Florida Professional License Defense

Florida Administrative Lawyer

Were you served with an Administrative Complaint from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Department of Health, Florida Bar or the Board of Nursing? Are you feeling sick to your stomach or worried about the impact to your career and your professional reputation? We certainly can help. We know that many professionals, tradesmen, and contractors work very hard and spend a good deal of time and money pursuing an education, and experience to require a professional license or certificate. People attend medical school or study a trade to help others while earning a decent living; however, a single complaint may be all it takes to threaten what you worked so hard to obtain over the years.

Any professional licensed in Florida by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) or any of its boards should understand the investigatory process that takes place after they receive a complaint. Those who know how the investigation will unwind can make informed decisions to protect their careers. Taking the time to become educated about this process and seek legal counsel is critical in the days that immediately follow the notice you receive stating you’re now the subject of a complaint or investigation. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you can turn to the dedicated professional license defense attorneys with The Umansky Law Firm. We have decades of experience helping professionals take proactive measures to guard their licenses and reputations. We understand that you may be feeling a mix of emotions and not know what to do in this situation. It’s of the utmost importance that you seek legal counsel quickly so you can have the best chance at challenging the complaint.

Who May Need Legal Counsel When Defending Against Professional Complaints?

The DBPR regulates a variety of industries in Florida. Some of the many industry professionals that our law firm represents in administrative matters include:

Keep in mind that, depending on your profession, you may be investigated by a specific board that the DBPR oversees. The Florida Bar, for example, regulates the legal industry in Florida, while the Florida Board of Medicine licenses doctors and other healthcare professionals. Nurses are regulated by The Florida Board of Nursing and the Florida Board of Dentistry licenses dentists and dental hygienists, among others.

Consumer Complaints that May Lead to Action Against your License

There are several reasons a professional in any industry may receive a complaint and be launched into an undesirable spotlight by their licensing board. Under Florida law, there are a number of grounds on which your license may be suspended, revoked, or denied. These include:

  1. Fraud
  2. Getting convicted of a crime
  3. Misleading advertisements
  4. Violating any rules set forth by the DBPR related to your profession, such as contractors, architects, builders, inspectors, designers, engineers, and others
  5. Violating rules by the Florida Real Estate Commission related to the practice of real estate
  6. Violating any rules of the Board of Medicine, Nursing,  Dentistry or Florida Bar
  7. Violating your breach of duty
  8. Abandoning a project
  9. Negligence
  10. Incompetence
  11. Trying to obtain a license by misrepresentation
  12. Failing to perform the legal obligations of your profession

What is the Process for a DBPR Complaint in Florida?

When you receive a notice about a complaint, review all documents from the Department carefully. Note all deadlines provided in the documents sent to you by the board investigating you or from the DBPR. You must comply with all deadlines and will not receive follow-up warnings. Keep these files in a safe place because you will need to share them with your professional license defense lawyer.

Receiving a Citation Against your Professional License

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the state’s regulatory boards can cite licensees if they determine that the alleged violation isn’t severe enough for a license suspension or revocation. A citation can still hurt your business and reputation, doing damage long-term to your way of making a living. If you ignore the citation, you could face more serious discipline including administrative formal and informal hearings, large fines, probation, or even the loss of your license. 

Becoming the Target of a DBPR Investigation

An investigation is a more severe matter than a citation. Two scenarios may prompt an investigation by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation:

  1. The Department receives a written complaint alleging that you have violated one of the statutes or rules that govern your profession; or
  2. The DBPR had “reasonable cause” to believe you have violated such a statute or rule. To establish reasonable cause, they must have facts showing how you conducted violations.

If the Department decides that the complaint against you is valid or that they have reasonable cause for an investigation, they must send you a notice of the investigation and give you a copy of the complaint. Once you receive that, you have 20 days to submit a written response for consideration by a probable cause panel (PCP). 

This response is your chance to show your side of the story to the DBPR and refute the allegations against you or explain mitigating circumstances that may exist. Your statement may be used in a formal hearing concerning the complaint. Discuss this decision thoroughly with your attorney before submitting your response.

More on the Probable Cause Panel

In Florida, if a complaint is made against a licensee and is found to have merit, an investigation may be opened. Investigators may ask the licensee to produce documents. The investigators may also talk to the complainants and other witnesses involved in the allegation(s).  The investigation is sent to a Probable Cause Panel that will determine if there is probable cause for the appropriate agency to issue a formal administrative complaint against the licensee. After review the panel can: 

  1. Determine if probable cause exists; 
  2. Determine if probable cause does not exist;
  3. Instead of making a formal finding, the panel may send the professional or business a “guidance letter” advising them on steps to take to avoid further complaints; or
  4. Take no action at all.

Prosecution by Administrative Complaint and Administrative Hearings 

If probable cause is found, the findings of investigation can be forwarded to the Office of General Counsel (OGC) and assigned to the prosecutor. The prosecutor can dismiss or file the complaint. If the OGC prosecutor wants to prosecute, the case could be assigned to an administrative law judge from the Department of State’s Division of Administrative Hearings.   

You should be aware that administrative law is different from civil or criminal law. Unlike criminal law where the burden of proof is high, the burden in an administrative hearing is lower. Because it is lower, the OGC can’t send you to jail or prison, or obtain money for the alleged victim(s) as in a civil lawsuit. Still, you can face suspension, revocation of your business, fines, costs of investigation, and probationary status, as well as damage to your reputation as punishment. 

If there are disputed material facts, you could go to a hearing in front of the administrative judge or hearing officer. The hearing can consist of witnesses being called to testify and subject to cross examination by a lawyer, evidence being introduced and defenses being raised. If the Judge or hearing officer makes a finding, that finding will go to the relevant board. Ultimately, an agency will issue an order with findings and potential punishment.

Appeals: If the licensee agrees with the findings of the administrative law judge or hearing officer, and legal grounds exist, it may be possible to appeal the order.

How Can an Administrative Lawyer Help Professionals Fight Complaints?

Legal representation is crucial if you’re under investigation or have a complaint against you that could threaten your professional license. Our team of attorneys who handle administrative cases can help in many ways. You can trust our professional license lawyers to:

  • Review the complaint against you and develop a defense by securing evidence, documents and witnesses that help you:
  • Prevent you from incriminating yourself as you defend against the allegations;
  • Defend against potential criminal charges that can arise from the complaint;
  • Establish the motive or bias behind the person who made the complaint against you;
  • Help you respond to the Probable Cause Investigation by securing documents, witnesses and other methods to establish there is no probable cause for the complaint;
  • Help to try and get the Complaint dismissed by the Probable Cause panel;
  • Argue that guidance letter is better than a prosecution;
  • Mitigate any potential punishments the Board or Agency may want to take;
  • Present evidence and witnesses and cross examine State’s witnesses at a formal review hearing;
  • Help challenge the findings at an informal review hearing; and/or
  • Appeal the hearing.

Fight for Your Career. Contact Our Professional License Defense Lawyers in Florida Today.

If you’ve been accused of committing an act where the State may take your license or suspend your business activities, call our Florida administrative lawyers to defend you. As experienced trial lawyers, we understand the evidence code and can help prepare a defense that may lead to the dismissal of the citation, complaint, or allegation against you. 

Since we also have a criminal defense background that includes construction, real estate and medical fraud, along with all other types of crimes, we are prepared to defend you in the administrative action and help you avoid not only license suspension but criminal prosecution as well. Our lawyers include former prosecutors, defense lawyers and some have experience working directly with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

With more than 100 years of combined experience helping licensed professionals protect their careers, you can trust us to look out for your best interests throughout the entire process. Call 407-228-3838 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.