Joseph P. Hougnon, Attorney at Law

California Pharmacist License Defense Attorney


The California Board of Pharmacy is responsible for regulating the nearly 29,000 pharmacists in the state, as well as all pharmacist technicians. The mission of the Board is to protect the health and safety of the people of California “through licensing, legislation…and enforcement.”

If you’re a pharmacist in California, you’ve worked very hard to obtain your professional license. Your license is both a symbol of your achievement and your livelihood. Nevertheless, every professional is human. Mistakes can be made or actions taken that can threaten your license and your ability to earn a living as a pharmacist.

The Board of Pharmacy takes their responsibility to protect the public very seriously. If you’ve been convicted of certain types of crime, you need to treat the situation with equal seriousness. The Board can and will use its powers to place you on probation or suspend and even revoke your license if the circumstances warrant.

Crimes That Can Trigger Board Discipline

In general, any criminal conviction that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a licensed pharmacist will likely bring about an investigation and subsequent discipline by the Board. A crime is considered substantially related to the duties of a licensed pharmacist if it shows that the licensee is unfit to perform the functions authorized by his or her license in a manner that is consistent with public health, safety, or welfare.

There are a number of specific crimes that the Board considers substantially related to a pharmacist’s duties and the public safety. These include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Prescription forgery
  • Knowingly or willingly making false statements
  • Grand theft
  • Petty theft
  • Drug-related crimes
  • Engaging in lewd conduct with a minor
  • Rape
  • Murder

This list is by no means inclusive. The Board has the authority to evaluate any criminal behavior to determine if that behavior is substantially related to a pharmacist’s duties. What this means is that the Board has the latitude to consider almost any crime as “substantially related” given individual circumstances.

What Qualifies as a Conviction for the Purpose of Board Discipline?

Every pharmacist in California is now fingerprinted upon renewing their license. In addition, when renewing your license, there is an obligation to report any criminal conviction that occurred in California, any other state, the United States, or any other country. The only exception to this reporting requirement is for a traffic citation with a fine of less than $500, that did not involve alcohol, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances. A failure to report a conviction is considered knowingly and willingly making a false statement. This, in and of itself, may result in suspension or revocation of a license, irrespective of the underlying conviction.

The Board is going to find out about any criminal conviction that a licensed pharmacist has. They don’t even have to wait until a licensee submits a renewal application to do so. Court clerks are required to report any convictions that involve licensees within ten days of a verdict or judgment. Furthermore, a pharmacist’s fingerprints are on file with the Department of Justice. Upon arrest and booking, a match will be made with the DOJ database and noted. This increases the chances that a conviction will be reported to the Board.

So, what is considered a conviction for the purposes of Board discipline? Obviously, verdicts following trial are considered a conviction. However, guilty pleas, pleas of no contest, and convictions that are capable of being expunged will also trigger potential discipline. The Board can even bring disciplinary proceedings in a situation where a pharmacist has entered and successfully completed a court-ordered diversion program designed to rehabilitate.

Discipline and Rehabilitation

In general, the Board will not institute disciplinary proceedings until the time to bring an appeal for a conviction has lapsed, an appeal has affirmed the conviction, or an order of probation has been entered. That being said, the Board will expedite its actions in situations where a felony conviction involves a crime that occurred:

  • In the course of pharmacy business or involved a pharmacist’s client and
  • The crime involved fraud or the illegal sale of a controlled substance.

Regarding potential discipline, the Board’s Disciplinary Guidelines recommends that a number of factors are considered in deciding whether to impose the minimum, maximum, or some indeterminate penalty in any given case.

In general, if probation can be imposed for a three-to-five year period and will carry mandatory and optional requirements. It is recommended that any suspension is for at least 30 days. Revocation, of course, is reserved for more serious offenses or repeat offenses.

Good people can make bad choices. Because of this, the Board can look at evidence of rehabilitation when deciding on what discipline to impose. This evidence includes:

  • Evidence of remorse and restitution
  • Evidence of participation in therapy
  • Evidence of community involvement or volunteer work
  • Letters of reference from treating professionals, probation officers, and current employers
  • The amount of time that has passed since the conviction occurred.

It has to be remembered that all disciplinary proceedings brought by the Board are administrative in nature. This means that, per the Board’s mission, the purpose is to protect the public. Compare this to a criminal proceeding where the purpose is to punish the offender in order to deter repeat behavior. Therefore, any rehabilitative evidence needs to establish that allowing the pharmacist in question to keep and maintain a license will not pose a risk to public safety.

Even if a license is revoked or suspended until further order, all hope is not lost. A disciplined licensee can petition the Board to have their license reinstated after a certain amount of time has passed. The Board will then once again look at all of the evidence of rehabilitation submitted and determine if the pharmacist in question still poses a threat to the public’s health and safety.

CONTACT A PROFESSIONAL LICENSE DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR HELP

If you’re facing an accusation by the Board, don’t make the mistake of underestimating your situation. To protect your license and your reputation, it is important that you consult with an experienced pharmacist 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.