Getting a professional license takes hours of commitment, hard work, and patience. Despite the input, one mistake can cost you your practice or even the possibility of getting one. The Board of Behavioral Sciences in California is tasked with the mandate to issue professional licenses for a person to practice. The board has various regulations and requirements they require the applicant to fulfill if they are to get licensed.
Additionally, the board issues guidelines of ethical practices a license holder must adhere to, and if violated, they risk revocation or suspension of their license. If one of your patients complains to the board about your practice, the board may issue you a notice to suspend your practice. For this reason, you must get a professional license attorney to defend you against the allegations. At San Diego License Attorney, we have years of experience in defending our clients to help them retain their professional licenses.
Overview of the Behavioral Sciences Board and How it Works
The board of behavioral science in California is mandated with the responsibility of regulating, disciplining, and licensing all therapists under its authority. In order to fulfill its mandate, the board has an investigation and enforcement division that investigates possible administrative and criminal violations. When these violations get substantiated, they may result in the administrative prosecution of the perpetrator.
When the board receives complaints from the public, if determined, they may be grounds to take disciplinary action against the licensee. When the claims are received, the enforcement staff evaluates them and gives recommendations for further investigations if necessary.
Cases to establish the unlawful practices of a therapist in California get filed at the Attorney General’s office to facilitate administrative prosecution. The A.G’s office may decide to discipline the licensee and file the allegation against them and serve them with the same. The licensee will receive a notice informing them of the petition that they are required to defend themselves against at an administrative hearing. When you receive this notice, getting in contact with a lawyer is of the essence to formulate your defense strategy.
The board may also decide to take disciplinary action against you. Some of the steps may range from revocation or suspension of your license to issuing you with a reproval letter. Some of the allegations that can result in disciplinary action against you include sexual misconduct, alcohol and drug abuse, gross negligence, among many others.
After receiving the notice, you have fifteen days to file a response with the Attorney General’s office. If you fail to file your defense notice within the given time, the A.G’s office will instruct the board to discipline you by default. This will mean getting your license revoked. This makes it crucial to ensure you file your defense notice and request an administrative hearing as soon as you can.
In some cases, your detailed defense notice can result in the resolution of the issues facing you without the need to have a trial. For this reason, you must get an attorney that understands the laws of professional licensing to defend you.
What are some of the Professional Licenses Under Behavioral Sciences
The field of behavioral sciences has many professions under it, and the licenses and regulations are all under the Board of Behavioral Sciences of California. Some of the professional licenses issued and regulated by the board include:
Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)
Marriages and families get faced with multiple issues. Most couples or families used to handle these issues privately. Today, however, more and more people are turning to outsiders when faced with depression, substance abuse, behavioral problems in children, domestic violence, or marital difficulties.
When a couple or family turn to a licensed therapist for counseling and support, they are looking for your professional expertise in finding practical solutions. A professional MFT will offer guidance to their patients and help the couple find a way to deal with the problems facing them. Unfortunately, a family member, a spouse, or all of them may have issues with the therapist. If they are aggrieved, they may complain to the behavioral board.
It is essential to know that the board has a higher mandate to protect the public from getting violated by the professionals they turn to. The board may carry out its investigation and issue you a notice to suspend or revoke your license.
Clinical Social Worker License (LCSW)
A person licensed with this profession gets tasked with many troubling societal problems. They will deal with spousal abuse, poverty, child or elder abuse, addictions, and even mental illnesses. Your duties as a professional will include counseling individuals and guiding them to obtain resources. You will also help these individuals face issues that are significantly affecting them daily.
In many cases, your work will involve visiting homes, offices, hospitals, among other places. In the course of carrying out your duties, some of the people you are working with may not like how you have solved their issues. You may even get accused of violating an ethical code and find yourself facing disciplinary action. When this happens, you need a lawyer to fight the allegations against you.
Licensed Educational Psychologists (LEP)
This is another professional license issued by the board of behavioral sciences. An expert in this field works with parents, students, and teachers in helping promote the academic, behavioral, and emotional success of students.
Through your expertise, you provide detailed psychological evaluations on students, offer counsel, especially when a student is dealing with a traumatic experience or personal challenges. Just like in the other behavioral science professions, you can face disciplinary actions when accused by a student, teacher, or parent.
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)
There is a growing need for professionals that work with individuals, groups, or families in treating behavioral, mental, or emotional challenges and disorders. For one to practice in this field, they need to obtain a professional license from the board that regulates their issuance. In your line of work, you may have an office, visit your clients in hospitals, at their homes or workplace.
As you carry out your duties, you may get accused of specific violations of the ethical code or a legal offense that may result in a conviction. Any of these may result in the board taking disciplinary action against you. Whatever action the board may decide on, it can affect your livelihood or career.
For this reason, you will need to challenge the disciplinary action against you to avoid the negative consequences that arise.
What are the Likely Allegations that Can Result in Disciplinary Action by the Board
For each professional license issued, the licensee has made a substantial investment to get it. When faced with a threat to deny you a license or approve it, it can be devastating. Sometimes while you have your license, you can receive notice that your services are under investigation. This means you stand a chance at losing your professional license. This possibility jeopardizes and threatens your hard work and input.
Some of the allegations that you may face include:
- Facing allegations on substance abuse
- Accusations on incompetence or gross negligence
- If you are facing criminal charges in court that may include domestic violence, petty theft or assault among others
- Violating your boundaries with patients such as have sexual relations with a client
- Facing conflict of interest accusations
- Facing transference issues
- Facing fraud allegations such as insurance billing
- Facing charges on anger management problems.
When one has a professional license, whether issued directly or through a registered corporation, they primarily practice solely. As an independent professional, you will directly bill your clients according to the hours you spend rendering them your service. One of the most significant risks you may face as a business owner is that of billing fraud. With this fraud, it will not matter whether you committed it deliberately or unintentionally.
If you bill a client for services that you never offered or used a wrong code to bill them, charges on billing fraud can arise against you. This is an easy offense to detect, and it is punishable by the laws of California. When a client launches a complaint through the board, investigations into your practice or license will commence. It is essential to understand that the board does not issue a statute of limitations on when a complaint can get raised against you.
When a client complains about overbilling, multiple investigations get triggered aside from those by the licensing board. The police and the insurance company will also launch investigations into the allegations. In case the client issued a complaint through the police department, as they begin their investigations, they are required to inform the licensing board of the allegations in 30 days.
The fraud investigations often happen at the same time and can get overwhelming for you to handle. The investigations will require you submitting documents, getting interviewed by detectives or investigators, and undergoing an audit of your practice. It is crucial to understand that even when faced with the criminal allegations and possible disciplinary action from the licensing body, you can still prevail against them.
Getting a lawyer will help you fight the allegations by presenting valid arguments before the licensing board and the court.
Substance Abuse Allegations
When you are a licensed professional in any field of behavioral science, you get expected to have better judgment and in control of your behavior. Coming to work or attending to your clients while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs can land you in a lot of trouble. It is unprofessional to deal with your clients while intoxicated.
When a client complains to the board of your unethical behavior, you risk revocation of your license. The board will investigate if you attend to your clients drunk or impaired. If the allegations are found to be true, the board will take the appropriate action.
However, you can still defend yourself against these allegations. Sometimes a client can accuse you falsely, or you had a lunch meeting and took a glass of wine. When you meet with a client, the smell of wine may cause the client to assume you were drunk. Additionally, you may be sick, and the prescribed medications you are on cause impairment. Asking for a trial is your right and the necessary platform to clear the allegations against you.
Allegations on Violating Client Confidentiality
This kind of allegation is severe and can result in the permanent revocation of your license. When a client comes to see a behavioral professional, they are usually vulnerable, and they look at it as a safe space. The law prohibits disclosing a client’s information without a warrant to do so. A professional must protect the secrets of their client unless these secrets can lead to the endangerment of the client’s life or that of others.
For instance, if a mentally ill client comes to see you and shows you that they have a gun and are planning a revenge mission against someone, you must report to the authorities. The law prohibits individuals with mental illness from possessing a firearm because they are a danger to others and themselves.
Unfortunately, your reporting can lead to the client claiming that you breached the confidentiality rule. The client may have changed their mind and gotten rid of the firearm. If they report you, the board will launch investigations into your conduct that may result in the revocation of your license.
During a trial before the administrative judge, your lawyer can present evidence that the client was a danger to the society, and you had an obligation to protect them and the public. Your notes, recording at the session, among others, can be used to fight these allegations.
Violating Boundaries with a Client
This is another common allegation by clients against their therapists. Although, in some situations, the claims can get substantiated, and in many cases, they can be out of malice. Irrespective of the intention of the complainer, the allegations can negatively affect your career.
A lawyer can argue that the accuser was your former client, and after they stopped seeing you on a professional basis, you formed a romantic relationship. When the relationship failed, the accuser out of anger decided to accuse you of unethical conduct of engaging in a sexual relationship with them. Your lawyer can fight these allegations to ensure your practice and license get safeguarded.
Facing Criminal Charges
If you have a case in court for a criminal offense, the behavioral board may seek to suspend your professional license. Whatever allegations you may be facing, getting a lawyer to fight them may help ensure your license is protected.
When your Application for a Professional License gets Denied
After you have invested time and money to get the education needed for your profession, the next thing you need is a professional license for you to practice in California. You think all you need to do is apply for it from the behavioral sciences board, and you automatically qualify to join other professionals in your career choice. It seems simple and straightforward, right?
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When you apply for your professional license, the board of behavioral sciences will run a background check on you. If you were convicted of any crime or charged with any, the board would take a thorough look at it. You can also get an automatic denial when:
- You failed to reveal your criminal background when applying for the professional license
- You fail to adequately explain the offenses to the board when applying for the license.
The law allows for the expungement of criminal records under PEN 1203.4. This means that your criminal past gets erased, and you do not have to reveal it to a potential employer or landlord. Unfortunately, this is not the case when applying for professional licenses or jobs in public office.
When the application gets denied, you can still petition the board through your lawyer to get issued with a professional license.
What to Expect
A professional license is one of the most protected and valuable assets. Having invested money, time, and effort in getting the education required, as well as the professional license, is a significant achievement. When your license gets faced with the possibility of suspension, revocation, or probation due to an accusation, it can be frustrating. Other times, your application to get a professional license or renew it may get denied due to various issues. This is a threat to your livelihood and career. You need to act swiftly.
As a professional, you have a legal right to fight against the allegation by asking to be tried before an administrative law judge. This is essential because you will get a chance to confront your accusers and the witnesses for the board. You will also get an opportunity to challenge the findings by the board.
With an experienced license lawyer, you can request for discovery, issue subpoenas to have the witnesses appear, and any necessary documents. You will also have the opportunity to get witnesses on your defense, character as well as expert witnesses. A trial will also allow you to introduce evidence that challenges the evidence produced by the board. You also need to know that the law will enable you to challenge the decision by the board at the superior court, should you lose at the trial.
You must always remember that the allegations against you, if not challenged, can affect the rest of your professional life. You must take them seriously and avoid doing it by yourself. Without expert legal representation, you may make basic mistakes and forfeit your rights. Get an experienced license attorney to represent you and improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome.
Find a San Diego Board License Lawyer Near Me
Protecting yourself from getting your professional license suspended or revoked is crucial. A small mistake, if not well handled or resolved, can cost you your career and livelihood. When your license application gets denied, or allegations get leveled against your license, you must aggressively defend it. A license lawyer with experience in the area will help you with the issues of your professional license. At San Diego License Attorney, we have a team of lawyers that are well versed in licensing laws of various professional bodies. If your professional license is under threat, find us at 619-728-7448, and we will aggressively defend you.