I Feel Like I Have Been Charged with a Crime: Disciplinary Proceedings Can Be Brutal

August 31, 2022
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

License spelled out in wooden blocks

For those professionals who are facing disciplinary proceedings, one of the most common sentiments is that they feel like they are criminal defendants. While your licensing board can’t send you to prison, the comparison to a criminal proceeding is not too far from the mark. In fact, looking at your disciplinary complaint as a criminal proceeding can actually help you appreciate the seriousness of the situation you are in and give you the perspective you need when facing your licensing board. 

The Licensing Board is Not on Your Side

Whether you are a doctor, a realtor, or a social worker, you need to recognize that your licensing board is not on your side, even though they represent your profession. Instead, when it comes to disciplinary matters, they are acting in the role of a prosecutor in a criminal case. This is especially so if they have decided to move forward with disciplinary proceedings after completing the investigation. And they are focused on protecting the public from unethical members of your profession, much like a prosecutor protects the public from criminals. 

As a result, you need to realize that the Board will not be lenient if you cooperate. They will not necessarily accept your version of events. They will not point out factors that could exonerate you or reduce the potential consequences you face. In short, they are in a position that is adverse to your best interests. 

Anything You Say Can Be Used Against You

Once you realize that the Board is not on your side, you then need to recognize that the Board can use your own statements and records against you. As a result, you need to be very careful when you speak with anyone acting on behalf of your licensing board. You also need to be careful in turning over records regarding your case. You may not be able to withhold damaging documents, but you want to at least be aware of what is in those documents and whether there are other documents that provide a fuller context. 

Your Hearing Will Be a Quasi-Judicial Proceeding

Some people make the mistake of assuming that the hearing will be an informal affair. This is not the case. While the degree of formality can vary from one profession to another, all of these hearings share the same basic elements: 

  • Both sides have the right to be represented by counsel
  • Both sides have the opportunity to submit and examine evidence
  • Both sides have the opportunity to call and cross-examine witnesses
  • There may be opening and closing statements

You should take your hearing very seriously. It is highly likely that the Board will be represented by an attorney who will be very experienced in handling disciplinary cases. Engaging your own professional license defense attorney is the best way to level the playing field. 

You May Be Able to Settle Your Case Without a Hearing

Similar to a plea bargain, you may be able to settle your case by accepting responsibility for lesser violations in exchange for lighter penalties. The difficulty is knowing whether a settlement makes sense and whether the terms of a potential settlement are fair. A professional license defense attorney can provide you with valuable insight as to whether you should consider settling or whether you should fight it out. 

The Consequences of “Conviction” Can Outlast Your Punishment

If you are found to have violated the rules of conduct applicable to your profession, you face a potential reprimand and maybe even fines. In severe cases, the Board may suspend your license for a period of time or even order that your license be permanently revoked. 

While almost all of these penalties are temporary in nature, the damage to your reputation and standing within your profession could follow you for years after you have “served your time.” This is why it is absolutely essential that you get a fair result – there is no sense in suffering that type of damage to your career if you can avoid it. An experienced professional license defense lawyer can help you get a fair outcome that minimizes such damage if not avoids it altogether. 

Contact Professional License Defense Lawyer J.W. Stafford Today

You invested a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort into getting your license. Get the help you need to protect your career by contacting the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford. We can discuss your case and how we can help you put this issue behind you. Call us today at  410-514-6099 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.