Licensing Complaints & Investigations
The process by which the State of Florida regulates licensed businesses and professionals is complex. There are critical deadlines that must be followed to successfully resolve your case. You also have important legal rights during this process, but these rights can be waived by missing key deadlines.
Helping you keep your license!
The process by which the State of Florida regulates licensed businesses and professionals is complex. There are critical deadlines that must be followed to successfully resolve your case. You also have important legal rights during this process, but these rights can be waived by missing key deadlines. The investigation process can be confusing, and you should consult with an experienced attorney to avoid negative consequences and help you keep your professional license.
Our Role as Your Professional License Attorney
Our firm represents all types of licensed businesses and professionals facing these of legal issues. We can help you:
- Present your side of the story to the regulating agency and the Board
- Respond to the allegations made against you in the complaint
- Provide advice on how to successfully navigate the system
- Avoid missing important deadlines
- Review correspondence from the regulating agency
- Prepare for your appearance before the Board
Receiving an Investigative Letter
Anyone, including a former patient, client, or competitor, can file a complaint against your license with the regulating agency, such as the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), the Department of Financial Services (DFS), or the Department of Health (DOH). When these state agencies receive a complaint, they may open an investigation into that complaint. The case gets assigned to an investigator, a non-attorney who works out of one of the many local agency offices in the State of Florida.
The investigator is like a police detective; he or she will interview witnesses, review documents, and gather evidence. At this stage, you will receive an investigative letter. In this letter, the agency informs you that a complaint has been filed against your license. This letter also informs you of an important right. You have the right to file a written response to the complaint after receiving the letter. You can also be interviewed by the investigator in lieu of filing a written response. Note, you do NOT have to respond to the investigative letter. At this same stage, you may also receive a subpoena from the agency. A subpoena is a legal document that compels you to hand over evidence to the investigator. It is important that you respond to the subpoena quickly and accurately, or you could face additional discipline. If you receive an investigative letter and/or subpoena from DOH, it is highly recommended that you speak with an attorney before responding. Communicating with the investigator is a lot like communicating with the police; anything you say can and will be used against you! It is also important that you do not ignore the letter, as issues with the agency rarely go away on their own.
Receiving an Administrative Complaint & Filing the Election of Rights
Once the investigator completes his or her investigation, the case is sent to the state agency’s headquarters. The case is then reviewed by an agency attorney (called a prosecutor), to determine whether the agency will file a formal administrative complaint (AC) against your license. If the agency and the Board choose to bring formal charges, you will be served with an AC, which outlines the allegations against you that, if proven true, would be grounds for disciplining your license. Once you receive the AC, you have 21 days to respond by filing an Election of Rights (EOR) form. Your options for responding to the AC are generally as follows:
- Informal Hearing - where you admit to the truth of the allegations and go before your professional Board, who will determine what discipline you will receive.
- Formal Hearing - where you deny some or all the allegations and request a trial before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to challenge the allegations.
- Settlement Agreement - in some instances, the agency may offer you a settlement agreement at the very beginning of the case. You may accept this agreement, or an experienced attorney may be able to negotiate for a more favorable agreement. All settlement agreements must be approved by the relevant professional Board.
As you can see, how you choose to respond to the AC can greatly impact your case. Consult with an attorney to better understand whether you should deny the allegations, whether you should accept an offered settlement agreement, and what possible discipline you may be facing.
Appearing Before the Board
If you choose option 1 or option 3 above, you will likely have to appear before your professional Board, if your specific license is governed by a Board. Many professional licenses are governed by Boards. These appearances require a great deal of preparation, review of the relevant documents, and familiarity with the operation and decorum of the Board. Our firm thoroughly prepares our clients for their Board appearances and works to present their cases to the Board in the best light possible. The Board determines what your ultimate discipline will be. To do this, they apply formal disciplinary guidelines. These guidelines are not set in stone. The Board can deviate from the guidelines if it finds that there are either aggravating or mitigating factors in your case. Every case is unique, so it is important carefully review all the facts to determine what the best arguments are to make to the Board.
Consult with our Lawyers
Howell, Buchan & Strong represents licensed professionals and facilities.
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