License Renewal Questions

Multi-state professional licensees face significant legal issues when confronted with a disciplinary action or criminal charges from one state. It is important to know when and what to properly report to each jurisdiction after incurring a criminal charge, conviction, or any resultant disciplinary prosecution. Thereafter, timely handling the resulting reciprocal discipline from Pennsylvania's licensing board is paramount to retaining all licenses.

I am attorney Richard Hark, and for over 20 years I have been defending licensed professionals such as doctors, nurses, phamacists, accountants and others in criminal cases and helping them limit the consequences to their licenses.

I emphasize Pennsylvania due to the vast number of professional schools here from which professionals around the country receive their original licenses. When their own state's licensing board brings a disciplinary action for alleged criminal behavior, the board in Pennsylvania may bring a reciprocal disciplinary action in response.

This multi-step disciplinary process is very complicated and time consuming. Many out-of-state clients retain my services after receiving a disciplinary notice from a Pennsylvania licensing board — whether or not they reported the criminal contact or disciplinary action properly.

In order to maintain or renew your license in Pennsylvania, you are required to disclose disciplinary actions brought by other states, along with certain interactions with the criminal justice system. Failing to make those disclosures cannot only threaten your license renewal but may also be iteslf considered a disciplinary issue.

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The July 8, 2014 Commonwealth Court decision of Campbell vs. Bureau of Prof'l and Occupational Affairs (2014 Pa. Commw. Unpub LEXIS 411 July 8, 2014) discusses the Pennsylvania Medical Board's authority and responsibility to impose both reciprocal discipline and separate discipline for failing to report to the Pennsylvania Medical Board a disciplinary action or criminal conviction from another state. The case once again establishes the importance of candidly answering renewal questions honestly, with integrity.

While a first-time criminal offender who answers honestly the renewal license question merely has to deal with a reciprocal disciplinary issue, Pennsylvania's licensing boards do not lightly suffer fools who fail to honestly answer the renewal questions contained in the online application. They will include additional charges in any disciplinary action for failing to properly disclose a professional school disciplinary action, board test failure, criminal charges relating to drugs, or a criminal conviction for any manner.

In the recent case, Dr. Campbell was previous disciplined for failing to disclose his failing a portion of the 2004 licensing board examination. Upon discovery and prosecution, the doctor was given probation, after which his license was reinstated to the full status after several years Thereafter, the doctor moved to the State of Oregon.

In 2009, he was criminally charged with possession of methamphetamine. This misdemeanor charge was conditionally discharged ("ARD"), but not yet expunged in 2011. On his 2011 license renewal registration, he intentionally did not report the criminal charge and ARD result.

The Board found out and the first basis for discipline was the actual criminal charge. The second count of discipline was that he intentionally omitted his non-Pennsylvania criminal drug prosecution in the online renewal questions of the bi-annual registration questionnaire.

Once the Pennsylvania Medical Board learned of both his omission and intentional misrepresentation on his bi-annual renewal, his license was once again prosecuted. While the Board addressed proper evidentiary objections of both prior discipline and criminal ARD type process, the Board squarely addressed the doctor's misrepresenting his criminal ARD contacts.

The Board suspended Dr. Campbell's license for six months and placed him on probation for three years. The Medical Board stated that this sanction was appropriate "to impart to him the seriousness and gravity of his misconduct" and to provide him "with an opportunity to reflect upon the seriousness of his offense and the importance of honesty, integrity and judgment in the medical profession."

On appeal to the Commonwealth Court, Pennsylvania's intermediate Court which addresses all administrative agency's cases such as the Pennsylvania Medical Board, the court affirmed the Board action in whole based upon the doctor's obvious, intentional, and over acts of dishonesty and deceit.

The court reviewed the Board's statutory authority to revoke or suspend a medical license for the conduct under section 42 of the Medical Practice Act, which provides in relevant part: (a) Authorized actions.-When the board is empowered to take disciplinary or corrective action against a board-regulated practitioner under the provisions of this act or pursuant to other statutory authority, the board may: (3) Revoke, suspend, limit or otherwise restrict a license or certificate. ... 63 P.S. § 422.42(a).

Finding the Board had the authority to act, the Court reviewed the Board's discretionary sanction, stating such is in the Board's discretion and must be upheld unless it is shown that the Board acted in bad faith or fraudulently or that the sanction constitutes capricious action or a flagrant abuse of discretion. Slawek v. State Board of Medical Education & Licensure, 586 A.2d 362, 364-66 (Pa. 1991); Tandon v. State Board of Medicine, 705 A.2d 1338, 1346 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1997). Absent proof of Board fraud or capricious action and a doctor who intentionally lied on the biannual re-registration process, we know who lost the case.

This opinion is one more example of the adage that the cover-up is always worse than the initial crime. Every licensee who fails to timely and correctly report a criminal contact will face future stiffer discipline. The filing of false or deceptive licensure documents, including biennial registration forms, is a ground for discipline regardless of whether there is any other ground for discipline and independent of whether the content misrepresented relates to patient care or medical ability. 63 P.S. § 422.41(2), (11).

Questions About Renewing Your License After a Criminal Charge? Get a Free Consultation From Hark and Hark.

I instruct every criminal client facing a professional license collateral consequence to properly, truthfully, candidly, and completely answer the criminal contact question on the renewal application. To do otherwise as a licensee will merely invite an obvious and easy second basis to commence prosecution.

If you are or may become involved in a dispute involving your professional license, contact me online or call my 24-hour professional license hotline at 1-877-4-HARK-LAW (1-877-442-7552).

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