How a Criminal Arrest in Another State Impacts My Health Care License
Our legal team fields many calls about the impact a criminal arrest can have. Can an arrest in another state put your Florida medical or nursing license at risk?
The answer is, yes. Here's why...
Across the nation, each of the 50 states regulates licensed health care practitioners separately, on the statewide level. This means that, for instance, a physician assistant licensed in one state, or even several states, is not permitted to practice in the others. Makes sense, right?
But while it would seem then logic should follow that a licensee is only subject to the disciplinary rules of their own state because it would be difficult to fairly and evenly incorporate the sometimes very different laws of every state into Florida’s disciplinary guidelines, that is not the case.
The Governing Florida Statute on Health Care Licensing
It's true that the laws of every state are difficult to fairly and evenly incorporate, but that doesn't stop the Florida Legislature from trying. Florida Statutes 458.331(1)(c), which governs a wide variety of health care licenses, including physicians and physician's assistants states in pertinent part:
“The following acts constitute grounds for denial of a license or disciplinary action… Being convicted or found guilty of, or entering a plea of nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, a crime in any jurisdiction which directly relates to the practice of medicine or to the ability to practice medicine.”
That’s a pretty broad rule. It’s also ambiguous. Rather than ruling on each and every criminal statute of each state, the law essentially gives the board of medicine carte blanche to decide which of all foreign crimes “relates to the practice of medicine or ability to practice medicine.” Not so bad, right? In fact, it sounds almost intuitive.
But note that under Florida Statutes Section 435.04, a medical practitioner in Florida can be disqualified from the ability to practice for something as simple and seemingly unrelated as shoplifting. If shoplifting bears on the ability to practice medicine, what doesn’t?
In their defense, the legislature is tackling a difficult problem; the nightmare scenario they wish to avoid is that the Department of Health finds itself without the lawful authority to punish a physician or other medical professional who is genuinely unfit to practice, based on conduct in another state. Understandably, they have attempted to address this delicate puzzle with all the finesse of a wrecking ball, by giving the Board of Medicine broad (and ill-defined) discretion. The result is that a huge (and often unpredictable) array of crimes in any jurisdiction is in and of itself grounds for the Florida Department of Health to consider disciplining or revoking your Florida license.
Discipline in Florida for Out-of-State Criminal Arrests
How does the Department of Health learn of a licensed health care professional's arrest? If you are licensed in multiple states, most states have similar extraterritorial authority to discipline licensees for out-of-state conduct, as well as reporting requirements that ensure they find out about such conduct in the first place.
The result is duplicative litigation in multiple states (usually each state in which the professional is licensed). Physicians who practice in multiple states often find themselves embattled in all of them following a criminal conviction anywhere. The breadth of the language in Section 458.331 includes even foreign countries.
If you have multiple licenses, you will find yourself facing the difficult choice of either choosing your battles or defending all of your licenses at once. Attorneys, like doctors, are licensed by the state, and as such the same lawyer normally can’t defend all of your licenses both lawfully and competently. Your Florida license needs to be defended by a Florida legal specialist. Both regulations and regulatory officials differ between states, and the experts at Howell, Buchan & Strong are thoroughly familiar with both. If you are defending a Florida license and another state license, our legal team can refer you to trusted attorneys in that state.
In brief, legal trouble anywhere will follow you home. Don’t wait for it to arrive. Call us now at 407-717-1773 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation. As soon as you are arrested or convicted, you need to know what kind of exposure you are facing and what we can do to protect the license and livelihood you’ve worked so hard for.
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