Florida Architecture License Defense Attorney

In the world of construction, architects hold much of the responsibility and authority as the ultimate decision-maker. Architects play a significant role in coordinating the needs of building owners, the aesthetics of the project, along with the design criteria while remaining within a specified budget and deadline. As architects balance the needs of the building’s owner (the client), engineers, and builders, it’s not uncommon that they find themselves at the center of disputes.

If you’re an architect who’s received a complaint from the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR), you are likely feeling uncertain about the future of your career and confused about what to do next. A complaint against a licensed architect in Florida can lead to severe consequences that include restriction of services, fines, remedial education, and, at worst – a license suspension or revocation.

Any complaint against your Florida architect license should never be taken lightly. After years of hard work, a loss of license would be a devastating blow to your career. If you’re a licensed architect facing a formal complaint, keep in mind that taking action to address the complaint with experienced legal counsel is essential for your professional career.

What Does an Architect Do?

Architects are responsible for confirming that the design of a building or project is compliant with fire, safety, and all applicable building codes. The architect’s role is limited to being the agent of the building owner (or the client), acting to facilitate the project from preliminary planning to completion.

Florida Statute 481.203 defines an architect as a person who is licensed to engage in the practice of architecture. Architecture means:

“the rendering or offering to render services in connection with the design and construction of a structure or group of structures which have as their principal purpose human habitation or use, and the utilization of space within and surrounding such structures. These services include planning, providing preliminary study designs, drawings and specifications, job-site inspection, and administration of construction contracts.

Architects must ensure that the technical design meets the specifications in the contract agreement made with the owner. That is why architects should have a clear and detailed contract, This is paramount before beginning a project.

Why is Having a Valid License Important for Architects?

Being a licensed architect instills trust in the clients, builders, and engineers you work with that you are skilled and experienced for the job. Most importantly, you must have a valid license to work as an architect in Florida. Losing your license can take away your means of making a living and providing for your family. In a

career that takes years to build, an unaddressed complaint should not be the reason that it ends.

If you suspect or know that a complaint has been filed against you, you should waste no time securing knowledgeable legal counsel, no matter how petty or trivial the complaint may be.

Who Licenses Architects in Florida?

In Florida, architects are supervised by the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR). The Board of Architecture and Interior Design is responsible for licensing architects in Florida regulated by the DBPR. The Board meets regularly to review applications for new licenses, complaints, and disciplinary cases.

What are Common Complaints Made Against Architects?

An architect might receive allegations for various reasons, but the main issue often involves their central role being agent and representing the wants of the building owner. A simple misunderstanding in contractual duties can result in a complicated dispute. Sometimes, the assumption of various roles and responsibilities between builders, engineers, and architects can lead to complications, especially if certain parties are rushing to get the job done.

To avoid the risk of a formal complaint being filed, architects must ensure there’s a full understanding of the actual tasks customarily assumed by the architect and what each task essentially means. Ensuring that all building safety standards are met is part of the architect’s responsibilities when creating the design. Any design flaw is usually the architect’s responsibility.

Examples When an Architect Might Face Disciplinary Action Include:

  • Failing to report past criminal history to DBPR
  • Signing off on contract documents that a building was up to fire code, but the building erupted in flames a short time later due to the architect’s negligent oversight.
  • Specifying necessary pipe wall thickness in the design of a building to ensure requirements are met to code, but the wall collapsed soon after due to the architect’s negligent specifications
  • Designing a faulty driveway that’s so steep a fully loaded truck is unable to meet the grade
  • Abandoning a project and a contract before it’s complete

How Does Someone File a Complaint?

The Board of Architecture and Interior Design has contracted with the law firm of Smith, Thompson, Shaw, Minacci & Colon, P.A. to perform the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the Board. Anyone who wants to file a complaint against an architect would do so by contacting this firm.

What is the Complaint Process Like?

When an architect receives a complaint, the law firm of Smith, Thompson, Shaw, Minacci & Colon, P.A. reviews it. The investigation consists of gathering enough information to decide whether the complaint can proceed to the next step.

Information gathered during an investigation generally includes:

  • Interviewing complainants
  • Interviewing the subject of the complaint
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Issuing subpoenas
  • Recording sworn statements
  • Gathering documented evidence
  • Readying reports

As a professional architect, it’s highly advised that you hire an experienced professional license defense attorney to help you develop a strong response to the investigation procedure. Often, an experienced lawyer can end the investigation process at its earliest stages, preventing you from withstanding further harm to your business or reputation.

The Probable Cause Panel Reviews the Complaint

If the investigation procures enough proof to move the allegation to the next step, the complaint will be reviewed by a Probable Cause Panel. That will typically involve members on the Board of Architecture and Interior Design and the law firm who review the documents and evidence tied to the complaint.

During this process, it’s vital that you have your defense attorney, and you do not attempt to handle the situation alone.

The panel review can result in three possible outcomes:

  • Finding “no probable cause”
  • Issuing a “letter of guidance”
  • Issuing a formal Administrative Complaint

A finding of “no probable cause” is a dismissal of the case, which means there was not enough evidence proving that you violated any rule or regulation. A “letter of guidance” is not a disciplinary action, but it’s issued when the panel finds that a minor violation did occur. The most severe outcome is when a formal Administrative Complaint is issued against you.

Process of the Administrative Complaint

An Administrative Complaint against you details the statements and evidence against you reviewed during the investigation, along with the specific laws or rules that you’re charged with violating. After consulting with your attorney, you can choose to attend either an Informal Hearing or Formal Hearing.

Informal Hearing

If you choose to proceed with an Informal Hearing, that means you do not wish to dispute any of the allegations against you, nor do you intend to bring any new evidence to light. Instead, you’re accepting the complaints, and you’ll face the Board again where they’ll make a final decision on what penalties will be imposed against you.

Formal Hearing

If you wish to dispute the allegations and facts found against you during the investigation, you proceed with a Formal Hearing. This hearing is before Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) and presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ hears the evidence from both sides and makes a final Recommended Order to the Board. The Board then makes a final decision concerning disciplinary actions.

You can appeal the decision by filing a petition for judicial review if your building contractor’s license is suspended or revoked. Your lawyer is your most valued ally when going through this process – always consult with them before making any decisions.

How Can a Professional License Defense Attorney Help?

At The Umansky Law Firm, our professional license defense team investigates every case in detail to learn the facts and the best way to secure your architect’s license. In general, some complaints against architects can go to criminal court, and you can face criminal charges. Having an experienced criminal lawyer who handles professional license defense is supreme.

Umansky lawyers can benefit you in a variety of ways, including:

  • 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 a guidance letter is better than a prosecution
  • Mitigate any potential punishments the Board or Agency may want to take
  • Present evidence, witnesses, and cross-examine State’s witnesses at a formal review hearing
  • Help challenge the findings at an informal review hearing
  • Appeal the hearing

Experienced Architect Defense Lawyers in Orlando

If you have been accused of committing an act that may prompt the Board of Architecture and Interior Design to revoke your license, contact The Umansky Law Firm to fight for you. As skilled trial lawyers, we understand the evidence code and can help prepare a strong defense for you that may include dismissal of the citation, complaint, or allegation against you.

Attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm include former prosecutors and defense lawyers, and some have experience working directly for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). That experience, tied with our criminal defense background, enables us to build a robust defense for you and help you avoid license suspension and criminal prosecution in the administrative action. To speak with an administrative lawyer, complete an online contact form or call today at (407) 228-3838.