Yes, a misdemeanor can lead to the revocation of a doctor’s medical license, but whether it will or not depends on the unique facts of the case and can sometimes depend on how well the doctor is able to navigate disciplinary proceedings. While it is true that doctors are held to high ethical and professional standards—both in their professions and in their personal lives–a misdemeanor charge or conviction usually does not automatically lead to the revocation of their medical license.
A misdemeanor charge should never be taken lightly, but there are ways doctors can protect themselves from the otherwise potentially devastating consequences of a misdemeanor conviction.
What Are Misdemeanors in Nebraska?
Misdemeanors are criminalized acts that are typically more serious than simple citations but less serious than felonies. Nebraska Statutory Law divides misdemeanors into seven categories or “classes” with set penalties that generally reflect the severity of each offense. Class I misdemeanors are the most severe, and even a first offense can carry a $1000 fine and up to a year in jail. On the other end, Class V misdemeanors carry no jail time and only up to a $100 fine. Given the wide span of misdemeanors and their legal penalties, it is no surprise that the professional consequences will likewise vary substantially.
A doctor facing criminal charges should work with a creative and flexible attorney who has experience protecting credentialed professionals in the courtroom and before the licensing board. Attorneys at Berry Law recognize that each case is unique and work diligently with clients to protect their rights and futures.
Is There a Difference Between a Misdemeanor Charge and a Conviction?
Yes, there is a big difference between a misdemeanor charge and an actual conviction. Getting charged with a crime just signifies the beginning of the legal proceedings. Even after a prosecutor brings formal charges against the accused (or “defendant”), the defendant is theoretically still presumed to be innocent. There is no conviction until after an officially guilty verdict, either as the result of a trial or a guilty or no contest plea.
A misdemeanor charge, in and of itself, is not enough to warrant the revocation of a doctor’s license. However, if the separate investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reveals enough evidence to determine that the doctor violated their ethical responsibilities, the Board would be able to proceed with discipline even before a criminal conviction. If the criminal and DHHS investigations happen simultaneously, the defendant doctor must be especially cautious when proceeding through both processes. It is vital for a person charged with a misdemeanor to be aware that disclosing information to a DHHS investigator in an effort to cooperate with their investigation may risk harming their criminal case and vice versa.
It is very important for professional charged with any crime—even a seemingly minor one—to work with a defense attorney who knows both systems. Such an attorney can help the doctor navigate the legal and professional proceedings in a way that gives them the best chance at minimizing possible penalties.
What Is the Role of the Medical Licensing Board in Overseeing Professional Conduct?
Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services Licensure Unit is the government agency responsible for issuing, renewing, and monitoring medical licenses. As such, this board has the authority to investigate complaints and take disciplinary action against physicians if they suspect unethical conduct.
When reviewing complaints and conducting investigations, the board typically considers the nature and severity of the offense along with its relevance to the doctor’s ability to practice medicine competently, ethically, and safely.
Before arriving at a particular decision, the board will investigate the case, conduct a hearing, and then decide on the appropriate disciplinary action, if any.
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Which Misdemeanor Convictions Put a Medical License at Risk?
Under Nebraska’s Uniform Credentialing Act, the DHHS can discipline a doctor for any misdemeanor conviction. Convictions that have “a rational connection” with a doctor’s fitness and capacity to perform their professional duties are more likely to result in heavier professional consequences. Some misdemeanors that may prove especially harmful to a doctor’s career include:
- Documentation Fraud
- Use and Abuse of Drugs or Alcohol
- Misdemeanor Sex Assault
- Driving Under the Influence.
This list, while not comprehensive, can shed light on a few of the issues licensing boards look for when deciding whether to sanction a medical professional. Because medical professions must maintain public trust and respect, any misdemeanor conviction could erode that trust and thus undermine a doctor’s ability to work effectively, so it is never a bad idea to consult with an attorney, no matter how minor the misdemeanor may seem.
What Professional Disciplinary Measures May Result from a Misdemeanor Conviction?
Doctors, along with almost all healthcare professionals, including doctors, have a duty to report unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, or conviction of a crime. Failing to report would also be grounds for disciplinary action. From there, the Medical Licensing Board may decide to dismiss the report and not pursue any punishment. If the Board does proceed with discipline, it can impose any of the six approved “sanctions” which are:
- Limitation – Restriction on how and when the doctor may practice. · Civil Penalty – A fine of up to $20,000. · Suspension – The license may be suspended for a set period of time or until conditions set by the director are met. · Revocation – The doctor would be unable to practice in Nebraska indefinitely. A doctor may not apply for reinstatement for two years.
Any of these sanctions can have a negative and lasting impact on a doctor’s career, so it is critical that a healthcare professional facing discipline seek guidance from an experienced attorney who is familiar with the process.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help?
If you need to fight for your medical license, having a knowledgeable and relentless attorney on your side can make all the difference. Attorneys at Berry Law can provide guidance and peace of mind throughout the process. Facing legal and professional discipline can be daunting, but attorneys at Berry Law may be able to turn the process into something much more manageable.