Unlicensed Activity and Criminal Prosecution in Healthcare
Whether you intend to practice without a license or you inadvertently do so because you failed to timely renew your license, unlicensed activity is a serious, punishable crime.
What Constitutes Unlicensed Activity?
Unlicensed activity constitutes harm that materially affects the health, safety, and welfare of clients, and constitutes abuse and neglect, as defined in s. 415.102. It includes the abuse of your position through misrepresentation, abuse, or exploitation of those who are vulnerable, (child or adult). Whether you are a caregiver or guardian to the victim, operating in these capacities while unlicensed can result in serious citations and financial penalties.
The Department of Health in the State of Florida is the agency charged with regulating the unlicensed practice of health care professionals operating in Florida. They receive thousands of complaints annually that result in further investigation and disciplinary action. But how do they discover unlicensed activity?
The Unlicensed Activity Sweep or Sting
A sweep or sting is a method used to find unlicensed activity. The Division of Regulation-Unlicensed Activity Sweeps, Stings, and Consumer Outreach works to increase the number of proactive enforcement operations in the field
through the use of sweep and sting operations.
A sweep is a pre-emptive or proactive enforcement action performed in areas of known or suspected unlicensed activity. A sting is an enforcement action in which the division pursues known unlicensed persons by providing the
unlicensed subject the opportunity to offer services that require licensure through bids, proposals, or performance of the service to undercover investigators and/or law enforcement personnel.
What's the Penalty for Unlicensed Activity?
The DOH may impose by citation an administrative penalty not to exceed $5,000 per incident. The citation shall be issued to the subject and shall contain the subject’s name and any other information the department determines to be necessary to identify the subject, a brief factual statement, the sections of the law allegedly violated, and the penalty imposed.
If the subject does not dispute the matter in the citation with the department within 30 days after the citation is served, the citation shall become a final order of the department. The department may adopt rules to implement this section. The penalty shall be a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 as established by the rule of the department.
However, each day that the unlicensed practice continues after issuance of a notice to cease and desist, it constitutes a separate violation.
Common Mistakes or Scenarios in Unlicensed Activity
As you can see it's best to steer clear of any activity while you are unlicensed. We offer up a few instances of common mistakes we've seen that you should avoid.
Incomplete Application. This can mistakenly occur if you begin practicing BEFORE your health care license application is approved. This can occur if you've overlooked a Notice of Intent to Deny or an Omission letter from the Agency for Health Care Administration and not acted on the requests of the omission notice. Read more about NOIDs and Omission Letters. This is why having an attorney prepare your license application can be invaluable.
Missing Renewal Deadline. Oversight with your license renewal can be a costly mistake. Section 456.013(1)(a) of the Florida Statutes states that the licensure application and application fee are valid for one year. Learn more about License Renewal in the State of Florida. It goes without saying that it's important to maintain your application records and prioritize your status with the licensing agency.
Penalties. Former administrative daily fines, imprisonment, can result in your losing your license.
The Impact of Unlicensed Activity
There are long-term effects of operating unlicensed. It can cause you to not be able to obtain a license for certain professions for a period of time. This can result in an exemption process, through the Florida Department of Health, Agency for Healthcare Administration, or other State of Florida Governmental regulatory agencies.
Background checks will reveal a criminal record and can impact your license renewal. There is a process for applications with criminal convictions. to work in new positions. To find the licensure information for your profession visit Licensing and Renewal Requirements.
Some other links that may be helpful:
Our law firm advises, counsels, and represents health care professionals, owners of facilities, and management regarding DOH and AHCA issues. Our clients are both statewide and nationwide individuals licensed in Florida.
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