If you’re a doctor or other licensed healthcare professional in California, remember. Your board or agency can discipline you for alleged conduct in a police report even if you’re never charged with or convicted of anything.
Just this week, the California Court of Appeal ruled that the medical board could discipline a doctor based on a police report even though his criminal case was dismissed.
Here’s what happened. The doctor was arrested for possessing cocaine. As part of his plea deal, he successfully completed a drug treatment program, and the case was dismissed. But the medical board learned of the arrest and filed its own case against him. At the hearing, the doctor argued the board’s case was based entirely on the arrest report, which was a problem because the Penal Code said you can’t do that.
The case pitted two statutes against each other. On one hand, the Penal Code says that when you complete a program like the one this doctor did, your arrest record can’t be used “in any way” to deny you a professional license or certificate. But the Business and Professions Code says that, “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” an agency that oversees the healing arts can do just that. It can rely on an arrest report to discipline you even if you successfully completed such a program.
It wasn’t the first time this question had come up, but remarkably, it was an issue of first impression in the law, meaning it was the first time a court of appeal had to decide it.
The court, though, had no trouble deciding that the second statute was a straightforward exception to the first one. The clincher was that the Penal Code was amended this year to make that interpretation explicit. So the doctor lost.
In these cases, you should begin to defend your professional license and livelihood at the same time you begin to defend against a criminal case or investigation. Which is immediately. We can help you do both.