitigate the problem of an unreported conviction is by making the right decisions from the very start of the problem. If you have pending criminal matter ahead of you, a conviction is the least of your worries. Any criminal penalties the court imposes can be put behind you. A jail or community service sentence can be served. Fines can be paid. Probation terms can be completed successfully. Criminal records can be expunged. However, the serious and long-lasting career impacts that result from a conviction, or not reporting a conviction, may not be so easy to put behind you.

If you have a criminal charge pending against you, consider hiring an experienced medical license defense attorney now to consult with your legal defense team. A license defense attorney can bring a long-term view to the table and may be able to show your criminal defense attorney that the case isn’t over at the conclusion of the trial.

Work to Preserve the Right Mitigating Evidence

Criminal defense lawyers are trained to focus on case outcome as a measure of success. In their specialty, this is perfectly acceptable. Having a client avoid the majority of a large jail sentence or fine in exchange for a guilty plea is, from a criminal defense context, a successful result.  However, concerning medical license defense, such a focus is often too narrow. Once a conviction occurs, the Board is not limited to only looking at the outcome of the criminal matter. It can go and consider the underlying facts to determine the appropriate discipline. This means that all investigative reports, rulings on bail or protective orders, probation conditions and any testimony or evidence offered through discovery or at trial are all fair game.

Therefore, it becomes exceedingly important to preserve any and all mitigating evidence in the case record. As you may know, mitigating evidence is any evidence that explains away or provides an understandable context for the alleged criminal act. Mitigating evidence casts a wrongful act in a softer, more sympathetic and reasonable light. Examples of this would include severe life stress caused by the death of a parent, spouse or child, a messy divorce, a severe or life-threatening illness or incredible financial hardships. Absent this type of context, the Board is free to assume that the criminal act in question is an insight into your true personal behavior. From this, the Board is then able to generalize and make incorrect assumptions about you that will inform the discipline imposed upon you.

Make Efforts to Rehabilitate Yourself Early and Often

Once the Board decides to discipline your license, it becomes your burden to demonstrate the efforts you’ve made at rehabilitating your behavior. This rehabilitative evidence will, in part, allow the Board to decide what, if any, action against your license is appropriate. The Board tends to justify punitive action against a professional license after a conviction by equating criminal activity with character flaws, loss of judgment, and impairment that endangers the public. Rehabilitation evidence works against this presumption by demonstrating that the issues that caused the criminal act have been addressed and rehabilitated by voluntary action. This can cause a reduction in the severity of the discipline imposed or even a dismissal of the action altogether.

However, remember never lie to the Board about a criminal matter or your rehabilitation. No matter what the underlying criminal issue is, your direct dishonesty to the Board will always be more damaging.

TYPES OF CASES THAT WILL TRIGGER DISCIPLINE

Minor misdemeanor crimes that result in a conviction, but do not indicate potential concerns with your character, still need to be reported. However, these types of “petty” crimes will, most likely, not result in discipline being taken against your license. Examples would include low blood alcohol DUI, disturbing the peace and certain types of misdemeanor vehicle code cases.

However, crimes that point to substance abuse, hint at mental illness, or involve theft, fraud, violence or any sex offense will trigger discipline that may have some effect on your license. In fact, conviction of certain sexual offenses that result in mandated sex offender registration may result in an immediate license revocation.

Obviously, every individual case is unique. Under certain circumstances what can be characterized as a “minor” offense may result in a major disciplinary action and vice-versa. That is why it is important that you consult with an experienced medical license defense attorney about the specifics of your situation. Feel free to contact our office today for a free and confidential consultation.

Joe Hougnon, Esq.

Answers to all your questions are only a phone call away. Call Now at (916) 730-5251.