Don’t allow criminal allegations to jeopardize your California medical license. Contact Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Robert M. Helfend to safeguard your career and your reputation – 800-834-6434.

Healthcare is more than just a job for the 900,000+ medical professionals in California. It’s a calling to serve, heal and impact lives in their communities deeply.

This calling can fall into jeopardy if those healthcare practitioners face criminal accusations. These not only threaten their personal and professional reputations, but they can also bring about severe consequences for their medical licenses.

These consequences can range from temporary suspensions, which can halt their practice and income, to complete revocation — effectively ending a doctor or nurse’s career.

Additionally, practitioners can face probation with strict conditions, mandatory ethics courses or clinical retraining depending on the specifics of the accusations. In some cases, they could be subject to heavy fines or required to undergo regular monitoring. Each of these outcomes can have a profound effect on a medical professional’s ability to work in their field.

Facing criminal charges can be stressful enough, but facing the added scrutiny of a California medical board can be unbearably stressful. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, you need the help of an experienced medical license defense lawyer.

Attorney Robert M. Helfend of the Helfend Law Group has defended the citizens of California for more than 40 years, specializing in the complex and nuanced cases that can affect healthcare professionals. Call 800-834-6434 for a case review.

The California medical board investigation process

There are numerous medical boards in California responsible for licensing, monitoring and enforcing disciplinary actions against healthcare practitioners.

To give a few common examples, the Medical Board of California oversees the work of physicians, surgeons and certain allied medical professionals. The Osteopathic Medical Board of California monitors the practices of osteopathic professionals. The California Board of Registered Nurses is responsible for regulating RNs.

With that in mind, we’ll give a general walkthrough of how an investigation might take place.

Initial complaint and investigation

The process begins when the California medical moard receives a complaint against a medical professional. Complaints can come from various sources, including patients, hospitals, insurance companies or anonymous sources.

Upon receiving the complaint, the board conducts a preliminary review to determine its validity. If the complaint lacks merit or does not fall under the board’s jurisdiction, it may be dismissed at this stage.

If the complaint is deemed valid, a full investigation is launched. This involves gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and obtaining medical records. The medical professional may be asked to respond to the allegations in writing.

Accusation and response

If the investigation finds evidence supporting the allegations, the board will file a formal accusation against the medical professional. This document outlines the charges and the proposed disciplinary actions.

Upon receiving the accusation, the medical professional has a right to file a Notice of Defense. This indicates their intention to dispute the charges and request a hearing.

Hearing and decision

Before the formal hearing, a pre-hearing conference may be held to discuss the issues, review evidence, and possibly negotiate a settlement.

If no settlement is reached, the case proceeds to an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Both parties present evidence, call witnesses and make legal arguments. After the hearing, the ALJ issues a proposed decision, which includes findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommended disciplinary actions.

The medical board reviews the ALJ’s proposed decision and can adopt, modify or reject it. The board’s decision is final and outlines the disciplinary actions, which can range from reprimand to revocation of the medical license.


That is not the end of the story, however. The medical professional has the right to request reconsideration by the medical board. Further appeals can be made to the Superior Court through a writ of administrative mandamus.

Criminal convictions that can threaten a nurse or physician’s medical license

Here’s a breakdown of common criminal charges that medical professionals encounter.

Drug-related offenses are among the most serious charges a healthcare provider can face. This includes the improper prescribing of controlled substances, prescription fraud or self-administration of controlled substances. Such charges not only carry significant legal penalties but also threaten professional licenses and can lead to revocation.

Insurance fraud

Insurance fraud involves submitting false claims or making misleading statements to obtain payments from health insurance companies. This can include billing for services not rendered, upcoding to more expensive procedures or performing unnecessary procedures to bill higher amounts. These actions not only constitute criminal offenses but also breach ethical standards, leading to disciplinary actions by medical boards.

Patient confidentiality violations

Violating patient confidentiality is a serious breach of both legal and professional ethics. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets strict standards for protecting patient health information. Unauthorized disclosure of protected health information can result in criminal charges, significant fines and the loss of trust in the healthcare provider’s professional integrity.

Sex crimes

Sexual misconduct or sex crimes, including assault or harassment of patients or colleagues, are grievous offenses within the healthcare sector. Such charges tarnish a medical professional’s reputation, lead to criminal prosecution, and often result in the suspension or revocation of medical licenses.

Violent crimes

Most felonies can threaten your medical license, particularly charges related to violent crimes (such as assault, domestic violence or homicide). These charges can result in irreversible damage to a practitioner’s career.

Can you lose your medical license even if you weren’t convicted of a crime?

Yes, you can absolutely lose your medical license even if you weren’t convicted of a crime in a court of law.

This is because the standard of evidence used by the Medical Board of California, the California Board of Registered Nursing and other licensing authorities to decide on disciplinary actions is “clear and convincing evidence.” This standard is notably less stringent than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement used in criminal courts.

For doctors and other healthcare professionals, this means that even if criminal charges are not proven in court, the licensing boards may still find enough evidence to take action against a professional license if the nature of the charges suggests a violation of the ethical or professional standards expected of a licensee. Board investigations operate independently of any criminal proceedings.

That said, a criminal conviction automatically meets the “clear and convincing evidence” standard, providing a direct basis for disciplinary action. However, the absence of a criminal conviction does not shield a medical professional from potential license discipline. Licensing boards are tasked with protecting the public interest and upholding the standards of the profession. As such, they can — and do — act on evidence that suggests a licensee’s conduct is incompatible with the responsibilities of a healthcare provider, even if that conduct does not result in a criminal conviction.

Experienced license defense attorney

Physicians are required to report any criminal charges to the Medical Board Central Complaint Unit. Specifically, they have to report:

  • Charges of a felony offense against them.
  • Convictions of either a misdemeanor or felony offense.

This has to happen within 30 days of the charge or conviction. After this report, a board investigator may contact the doctor to request additional details or an interview. In certain cases, the board may also require peer review reports.

Failure to comply with this reporting requirement is a public offense, subject to a fine of up to $5,000.

Don’t let a suspended or revoked license derail your career. Rated as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles by Super Lawyers, Lead Counsel and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Robert M. Helfend is prepared to lead your California medical license defense. Contact him today at 800-834-6434 to begin building your defense.

Published March 28, 2024.