Criminal prosecutions frequently affect a professional license, even if the criminal charge is unrelated to a defendant’s profession. Thus it is critical in these situations to retain an attorney with expertise in both criminal defense and in professional licensing issues. Otherwise, a felony conviction and certain misdemeanor convictions may result in suspension or revocation of a professional license. Thus the goal in representing a professionally licensed client under investigation for or charged with criminal conduct is to resolve the criminal matter without impacting his or her ability to continue in their profession.
Failing to Report a Conviction
Regardless of the outcome, it is important to notify the relevant licensing board of any criminal conviction. The failure to do so may in and of itself impact one’s license or at a minimum affect the a licensing board’s decision once if it learns about the conviction on its own. Certain civil matters which allege fraud, misappropriation of funds, breach of fiduciary duty and the like may also impact a professional license. If a professional receives an inquiry about a criminal conviction or civil fraud matter which has not been reported it is imperative to retain counsel before responding.
Coordination Between Criminal and Professional Licensing Matters
It is essential to obtain legal advice as to the impact a plea agreement or a conviction after trial may have on a professional license. Legal representation that focuses on both will ensure that a client fully understands the interplay between a conviction and the license in deciding how to proceed in a criminal case. In certain cases, it is possible for experienced counsel to achieve a more lenient resolution of a criminal matter because of the potential impact certain criminal convictions will have on a defendant’s professional career. For example, counsel may be able to negotiate a misdemeanor disposition with such conditions as community service and/or a donation to an important charity and rather than a felony conviction which will permit a professional license to remain in force.
If the charge or conviction involves alcohol or drug abuse, it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible to demonstrate to the licensing board that action is being taken to rectify the problem. In such a case, discipline instead of suspension or revocation of the license could be the result. Another consideration is the impact of a deferred resolution on one’s license. Such alternative dispositions, which may end with a dismissal of a charge, may require an admission of culpability which in and of itself may carry the same weight as a guilty plea to a licensing board. Thus it is imperative to seek legal guidance before entering into such an agreement.
It is also possible for a disciplinary sanction imposed by a board to have an impact with other agencies that regulate a profession. For example, a Medical Board may classify a no-contest plea as an admission which may have the same draconian consequence as a guilty plea. Even after the disciplinary action is resolved, a health care professional may be prohibited from participating in Medicare and Medicaid. Doctors may also be faced with DEA revocation of prescription writing privileges. In fact, the DEA can remove this privilege as early as the arrest phase of the criminal process.
If you are facing a criminal charge and hold a professional license, it is imperative to consult with a lawyer with experience in both the criminal and professional consequences of your case such as Attorney Richard S. Berne to obtain the best result.