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Howell, Buchan & Strong - Professional License Defense Attorneys in Florida

Plea Deals: The Consequences for Your Professional License

October 14, 2021
Est read time: 4 minutes

What a Guilty Plea Can Mean for Your Professional License

If you’ve been charged with a crime, a plea deal is likely in your future.

Most criminal cases never reach trial and receive a jury verdict of either guilty or innocent. But a plea deal can save often busy prosecutors the trouble of proving their case while giving defendants some knowledge of and control over the sentence they’re facing.

A deal is reached between prosecution and defense under which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for the prosecutor asking for a milder sentence than what they would likely seek after a full jury trial and a guilty verdict.

The precise details of a plea deal or plea bargain regarding charges and the sentence that is requested vary depending on many factors including:

  • Financial resources of the defendant.
  • Guilt or innocence of the defendant.
  • Available evidence.
  • The caseload of the prosecutor.
  • Defendant’s odds of acquittal at trial.
  • The working relationship between the defense attorney and prosecutor.

Consequences of Pleading Guilty

There is another very important consideration that is all too often left out of the equation. Pleading guilty to a crime carries consequences beyond those written on the sentencing order.

A wide range of professions, from hairdressers to heart surgeons, are licensed through state agencies, and as such the privilege of lawfully being allowed to work in these professions is restricted by Florida Statutes, Administrative Code, case law, and even the discretion of the often-labyrinthine state agencies themselves.

Often a criminal defendant accepts a plea bargain without fully understanding the consequences on their professional license and their future ability to learn a living or the impact it will have on the professional license they hope someday to obtain.

This can mean they find themselves jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire with a plea deal; these defendants are often surprised to find themselves battling to retain their license after they have already confessed to a crime for which said license is subject to revocation. (Dig deeper into our blog on the effects of an arrest on your CPA license.)

Just as perilous is viewing a criminal charge as a minor speedbump on your way to a fulfilling career as perhaps a nurse or accountant. In fact, if your case is handled poorly, it may escalate from a minor speed bump to an insurmountable obstacle. For instance, each regulated profession has different character and fitness standards, and a long list of crimes that are considered to disqualify a licensee. Some offenses will result in an absolute disqualification, whereas others will result in a disqualification that can be fought. In the latter case, the attorneys at Howell, Buchan & Strong have decades of experience in fighting and defeating arbitrary or excessively harsh disqualifications in administrative proceedings.

Frequently Asked Questions About Plea Deals

Won’t my attorney negotiating my deal tell me what I’m getting into?

Unfortunately, they most likely will not. Although they are doing their best to work in your best interests, your criminal defense attorney is just that, a criminal defense attorney.

Criminal defense is a highly specialized profession, and your attorney is probably focused on just one thing: reducing your sentence. Whether you will then be able to move forward in the career field you want, are good at, or spent years earning your license in, is simply something that all too often falls beyond your lawyer’s scope of representation, and beyond their expertise. Even if your lawyer would like to be able to tell you every possible consequence of the plea, they usually don’t know much about professional licensure requirements or the recourse of embattled professionals in administrative proceedings.

Many criminal defendants find themselves confessing to the wrong thing, then bitterly regretting it when they realize they’ve shot their professional aspirations in the foot. Unfortunately for them, case law is quite unforgiving in this respect. Courts have consistently held that there is no duty on the part of the judge, prosecutor, or even the defendant’s own lawyer, to advise a client of the collateral consequences of accepting a guilty plea. As a result, attempts to set aside or take back such pleas, for this reason, are consistently rejected by judges. In other words, you only get one chance to fully consider whether a guilty plea is in your best interests.

What should I do if I’m weighing a plea deal?

Give us a call. When it comes to administrative law and the licensure requirements of the myriad professions regulated by the State of Florida, we are the experts. If you’re weighing the merits of a plea deal and wondering how it will affect your professional prospects, aspirations, or present livelihood, the attorneys at Howell, Buchan & Strong have the answers you’re looking for, and may not get elsewhere until it’s too late.

Our expert legal team is experienced, qualified, and ready to defend you. We can advise you on the consequences of a given charge to a given professional license, and on your opportunity to fight professional discipline and protect your license. (Explore more Frequently Asked Questions about hiring an attorney.)

Have Questions? Let's Talk

Have questions about your case and entering a plea deal? Contact the law firm of Howell, Buchan & Strong at 850-877-7776 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation. Our firm represents physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other licensed professionals statewide. 

Orlando (407) 717-1773 | Tallahassee (850) 877-7776 | Tampa (813) 833-6726 | Sarasota (941) 779-4348

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