Medical professionals living in Omaha are subject to the same statutes governing criminal charges as any other citizen. A felony conviction can lead to hefty fines, lengthy prison sentences and the loss of voting rights or the right to carry firearms. But due to the nature of their jobs, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, chiropractors and other healthcare personnel may also face the loss of a professional medical license if they are charged with or convicted of a criminal offense.
The loss of a professional license can have devastating effects on your career, finances, reputation and future employment opportunities. If you’re a medical professional living in Nebraska and are the subject of a criminal investigation that could put your license in jeopardy, call the seasoned team at Berry Law. They have experience dealing with professional licensing and criminal defense. Call now to learn your rights as they relate to your professional medical license.
What Charges Can Result in a Loss of a Medical License in Nebraska?
Both misdemeanor and felony convictions can result in a loss of licensure, but the penalties for serious felony convictions are most likely to impact an individual’s ability to practice medicine in the state. Sex crimes, domestic battery, assault and drug charges are just a few examples.
Some criminal convictions require that a professional medical license be revoked for the remainder of the person’s career, while others only require a period of suspension. In rare situations, a person who has been pardoned of a crime or has their criminal record expunged, may be eligible to have his or her license reinstated.
How Will the Loss of My License in Nebraska Impact My Ability to Practice Medicine in Other States?
Medical professionals with a previous record of criminal activity may have their application for medical licensure in Nebraska denied, removing the ability for that individual to perform the occupation for which he or she trained. Since criminal records are easily accessed online, denial or revocation of a medical license can follow a person for a lifetime.
Under the law, private employers in Nebraska have the right to inquire whether or not an applicant has a criminal record on employment applications during the hiring process.
Who Is Responsible for Issuing and Revoking Medical Licenses?
Nearly 200 Nebraska professions require a state-issued license to practice, including the right to practice medicine. Medical licenses are managed by the Nebraska Medical Board or other professional organizations in the state that govern nurses, pharmacists, chiropractors and dentists. These governing bodies have the power to suspend or revoke a license at any time, simply on the grounds that an individual has engaged in unprofessional conduct. Being charged and/or convicted of a crime isn’t the only reason healthcare workers can lose their professional license.
Rather than one specific state statute that addresses the circumstances under which a professional is required to lose his or her professional medical license following a criminal conviction, license penalties are outlined in individual statutes based on the severity of the conviction in question.
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What Is the Difference Between State and Federal Mandates for Professional Medical Licenses?
Both state and federal guidelines are applied when it comes to medical licensure. Nebraska state law describes any departure from or failure to conform to the standards of acceptable and prevailing practice of the profession or its ethics, regardless of whether an individual, consumer, or entity was injured, as grounds to revoke a professional medical license.
Even being charged with a criminal offense can be enough to cause the loss of a medical license, irrelevant to any future conviction or acquittal, depending on the nature of the offense. In addition to criminal matters, issues that can lead to revocation of a license include:
- a positive drug test
- allegations that a professional worked while he or she was impaired
- claims of negligence
Nebraska Revised Statute 38-178 states that a credential to practice a profession may be denied , refused renewal, or have other disciplinary measures taken against it on the following grounds:
- Immoral or dishonorable conduct- A board may deem a professional unfit to practice medicine if they have been arrested and charged with a crime, even before a trial takes place.
- Active addiction- The abuse of, dependence on, or active addiction to alcohol or controlled and mind-altering substances is grounds for stripping a healthcare worker of his or her license. A DUI, DWI, or other drug-related charge could result in a loss or suspension of medical license. Often, the sooner a person begins a treatment program, the more positive the outlook is for having his or her license reinstated. Failure to complete an ordered alcohol or drug treatment program can be grounds for revoking a medical license as well.
- Conviction of a misdemeanor or felony offense under state or federal law- Not only can a misdemeanor or felony conviction in Omaha affect a medical professional license in Nebraska, a crime that is committed in another state that would be considered a misdemeanor or felony in Nebraska is subject to the same penalties. For example, a felony conviction in Georgia could result in having a Nebraska medical license revoked.
- Distribution of intoxicating liquors, controlled substances, or drugs- Writing unnecessary prescriptions for family and friends, providing alcohol to minors, or distributing pharmaceuticals for anything other than their intended purpose are all offenses that could threaten a medical license.
Federal law addresses professional licenses through The Uniform Regulation of Business and Professions Act and The Regulation of Health Professionals-Uniform Disciplinary Act. These two pieces of legislation are meant to ensure uniformity from state to state in professional licensure and related disciplinary procedures. Both set a higher standard for moral conduct than simple criminal conviction as well. The wording used at the federal level is open for interpretation and reads that a professional medical license can be revoked if the professional was involved in any of the following:
- The commission of any act involving moral turpitude or dishonesty or corruption that relates to the individual’s profession. For example, a sexual assault charge could lead to revocation of a medical license since a healthcare worker is entrusted to deal daily with the public in highly sensitive and vulnerable situations.
- Any action deemed by the state licensing board to be unprofessional in conduct, regardless of whether it rises to the level of criminal activity.
The Supreme Court and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have expressed concerns that phrases like “moral turpitude,” “being of good moral character,” and “unprofessional in conduct” are subjective in nature and can lead to arbitrary and discriminatory license issuing practices.
Can I Lose My Medical Professional License if I’m Convicted of DUI or DWI?
DUI conviction is a serious charge and can sometimes result in the loss of a professional license in certain circumstances. Governing medical boards may view nurses, doctors and other licensed health professionals with DUI offenses as a risk to public health, and as a result, leverage fines and sanctions against them.
When it comes to DUI or DWI convictions, a medical licensing board is likely to consider many factors in its decision to revoke a license, including:
- An individual’s prior criminal history.
- The length of time he or she has been in the profession.
- Efforts made to engage in rehabilitation. Professionals who make such efforts immediately following the offense are more likely to fare better than those who wait or are ordered to do so.
- The extent of the professional’s drug or alcohol problem.
- Whether or not the penalty imposed will be a future deterrent.
- The damage that was caused by the violation.
Are There Requirements to Having My Suspended Medical License Reinstated?
For lesser charges, a medical board could make the decision to suspend a professional’s licensed for a period of time rather than revoke it altogether. Usually when this is the case, the board places stipulations that must be met before the suspension is lifted. This could include monetary fines, a probationary period, required random drug and alcohol testing, mandatory counseling or drug and alcohol treatment, and the placement of a letter of concern in a professional’s employment file.
Do I Have to Report my Criminal Charges or Conviction to My Medical Licensing Board?
The law requires medical professionals to report any criminal conduct to their professional licensing boards, including indictments or felony charges or a misdemeanor or felony conviction. This includes charges for which you pled not guilty or no contest.
Since boards are notified of member arrests, it’s essential that if you are convicted of a crime, you are the one to report it first. If you don’t, it will be discovered eventually, and not reporting can be grounds for loss of license, fines, and additional disciplinary measures.
The medical board will conduct its own investigation into the charges. The outcome of your situation will depend on the circumstances of your individual case. For offenses that are directly related to the qualifications necessary to practice medicine or the duties and functions required to perform the job, a license can be suspended if the behavior in question is considered unprofessional conduct. DUI and DWI, reckless driving, and some sex crimes are grounds for disciplinary action.
How Can an Attorney Help Protect My Medical License During a Criminal Investigation?
When it comes to a professional license, it’s easier to prevent a negative outcome than it is to reverse it, which can be very costly. Involving a professional licensing or criminal defense attorney as soon as possible is a prudent idea. Having an attorney on board prior to reporting a criminal offense to your medical licensing board can give you the edge.
An experienced lawyer can suggest how to report such information in a way that places you in the most favorable position before the board. He or she can also assist you with the best way to respond to inquiries and questions from the board and its investigators.
Not all criminal charges will end in the loss of a medical professional license, but when your livelihood is on the line, allow the criminal defense team at Berry Law to protect your interests. Contact us today to learn more.