Florida Health Care License

Sexual Misconduct Penalties

Sexual Misconduct in the Psychologist-Client Relationship | Possible Penalties (Part 02)

Part Two of a Two-Part Series

If you’re a licensed psychologist who has received an Administrative Complaint from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) alleging sexual misconduct with a client, you’re probably concerned about what penalties you might face. If you’ve been accused of sexual misconduct with a client by DOH, you should act immediately and seek counsel from an experienced health care attorney.

In Part I of this article, we discussed what constitutes sexual misconduct with a client or patient, how the Board of Psychology defines “client,” and when the psychologist-client relationship is terminated. You can read Part I of this article HERE. In Part II, we’ll discuss the disciplinary guidelines for sexual misconduct.

What are the Disciplinary Guidelines?

The Board of Psychology uses disciplinary guidelines to help determine what actions should be taken in a particular case. These can be found in Florida Administrative Code 64B19-17.002. The discipline will vary depending on whether it’s the psychologist’s first offense or if he or she has violated before. For sexual misconduct with a patient, the disciplinary guidelines are:

OFFENSESMINIMUMMAXIMUM
FIRST OFFENSEOne year suspension followed by one-year probation and a $5,000 fineRevocation and a $10,000 fine
SUBSEQUENT OFFENSE(S)Revocation                                     Revocation and a $10,000 fine

As you can see, the disciplinary guidelines for sexual misconduct are very severe.

The minimum discipline for a first offense is a year-long suspension of your license, followed by year-long probation, along with a $5,000 fine. However, it is important to remember that the disciplinary guidelines are just that, guidelines; they are not set in stone. The Board of Psychology can deviate from the guidelines if it considers aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding on a penalty.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

The Board considers various factors to determine what discipline you will receive, and these are called aggravating and mitigating factors. These factors are found in Florida Administrative Code 64B19-17.002, and they include:

  • The danger posed to the public.
  • The length of time since the date of violation.
  • The number of complaints filed against the psycholgist.
  • The length of time the psychologist has practiced without complaint or violations.
  • The actual damage, physical or otherwise, to the client(s), if applicable.
  • The deterrent effect of the penalty imposed.
  • The effect of the penalty upon the psychologist’s livelihood.
  • Any efforts the psychologist has made toward rehabilitation.
  • The actual knowledge of the psychologist had regarding the violation.
  • Attempts by the psychologist to correct or stop violations.
  • Any refusals by the psychologist to correct or stop violations.
  • Related violations found against the psychologist in another state.
  • Any other aggravating and/or mitigating circumstances that the Board wants to consider.

Aggravating factors can hurt your case and increase the penalties you receive. Mitigating factors can be used to argue that you should face lesser penalties. It is important to review all aggravating and mitigating factors with an experienced attorney, who can help you determine the best way to present your case to the Board.

If you’re a licensed psychologist who has received an Administrative Complaint, you are probably concerned about how this may affect your license. To set up a FREE no-obligation consultation, contact the law firm of Howell, Buchan & Strong at 850-877-7776.  Our firm represents physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other licensed professionals statewide. Our goal is to successfully defend you so that you can keep your professional license.

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