After spending so much time and money on obtaining your professional license, being the subject of investigation by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs or other agency or board can be a devastating ordeal. Depending on the charge and the outcome, you can be reprimanded, and your license can be suspended or even revoked. Given the severity of this process, it is important to know your rights as a professional and to have a skilled attorney on your side. Below is a brief outline of the license defense process:
- A complaint is filed from one of many sources. A client, patient (or family member of a patient), coworker, boss, or spouse can file a complaint. Most often, the allegations will involve neglect, malpractice, incompetence, or substandard care. Certain crimes, including DUI, theft, embezzlement, fraud, misrepresentation, and violent crime can also lead to professional disciplinary action.
- An investigator will be sent to gather information from you. The investigator may seem friendly and non-confrontational, but it is important to remember that, just like police questioning, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” It is therefore almost always in your best interest to refuse to speak to the investigator until you have consulted with an attorney. When speaking with your attorney, be completely frank and truthful about the matter or conduct for which you are being investigated. The more your attorney knows, the better he can advise you and defend you in future proceedings.
- Some licensing boards, including the Nursing Board and Medical Board, may require a license-holder to undergo a mental and/or physical examination if under investigation. It is important to speak to your attorney at this step in the process as well, as this examination could involve a violation of your rights.
- After your investigation is complete, you may be allowed to negotiate a sanction with the Bureau that is investigating you. One type of negotiation outcome is a Consent Decree, which is similar to a settlement in civil court. With a Consent Decree, the professional will admit guilt in exchange for a more favorable disciplinary action. It is not always wise to engage in negotiations with the Bureau (as this will usually lead to an admission of guilt), so consult your attorney before engaging in any negotiations.
- If the investigation shows that there is enough evidence for charges to be filed against you, you may receive an Order to Show Cause, which is similar to a civil complaint. A Hearing Examiner may preside over your case and eventually issue a Decision and Order, similar to a judge.
As always, it is of paramount importance to be completely open with your attorney. The more you trust and are truthful with him, the more favorable your outcome will be. At Fairlie & Lippy, we have experience in handling license investigations of doctors, nurses, accountants, and lawyers, among other professionals. If your professional license is under formal investigation, do not hesitate to contact Fairlie & Lippy for a free case consultation.