Convictions and Social Worker Discipline in California

You have devoted your career to assisting others. You help people dealing with difficult circumstances and difficult relationships.

You might be reading this because you find yourself in just such a circumstance, for sustaining a criminal conviction. If you're a social worker or marriage therapist in California, you can have your license suspended or revoked because of a criminal conviction.

Just as you've said to others, we say to you: "Don't panic or lose heart, help is available."

Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers represent people accused of crimes, but we also have a tremendous amount of experience helping professionals (including social works) avoid losing their licenses.1 We can help you figure out what everything means and how it all fits together.

This article is about how convictions can impact the professional licenses of social workers and family therapists. If you have questions after reading it, we invite you to contact us for a consultation.

This article covers:

1. Who regulates social workers and
marriage therapists?
2. What does the Board mean by
"conviction"?
3. What is a "substantially related"
conviction?
4. Will I have any defenses?
5. How can I fight for my license?

(Click on a title to proceed directly to that section)

1. Who regulates social workers and
marriage therapists?

California has an extensive regulatory structure. A myriad of agencies regulate professions ranging from dentists (Dental Board of California) to harbor pilots (Board of Pilot Commissioners) to guide dog instructors (Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind), to name just a few.

Clinical social workers and family therapists are licensed and regulated by the Board of Behavioral Sciences, an agency within the consumer protection-oriented California Department of Consumer Affairs.2

These professionals play an important role in society. Take a look at what the law says about marriage and family therapists:

Many California families and many individual Californians are experiencing difficulty and distress, and are in need of wise, competent, caring, compassionate, and effective counseling in order to enable them to improve and maintain healthy family relationships. Healthy individuals and healthy families and healthy relationships are inherently beneficial and crucial to a healthy society, and are our most precious and valuable natural resource. Marriage and family therapists provide a crucial support for the well-being of the people and the State of California.3

The California Board of Behavioral Sciences regulates marriage therapists and social workers to help ensure vulnerable people are not jeopardized or exploited in their time of need. The Board can discipline a licensee for suffering a criminal conviction.4

To this end, the Board requires applicants to disclose criminal convictions and submit fingerprint data for criminal background checks.

2. What does the Board mean by "conviction"?

Convictions include guilty pleas, guilty verdicts and "no contest" pleas.

The California Board of Behavioral Sciences can even count as a conviction one that has been expunged under California Penal Code Section 1203.4.5

If you have any doubt about whether a run-in with the law needs to be disclosed or can properly serve as the basis for discipline, we advise you to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

3. What is a "substantially related" conviction?

The California Board of Behavioral Sciences can't take action against a social worker for just any criminal conviction. It must be a conviction that is "substantially related" to the licensee's work.6

But in reality the Board appears to view a wide array of criminal convictions as substantially related to counseling work (and constituting "unprofessional conduct"), such as

Disciplinary guidelines

In its Disciplinary Guidelines for California social workers, the Board recommends for conviction-related disciplinary matters a minimum discipline of probation (with standard terms and conditions and a period of actual suspension) and a maximum discipline of license revocation.13

In cases of crimes against people, the Board recommends additional probation conditions of psychological/psychiatric evaluation and psychotherapy.

In cases of crimes involving drugs and alcohol, terms can include biological fluid testing.

For fiscal and property crimes, an additional probation term can be restitution.

4. Will I have any defenses?

Here are some defenses you might have in your discipline case:

  • conviction is not substantially related
  • the Board took too long to act
  • you have been rehabilitated

Not substantially related

We've already discussed how convictions must be "substantially related" to your social work to form a basis for discipline. So one defense you might have is that the conviction at issue isn't related to being a social worker of family therapist.

Statute of limitations

You might also have a statute of limitations defense.14 For certain kinds of cases, the Board can't just wait forever to file its charges against you.

There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking the Board must take action within three years of the date the Board discovers the conviction, or, if sooner, within seven years from the date on which the conviction occurred.15

Rehabilitation

You wouldn't have chosen to be a social worker or family therapist if you didn't believe that people can change. Well, the law has the same point of view when it comes to professional discipline.

When evaluating whether and how to discipline a licensee based on a criminal conviction, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences is required to look at evidence of rehabilitation.

If you have an unfortunate spot on your record but have conscientiously worked to overcome the underlying problem the conviction represents, the Board should take notice. You will help your case if you comply with the terms of your probation, get your conviction expunged and attempt to correct false statements.16

Let's look at an example involving a marriage and family therapist intern (IMF).

Example: A woman licensed as a family therapist intern had an altercation with the police at her home in a high-crime, gang-entrenched California neighborhood.

The cops came to her home in search of her son, who was wanted on a weapons-related charge. The woman felt the police were using excessive force on her son and she attempted to stop them. She was arrested and convicted of Penal Code 148 resisting arrest and accessory after the fact.

The IMF had a few other alcohol-related convictions in her past but to her credit she was "totally candid and cooperative" with the Board and had positive reference letters.

The Board initiated disciplinary proceedings based on the convictions. But - within the bounds of the law - this single mother of three decided to fight for her license. She represented herself at a hearing before an administrative law judge and luckily, the judge listened.

The judge acknowledged her efforts to craft a worthy career helping others in the face of significant adversity, limited finances and family responsibilities. "The law looks favorably on one who has reformed," the judge wrote in his opinion.

Instead of getting her license revoked, she received probation and the chance to continue her valuable counseling work.17
5. How can I fight for my license?

It's not all over and done with just because you receive an accusation or statement of issues from the Board.18 You can fight for your license. Things might not turn out perfectly, but they might end up better than expected.

While we recommend that you consult an attorney, you do not need a lawyer to contest disciplinary charges. But we stress that you must act very quickly to preserve your right to a hearing.19

If you opt for a hearing, you (or you and your attorney) will make your case before an administrative law judge. A lawyer from the California Attorney General's Office will represent the Board.

The judge will evaluate the evidence and testimony and issue a proposed decision to the Board, which can either accept or reject the administrative law judge's decision.20

If things don't go your way in the hearing, you can file an appeal to the state trial court in the form of a writ of administrative mandamus.

You can read more about the hearing process in our related article Administrative Hearings.

We also have a wide array of articles on common California crimes (from "A to Z") (including DUI's) and an extensive list of helpful web resources (including substance abuse treatment centers).

Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help.
Img-call-for-help

If you or loved one is charged with a crime and are a social worker and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

You might also be interested in reading our related articles on Nurse License Revocation, Dentist License Revocation and Pharmacist License Revocation.

Helpful links:

Board of Behavioral Sciences

California Office of Administrative hearings

References:

1Our California Criminal Defense Lawyers have local offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, San Diego, San Francisco, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.

2The Board also licenses educational psychologists and regulates marriage and family therapist interns, associate clinical social workers, and continuing education providers.

3See California Business and Professions Code Section 4980 et seq; California Code of Regulations Title 16, Division 18 (Board of Behavioral Sciences).

4As to DENIALS, California Business and Professions Code Section 480 provides: "(a) A board may deny a license regulated by this code on the grounds that the applicant has one of the following: (1) Been convicted of a crime. A conviction within the meaning of this section means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere. Any action that a board is permitted to take following the establishment of a conviction may be taken when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code. (2) Done any act involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit himself or herself or another, or substantially injure another. (3) (A) Done any act that if done by a licentiate of the business or profession in question, would be grounds for suspension or revocation of license. (B) The board may deny a license pursuant to this subdivision only if the crime or act is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which application is made. (b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, no person shall be denied a license solely on the basis that he or she has been convicted of a felony if he or she has obtained a certificate of rehabilitation under Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 4852.01) of Title 6 of Part 3 of the Penal Code or that he or she has been convicted of a misdemeanor if he or she has met all applicable requirements of the criteria of rehabilitation developed by the board to evaluate the rehabilitation of a person when considering the denial of a license under subdivision (a) of Section 482. (c) A board may deny a license regulated by this code on the ground that the applicant knowingly made a false statement of fact required to be revealed in the application for the license. As to SUSPENSIONS AND REVOCATIONS, California Business and Professions Code Section 490 provides: "(a) In addition to any other action that a board is permitted to take against a licensee, a board may suspend or revoke a license on the ground that the licensee has been convicted of a crime, if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the license was issued. (b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a board may exercise any authority to discipline a licensee for conviction of a crime that is independent of the authority granted under subdivision (a) only if the crime is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the licensee's license was issued. (c) A conviction within the meaning of this section means a plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere. Any action that a board is permitted to take following the establishment of a conviction may be taken when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code. (d) The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the application of this section has been made unclear by the holding in Petropoulos v. Department of Real Estate (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 554, and that the holding in that case has placed a significant number of statutes and regulations in question, resulting in potential harm to the consumers of California from licensees who have been convicted of crimes. Therefore, the Legislature finds and declares that this section establishes an independent basis for a board to impose discipline upon a licensee, and that the amendments to this section made by Senate Bill 797 of the 2007-08 Regular Session do not constitute a change to, but rather are declaratory of, existing law."

5As to MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS, see California Business and Professions Code Section 4982 (a), (b) and (c) ("The board may deny a license or registration or may suspend or revoke the license or registration of a licensee or registrant if he or she has been guilty of unprofessional conduct. Unprofessional conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following: (a) The conviction of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee or registrant under this chapter. The record of conviction shall be conclusive evidence only of the fact that the conviction occurred. The board may inquire into the circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime in order to fix the degree of discipline or to determine if the conviction is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee or registrant under this chapter. A plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere made to a charge substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee or registrant under this chapter shall be deemed to be a conviction within the meaning of this section. The board may order any license or registration suspended or revoked, or may decline to issue a license or registration when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or, when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code allowing the person to withdraw a plea of guilty and enter a plea of not guilty, or setting aside the verdict of guilty, or dismissing the accusation, information, or indictment. (b) Securing a license or registration by fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation on any application for licensure or registration submitted to the board, whether engaged in by an applicant for a license or registration, or by a licensee in support of any application for licensure or registration. (c) Administering to himself or herself any controlled substance or using of any of the dangerous drugs specified in Section 4022, or of any alcoholic beverage to the extent, or in a manner, as to be dangerous or injurious to the person applying for a registration or license or holding a registration or license under this chapter, or to any other person, or to the public, or, to the extent that the use impairs the ability of the person applying for or holding a registration or license to conduct with safety to the public the practice authorized by the registration or license. The board shall deny an application for a registration or license or revoke the license or registration of any person, other than one who is licensed as a physician and surgeon, who uses or offers to use drugs in the course of performing marriage and family therapy services.")  As to SOCIAL WORKERS, see California Business and Professions Code Section 4992.3 (a), (b) and (c) ("The board may deny a license or a registration, or may suspend or revoke the license or registration of a licensee or registrant if he or she has been guilty of unprofessional conduct. Unprofessional conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following: (a) The conviction of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee or registrant under this chapter. The record of conviction shall be conclusive evidence only of the fact that the conviction occurred. The board may inquire into the circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime in order to fix the degree of discipline or to determine if the conviction is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee or registrant under this chapter. A plea or verdict of guilty or a conviction following a plea of nolo contendere made to a charge substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a licensee or registrant under this chapter is a conviction within the meaning of this section. The board may order any license or registration suspended or revoked, or may decline to issue a license or registration when the time for appeal has elapsed, or the judgment of conviction has been affirmed on appeal, or, when an order granting probation is made suspending the imposition of sentence, irrespective of a subsequent order under Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code allowing the person to withdraw a plea of guilty and enter a plea of not guilty, or setting aside the verdict of guilty, or dismissing the accusation, information, or indictment. (b) Securing a license or registration by fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation on any application for licensure or registration submitted to the board, whether engaged in by an applicant for a license or registration, or by a licensee in support of any application for licensure or registration. (c) Administering to himself or herself any controlled substance or using any of the dangerous drugs specified in Section 4022 or any alcoholic beverage to the extent, or in a manner, as to be dangerous or injurious to the person applying for a registration or license or holding a registration or license under this chapter, or to any other person, or to the public, or, to the extent that the use impairs the ability of the person applying for or holding a registration or license to conduct with safety to the public the practice authorized by the registration or license. The board shall deny an application for a registration or license or revoke the license or registration of any person who uses or offers to use drugs in the course of performing clinical social work. This provision does not apply to any person also licensed as a physician and surgeon under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2000) or the Osteopathic Act who lawfully prescribes drugs to a patient under his or her care.")

6See Hughes v. Board of Architectural Examiners, 17 Cal.4th 763, 788 (1998) ("It is axiomatic that the right of an individual to engage in any of the common occupations of life is among the several fundamental liberties protected by the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, for example, a statute constitutionally can prohibit an individual from practicing a lawful profession only for reasons related to his or her fitness or competence to practice that profession." (internal citations omitted)

7In the Matter of the Accusation Against Caleb Ola Aleru (ACSW), Case No. AS 2007-299 (associate clinical social worker's license revoked after multiple DUI's); In the Matter of the Accusation Against Karah Ann Belczak (ACSW), Case No. AS-2005-961 (associate clinical social worker voluntarily surrenders license in connection with DUI conviction-related disciplinary proceedings). Note that in both of these cases the Board cites to BPC � 4992.3 (c) as well as � 4992.3 (a).

8In the Matter of the Accusation Against Mable Shyh-Wen Kuo-Boyer (LCSW), Case No. LC-2006-167 (clinical social worker got 3 years of probation, including psychological evaluation and psychotherapy terms, in connection with conviction resulting from threatening someone at place of practice with a butcher knife).

9In the Matter of the Accusation Against Mike Randel Brewer (MFT), Case No. MF-2006-642 (marriage and family therapist license revoked)

10In the Matter of the Accusation Against Cherrlynn Moneaka Hubbard (ACSW), Case No. AS-2003-633 (5 years of probation)

11In the Matter of the Accusation Against Scott Matthew Pleune (ACSW), Case No. AS-2005-90 (license revoked by default decision). With respect to sex offenses, see also BPC � 4996.2 (d) ("Each applicant shall furnish evidence satisfactory to the board that he or she complies with all of the following requirements..(d) Has not committed any crimes or acts constituting grounds for denial of licensure under Section 480. The board shall not issue a registration or license to any person who has been convicted of any crime in this or another state or in a territory of the United States that involves sexual abuse of children or who is required to register pursuant to Section 290 of the Penal Code or the equivalent in another state or territory.

12In the Matter of the Accusation Against Andre Gouaux (LCSW), Case No. LC-2006-383 (voluntary surrender of license).

13California Code of Regulations Title 16, � 1888 provides: "In reaching a decision on a disciplinary action under the Administrative Procedure Act (Government Code Section 11400 et seq.), the Board of Behavioral Sciences shall consider the disciplinary guidelines entitled "Board of Behavioral Sciences Disciplinary Guidelines" [Rev. November 2008] which are hereby incorporated by reference. Deviation from these guidelines and orders, including the standard terms of probation, is appropriate where the Board in its discretion determines that the facts of the particular case warrant such a deviation - for example: the presence of mitigating factors; the age of the case; evidentiary problems."

14A related defense is that of laches, which is based in equity and not in statute. It is getting more common for statute of limitations defenses to exists in professional discipline cases. Laws regulating professionals such as dentists, optometrists and real estate brokers also have statute of limitations provisions. See generally CEB Professional Licensing: Disciplinary Practice in California, � 6.2, et seq.

15Business and Professions Code Section 4982.05 provides: "(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b), (c), and (e), any accusation filed against a licensee pursuant to Section 11503 of the Government Code shall be filed within three years from the date the board discovers the alleged act or omission that is the basis for disciplinary action, or within seven years from the date the alleged act or omission that is the basis for disciplinary action occurred, whichever occurs first. (b) An accusation filed against a licensee pursuant to Section 11503 of the Government Code alleging the procurement of a license by fraud or misrepresentation is not subject to the limitations set forth in subdivision (a). (c) The limitation provided for by subdivision (a) shall be tolled for the length of time required to obtain compliance when a report required to be filed by the licensee or registrant with the board pursuant to Article 11 (commencing with Section 800) of Chapter 1 is not filed in a timely fashion. (d) If an alleged act or omission involves a minor, the seven-year limitations period provided for by subdivision (a) and the 10-year limitations period provided for by subdivision (e) shall be tolled until the minor reaches the age of majority. (e) An accusation filed against a licensee pursuant to Section 11503 of the Government Code alleging sexual misconduct shall be filed within three years after the board discovers the act or omission alleged as the grounds for disciplinary action, or within 10 years after the act or omission alleged as the grounds for disciplinary action occurs, whichever occurs first. This subdivision shall apply to a complaint alleging sexual misconduct received by the board on and after January 1, 2002. (f) The limitations period provided by subdivision (a) shall be tolled during any period if material evidence necessary for prosecuting or determining whether a disciplinary action would be appropriate is unavailable to the board due to an ongoing criminal investigation. (g) For purposes of this section, "discovers" means the later of the occurrence of any of the following with respect to each act or omission alleged as the basis for disciplinary action: (1) The date the board received a complaint or report describing the act or omission. (2) The date, subsequent to the original complaint or report, on which the board became aware of any additional acts or omissions alleged as the basis for disciplinary action against the same individual. (3) The date the board receives from the complainant a written release of information pertaining to the complainant's diagnosis and treatment."  See also BPC � 4990.32.

16Business and Professions Code Section 482 provides: "Each board under the provisions of this code shall develop criteria to evaluate the rehabilitation of a person when: (a) Considering the denial of a license by the board under Section 480; or  (b) Considering suspension or revocation of a license under Section 490. Each board shall take into account all competent evidence of rehabilitation furnished by the applicant or licensee."  See also, as to DENIALS, California Code of Regulations Title 16, � 1813 ("When considering the denial of a license or registration under Section 480 of the Code, the board, in evaluating the rehabilitation of the applicant and his or her present eligibility for a license or registration shall consider the following criteria: (a) The nature and severity of the act(s) or crime(s) under consideration as grounds for denial. (b) Evidence of any act(s) committed subsequent to the act(s) or crime(s) under consideration as grounds for denial which also could be considered as grounds for denial under Section 480 of the Code. (c) The time that has elapsed since commission of the act(s) or crime(s) referred to in Section 480 of the Code. (d) The extent to which the applicant has complied with any terms of probation, parole, restitution, or any other sanctions lawfully imposed against the applicant. (e) Evidence, if any, of rehabilitation submitted by the applicant.")  As to SUSPENSIONS AND REVOCATIONS, see California Business and Professions Code Title 16, � 1814 ("(a) When considering the suspension or revocation of a license, the board, in evaluating the rehabilitation of such person and his or her eligibility for a license will consider the following criteria: (1) Nature and severity of the act(s) or crime(s) under consideration as grounds for suspension or revocation. (2) Evidence of any act(s) committed subsequent to the act(s) or crime(s) under consideration as grounds for suspension or revocation under Section 490 of the Code. (3) The time that has elapsed since commission of the act(s) or crime(s) giving rise to the suspension or revocation. (4) Whether the licensee has complied with any terms of probation, parole, restitution or any other sanctions lawfully imposed against such person. (5) If applicable, evidence of expungement proceedings pursuant to Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code. (6) Evidence, if any, concerning the degree to which a false statement relative to application for licensure may have been unintentional, inadvertent or immaterial. (7) Efforts made by the applicant either to correct a false statement once made on an application or to conceal the truth concerning facts required to be disclosed. (8) Evidence, if any, of rehabilitation submitted by the licensee. (b) When considering a petition for reinstatement of a license or registration under the provisions of Section 11522 of the Government Code, the board shall evaluate evidence of rehabilitation submitted by the petitioner considering those criteria specified in Section 1813 of this article.")

17In the Matter of the Accusation Against Sonia Cantu Lopez (IMF), Case No. IM-2005-474. (The judge also wrote: "Respondent's convictions arose from a single event against an otherwise laudable life. Surrounded by several police officers, her conduct did not portend violence. It arose from a maternal concern for the safety and wellbeing of her son. The subsequent conviction of the claimed victims of her son's firearm discharge gives credence to the unusual circumstances attendant to her neighborhood. Further, the effect of the Superior Court's intervention, combined with her evident maturity, circumspection, and personal rehabilitation have reduced her potential for recidivism. She has maintained gainful employment. She seeks continued registration to advance her professional and career development and qualification for licensure as a marriage family therapist to provide a benefit to particularly disadvantaged people.")

18In terms of an ACCUSATION relating to discipline of existing licensee, California Government Code Section 11503 provides: "A hearing to determine whether a right, authority, license or privilege should be revoked, suspended, limited or conditioned shall be initiated by filing an accusation. The accusation shall be a written statement of charges which shall set forth in ordinary and concise language the acts or omissions with which the respondent is charged, to the end that the respondent will be able to prepare his defense. It shall specify the statutes and rules which the respondent is alleged to have violated, but shall not consist merely of charges phrased in the language of such statutes and rules. The accusation shall be verified unless made by a public officer acting in his official capacity or by an employee of the agency before which the proceeding is to be held. The verification may be on information and belief."  In terms of a STATEMENT OF ISSUES relating to denial of a license application, California Business and Professions Code Section 11504 provides: "A hearing to determine whether a right, authority, license, or privilege should be granted, issued, or renewed shall be initiated by filing a statement of issues. The statement of issues shall be a written statement specifying the statutes and rules with which the respondent must show compliance by producing proof at the hearing and, in addition, any particular matters that have come to the attention of the initiating party and that would authorize a denial of the agency action sought. The statement of issues shall be verified unless made by a public officer acting in his or her official capacity or by an employee of the agency before which the proceeding is to be held. The verification may be on information and belief. The statement of issues shall be served in the same manner as an accusation, except that, if the hearing is held at the request of the respondent, Sections 11505 and 11506 shall not apply and the statement of issues together with the notice of hearing shall be delivered or mailed to the parties as provided in Section 11509. Unless a statement to respondent is served pursuant to Section 11505, a copy of Sections 11507.5, 11507.6, and 11507.7, and the name and address of the person to whom requests permitted by Section 11505 may be made, shall be served with the statement of issues."

19California Government Code Section 11506 provides: ("(a) Within 15 days after service of the accusation the respondent may file with the agency a notice of defense in which the respondent may: (1) Request a hearing. (2) Object to the accusation upon the ground that it does not state acts or omissions upon which the agency may proceed. (3) Object to the form of the accusation on the ground that it is so indefinite or uncertain that the respondent cannot identify the transaction or prepare a defense. (4) Admit the accusation in whole or in part. (5) Present new matter by way of defense. (6) Object to the accusation upon the ground that, under the circumstances, compliance with the requirements of a regulation would result in a material violation of another regulation enacted by another department affecting substantive rights. (b) Within the time specified respondent may file one or more notices of defense upon any or all of these grounds but all of these notices shall be filed within that period unless the agency in its discretion authorizes the filing of a later notice. (c) The respondent shall be entitled to a hearing on the merits if the respondent files a notice of defense, and the notice shall be deemed a specific denial of all parts of the accusation not expressly admitted. Failure to file a notice of defense shall constitute a waiver of respondent's right to a hearing, but the agency in its discretion may nevertheless grant a hearing. Unless objection is taken as provided in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a), all objections to the form of the accusation shall be deemed waived. (d) The notice of defense shall be in writing signed by or on behalf of the respondent and shall state the respondent's mailing address. It need not be verified or follow any particular form. (e) As used in this section, "file," "files," "filed," or "filing" means "delivered or mailed" to the agency as provided in Section 11505."  BUT SEE ALSO California Business and Professions Code Section 485, which provides: "Upon denial of an application for a license under this chapter or Section 496, the board shall do either of the following: (a) File and serve a statement of issues in accordance with Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code. (b) Notify the applicant that the application is denied, stating (1) the reason for the denial, and (2) that the applicant has the right to a hearing under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code if written request for hearing is made within 60 days after service of the notice of denial. Unless written request for hearing is made within the 60-day period, the applicant's right to a hearing is deemed waived. Service of the notice of denial may be made in the manner authorized for service of summons in civil actions, or by registered mail addressed to the applicant at the latest address filed by the applicant in writing with the board in his or her application or otherwise. Service by mail is complete on the date of mailing."

20California Government Code Section 11517 provides: "(a) A contested case may be originally heard by the agency itself and subdivision (b) shall apply. Alternatively, at the discretion of the agency, an administrative law judge may originally hear the case alone and subdivision (c) shall apply. (b) If a contested case is originally heard before an agency itself, all of the following provisions apply: (1) An administrative law judge shall be present during the consideration of the case and, if requested, shall assist and advise the agency in the conduct of the hearing. (2) No member of the agency who did not hear the evidence shall vote on the decision. (3) The agency shall issue its decision within 100 days of submission of the case. (c) (1) If a contested case is originally heard by an administrative law judge alone, he or she shall prepare within 30 days after the case is submitted to him or her a proposed decision in a form that may be adopted by the agency as the final decision in the case. Failure of the administrative law judge to deliver a proposed decision within the time required does not prejudice the rights of the agency in the case. Thirty days after the receipt by the agency of the proposed decision, a copy of the proposed decision shall be filed by the agency as a public record and a copy shall be served by the agency on each party and his or her attorney. The filing and service is not an adoption of a proposed decision by the agency. (2) Within 100 days of receipt by the agency of the administrative law judge's proposed decision, the agency may act as prescribed in subparagraphs (A) to (E), inclusive. If the agency fails to act as prescribed in subparagraphs (A) to (E), inclusive, within 100 days of receipt of the proposed decision, the proposed decision shall be deemed adopted by the agency. The agency may do any of the following: (A) Adopt the proposed decision in its entirety. (B) Reduce or otherwise mitigate the proposed penalty and adopt the balance of the proposed decision. (C) Make technical or other minor changes in the proposed decision and adopt it as the decision. Action by the agency under this paragraph is limited to a clarifying change or a change of a similar nature that does not affect the factual or legal basis of the proposed decision. (D) Reject the proposed decision and refer the case to the same administrative law judge if reasonably available, otherwise to another administrative law judge, to take additional evidence. If the case is referred to an administrative law judge pursuant to this subparagraph, he or she shall prepare a revised proposed decision, as provided in paragraph (1), based upon the additional evidence and the transcript and other papers that are part of the record of the prior hearing. A copy of the revised proposed decision shall be furnished to each party and his or her attorney as prescribed in this subdivision. (E) Reject the proposed decision, and decide the case upon the record, including the transcript, or upon an agreed statement of the parties, with or without taking additional evidence. By stipulation of the parties, the agency may decide the case upon the record without including the transcript. If the agency acts pursuant to this subparagraph, all of the following provisions apply: (i) A copy of the record shall be made available to the parties. The agency may require payment of fees covering direct costs of making the copy. (ii) The agency itself shall not decide any case provided for in this subdivision without affording the parties the opportunity to present either oral or written argument before the agency itself. If additional oral evidence is introduced before the agency itself, no agency member may vote unless the member heard the additional oral evidence. (iii) The authority of the agency itself to decide the case under this subdivision includes authority to decide some but not all issues in the case. (iv) If the agency elects to proceed under this subparagraph, the agency shall issue its final decision not later than 100 days after rejection of the proposed decision. If the agency elects to proceed under this subparagraph, and has ordered a transcript of the proceedings before the administrative law judge, the agency shall issue its final decision not later than 100 days after receipt of the transcript. If the agency finds that a further delay is required by special circumstance, it shall issue an order delaying the decision for no more than 30 days and specifying the reasons therefor. The order shall be subject to judicial review pursuant to Section 11523. (d) The decision of the agency shall be filed immediately by the agency as a public record and a copy shall be served by the agency on each party and his or her attorney."

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