Criminal activity results in penalties and for health care professionals being convicted of a crime can mean losing your license to practice medicine. But federal crimes could also exclude you from federal healthcare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Florida law imposes a dreadful penalty on health care providers who are found guilty, have pled guilty, or plead no contest to certain criminal charges. The result of any of these actions means that the Department of Health (or your specific professional board) has to:
- Refuse to admit a candidate to any examination for a license
- Refuse to issue a license (certificate or registration)
- Issue a non-renew on an existing license
Losing Your Medical License: Crimes that Disqualify
Under the Health Care Fraud (Section 456.0635, Florida Statutes) you can be refused admittance to any examination or be refused an issued license, certificate or registration for any of these crimes:
- Health care fraud in the practice of a health care profession is prohibited.
- If you have been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under 21 U.S.C. ss. 801-970, or 42 U.S.C. ss. 1395-1396, unless the sentence and any subsequent period of probation for such conviction or plea ended more than 15 years before the date of the application.
- If you have been terminated for cause from the Florida Medicaid program pursuant to s. 409.913, unless the candidate or applicant has been in good standing with the Florida Medicaid program for the most recent 5 years;
- If you have been terminated for cause, pursuant to the appeals procedures established by the state, from any other state Medicaid program, unless the candidate or applicant has been in good standing with a state Medicaid program for the most recent 5 years and the termination occurred at least 20 years before the date of the application; or
- If you are currently listed on the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities. (Note: This does not apply to candidates or applicants for initial licensure or certification who were enrolled in an educational or training program on or before July 1, 2009, which was recognized by a board or, if there is no board, recognized by the department, and who applied for licensure after July 1, 2012.)
- If you have been convicted of or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under:
- Chapter 409 (Medicaid Fraud),
- Chapter 817 (Fraudulent Practices Act), or
- Chapter 893 (Drug Abuse and Prevention Control Act), or
- A similar felony offense committed in another state or jurisdiction.
Every case is unique. The periods of probation and implications for licensed health care professionals in Florida vary. Seeking the counsel of a trusted attorney can help you better understand your options.
How Long are Penalties Enforced?
The law states that any such conviction or plea shall exclude the applicant from licensure unless the sentence or probation period ended:
- More than 5 years ago – for felonies of the 3rd degree involving possession under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes;
- More than 10 years ago – for felonies of the 3rd degree;
- More than 15 years ago – for felonies of the 1st and 2nd degrees.
Similarly, if your crime involves certain laws including Medicaid/Medicare or public assistance fraud, and depending on the plea or conviction, a licensee may have to sit out anywhere from 5-20 years. The exact number of years is dependent on the circumstances.
What makes this law especially draconian and overreaching is that it can negatively impact doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who through either no fault of their own or bad legal advice have pled guilty or no contest to crimes for which they did not commit or were wrongfully convicted – only to later learn that their license to practice as a health care professional is suspended, revoked, or non-renewed.
Losing Your Medical License: What You Can Do
In many situations, there’s not much you can do because the law mandates the Department of Health to either deny, suspend, or non-renew the license. However here are some ideas or points to ponder if you are at risk of losing your medical license:
- Get the Criminal Charges Dropped Most criminal prosecutors are only interested in racking up convictions. However, if your criminal lawyer assesses your case and has a basis for getting the charges dropped chances are the Department of Health investigation fizzles. Even if they do investigate, if the criminal case was dropped the harsh provisions of Section 456.0635, Florida Statutes, do not apply.
- Enter into a “Diversion Program” or what is known as “Pre-trial Intervention” Depending on the county, these agreements are known by different names. Essentially, you sign an agreement with the prosecutor whereby you pay certain fines or costs, and maybe do some other penalty, like attend a class or community service, and when you complete the requirements the prosecutor agrees to drop the charges. Again, if the criminal case is dropped, chances are DOH will not be interested in further action regarding your license.
- Try the Criminal Case and Win! This is considered very risky because in some cases juries convict even people who are innocent.
- Convince the Prosecutor to Offer a Plea Bargain to a Lesser Offense that Is Not on the List of Sanctionable Offenses—Your lawyer might be able to get the Prosecutor to reduce the charges to a crime that is not on the list of offenses contained within the Statute listed above.
The above-listed items are merely some general concepts and do not represent specific legal advice. Every case is different and presents its own particular set of facts.
In all cases, you should speak to an experienced health care attorney about the ramifications of a criminal charge to your professional license. I often get calls from criminal defense lawyers who are representing a nurse or doctor with pending criminal charges and are unsure what affect the agreement they are negotiating with the Prosecutor will have on their client’s license. Our legal teams will:
- First, determine which criminal statute(s) the client is charged with.
- Comb through the charges and law regulating that profession to determine the effect on their license. This would include all statutes regulating that professional plus any administrative rules of the professional board or DOH.
- Determine or give guidance on whether your license can be renewed.
Consulting with an experienced health care attorney can help you determine whether your application strategy is the correct plan of action. Howell, Buchan & Strong, Attorneys at Law can assist with your entire application licensing process.
Contact the law offices of Howell, Buchan & Strong, Attorneys at Law for your free consultation at any one of our locations:
Orlando (407) 717-1773 |Tallahassee (850) 877-7776 | Tampa (813) 833-6726 | Sarasota (941) 779-4348