Professionals who face scrutiny are often unaware of the process they’re about to enter, and as a result, are typically unprepared at the onset to adequately defend themselves. Do you need an attorney? Can you continue to practice?
San Diego, CA (PRWEB) November 17, 2012
Two high-profile examples of questionable professional behavior—from the U.S.’s former “top spy,” CIA Chief David Petraeus, and Marine Corps General John Allen—have captured the public’s attention and perhaps made professionals who might be engaging in questionable behavior of their own consider the potential consequences of their actions. Attorney Stacie Patterson, who practices professional license and criminal defense, knows Petraeus and Allen face a different kind of scrutiny than most professionals will ever experience, but she believes it’s important for everyone who has a professional license to be aware of the process they could face if they ever have to defend it.
“A vast majority of licensed professionals go through their entire career without being investigated by a licensing agency,” Patterson said. “Those who do face scrutiny are often unaware of the process they’re about to enter, and as a result, are typically unprepared at the onset to adequately defend themselves. Do you need an attorney? Do you want to participate in the investigation? Can you continue to practice? How long does the process take? What are the best case/worse case scenarios?”
Those are just some of the questions that may run through professionals’ minds when they’re informed by their licensing agency that an investigation into alleged unethical conduct is imminent. Patterson provides some answers:
- Discuss the situation with an attorney who has experience with license defense. It’s important to address license agency scrutiny with an attorney who’s handled similar cases. And, it’s critical to be brutally honest about what an investigation could uncover, so your attorney can offer appropriate guidance.
- Understand that not participating might be the best strategy. The licensing agency is going to conduct its investigation with or without your participation, and the last thing you want to do is provide fodder to it. An agency investigation is often broader than indicated, and you won’t be privy to discovery at this juncture—so you won’t know exactly what information it has on you and what’s being alleged. Your attorney—who knows the entire picture if you’ve been frank with her—will be able to help you make an informed decision regarding your participation, understanding that the best outcome is the agency deciding it doesn’t have enough information to proceed.
- Remove emotion from decision-making. This is certainly easier said than done, since it’s human nature for us to look at any set of facts in a way that benefits us, and color the truth to our advantage. You need to trust your attorney to be an unbiased advocate—and remember that facts can be spun in multiple ways.
- Be aware of the possible next steps. In the event the agency chooses not to close the file, it may file an accusation, which is similar to a criminal complaint, at which time the right to discovery kicks in, so you can see what information it has. As an alternative, the agency may issue a citation, which technically isn’t considered discipline and is usually resolved with a fine and/or requirement to complete applicable classes, or a public or private reprimand, the former of which is often available via the Internet.
- Be professional, and proactive as needed. In most circumstances, you’ll be allowed to practice during the investigation into your alleged behavior, which in some instances can take years. This delay can be used to your benefit, if there is an issue to address, by entering into rehab or taking other applicable mitigating actions to demonstrate your ability to correct past misdeeds. It goes without saying that your ongoing behavior must be totally above reproach.
- Realize how the process can end. If an accusation is filed, you often have the opportunity to negotiate a resolution or you can assert your right to a hearing. The worst outcome will be to lose your license—but even then you often can reapply after a period of time.
“Something to never lose sight of is that it’s a privilege, not a right, to have a professional license. And, like a felony conviction, a license revocation can adversely affect your career for the rest of your life,” Patterson said. “For example, a Realtor licensing board may look askance at an applicant who had her nursing license taken away; the industries are totally different, but behaving ethically and professionally are a common bond.”
About Law Office of Stacie L. Patterson
Stacie Patterson is a San Diego professional license defense attorney. Whether you're facing a professional complaint or a criminal conviction, Ms. Patterson provides honest, straightforward representation. She can help you in your attorney license defense, nursing license defense, and more.