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How criminal charges can affect your California medical license

Criminal charges can be difficult to face for anyone. California physicians face the additional threat of complications for their medical licenses. Even seemingly minor charges can cause serious problems, so if you find yourself facing criminal prosecution, you should not underestimate your situation.

California physicians must report relevant felony and misdemeanor convictions to the state's Medical Board. In this context, the words "relevant" and "conviction" may include far more than many people might expect. Always consult an attorney rather than deciding you do not need to report a particular conviction, as failure to report when required can result in increased penalties.

What is considered a conviction?

Here, a conviction does not mean only a "guilty" verdict after a trial. You must also report guilty pleas and nolo contendere pleas. Likewise, you must report convictions which may be eligible for expungement.

What types of convictions are relevant?

While the Board wants to know about convictions for crimes that could affect your practice as a physician, this category includes far more than crimes against patients. Physicians must report any convictions for DUI, drug offenses, health care fraud, sex crimes and theft, among others, even when they do not relate directly to the practice of medicine. For example, you would need to report a DUI even if you committed the offense while you were on vacation and you never practiced medicine while intoxicated.

What forms of discipline could you face?

Once you report the conviction, the Medical Board will decide what action to take. Potential discipline can range from a letter of warning to a license revocation. Physicians may find themselves on probation, during which they will have to meet particular conditions. For example, a physician convicted of a drug or alcohol offense may need to complete a rehabilitation program. He or she may also be subject to supervision and drug testing. Some offenses can also result in the suspension or revocation of a physician's Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) license, making it impossible for him or her to prescribe medication.

If you are a physician facing criminal charges, you need a defense attorney who understands not just the criminal laws and procedures but also the potential impact on your medical license. Your lawyer can work to protect not only your liberty but also your career and livelihood.

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