Defending your Professional License in the State of California
If you receive an Accusation - File a Notice of DefenseIf your licensing agency serves you with an Accusation, you must submit a Notice of Defense in order to secure your rights to defend yourself. Usually you will have only 15 days from the date on which the Accusation was sent to you to file the Notice of Defense. It is essential that you read the documentation accompanying the Accusation carefully, and follow the instructions provided. Alternatively, you should immediately consult an attorney.
You should note, even if you do not want an administrative hearing, but rather, you wish to settle with the agency, you will still need to file a Notice of Defense.
Failure to file a Notice of Defense will result in a Default Decision and Order. Often, such an order results in the revocation (loss) of your license.
Thus, even if you intend to hire an attorney, it is often recommended that you file the Notice of Defense first, so as to secure your right to defend yourself.
Consider Hiring An AttorneyUnlike criminal cases, if an Accusation is filed against your license, you are not entitled to an attorney at the public's expense. However, you are permitted to have one, and it is often recommended that you hire an attorney experienced in Professional License Defense. Professional licensing matters are governed by the Administrative Procedure Act, and the proceedings are different from other criminal and civil cases. As a result, an experienced attorney, familiar with the licensing scheme, administrative law, and the agencies that regulate professionals, may be able to ensure a proper defense of your license.
It is important to remember, the agency and their attorney are experienced professionals who handle cases like yours every day. As a result, you may want to hire an attorney to make sure you receive the best defense possible.
Addressing the Allegations and Accusation Against You.After filing a Notice of Defense, you or your attorney should begin to work with the attorney representing your licensing agency.
First, you should request discovery. This is a request for the investigative file and other evidence that the agency has in support of their Accusation. You should also be aware that the agency and their counsel are entitled to the evidence and witnesses you will use in your defense as well.
Second, you should begin formulating your defense. If you disagree with the allegations made against you, you will need to begin developing the evidence and arguments which prove the allegations false.
Third, you will want to obtain evidence of mitigation and rehabilitation. You should refer to agency materials to determine what they consider positive mitigation and rehabilitation.
Resolving the AccusationAn Accusation is usually resolved in one of two ways.
1. Stipulated Settlement. This is a settlement between you and the licensing agency, in which the parties agree to some resolution of the case, ranging from dismissal or a public reprimand, to outright revocation or surrender of the license. Many cases are resolved through a disciplinary order requiring that the licensee be placed on probation, subject to any number of terms and conditions. For more information about settlements and their terms and conditions, you may wish to consult the licensing agency's Disciplinary Guidelines.
2. If the matter cannot be resolved through settlement, you will proceed to an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Here, the agency's attorney will present their case through documentary and testimonial evidence; and, you (and your attorney) will have the opportunity to do the same. You should be familiar with the laws and procedures governing the hearing.
How Long WIll the Process TakeDepending on your matter, once an Accusation is filed, it may take anywhere from just a couple months to more than a year to resolve the matter. If you are able to resolve the matter through a settlement, the case still has to be presented for approval by your licensing agency's Board, or Director. If your matter goes to an administrative hearing, the Administrative Law Judge has 30 days to render a proposed decision, and your licensing agency has another 100 days to approve or disapprove of the proposed decision of the Administrative Law Judge.
As a result, licensing cases don't go away quickly.
You should remember, while you don't have to have an attorney, the agency and their attorney handle your type of case on a daily basis. That means you will be squaring off against trained and experienced professionals, and they are their to discipline or take away your license. At the end of the day, you may wish to have an experienced Professional License Defense Attorney.
When in Doubt, Consult an AttorneyIf you ever have questions, or are in doubt as to how best to defend yourself, consider consulting a licensed California Attorney. In particular, you may wish to consult an experienced Professional License Defense Attorney.
The information in this Guide is applicable to the State of California Only.