California Business & Professions Code § 2052 BPC prohibits the practice of medicine without a license. Unauthorized practice of medicine can be charged as a misdemeanor carrying up to 1 year in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. Or it can be charged as a felony carrying a jail sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years, and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
BPC 2052. (a) Notwithstanding Section 146, any person who practices or attempts to practice, or who advertises or holds himself or herself out as practicing, any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in this state, or who diagnoses, treats, operates for, or prescribes for any ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or other physical or mental condition of any person, without having at the time of so doing a valid, unrevoked, or unsuspended certificate as provided in this chapter or without being authorized to perform the act pursuant to a certificate obtained in accordance with some other provision of law is guilty of a public offense, punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and either imprisonment.
(b) Any person who conspires with or aids or abets another to commit any act described in subdivision (a) is guilty of a public offense, subject to the punishment described in that subdivision.
(c) The remedy provided in this section shall not preclude any other remedy provided by law.
California Business & Professions Code 2052 BPC makes the unlawful practice of medicine a crime. Specifically, it is illegal to do any of the following without a current and valid medical license:
- Practice, attempt to practice, or advertise or hold oneself out as practicing medicine; or
- Diagnose, treat, operate on, or prescribe medication; or
- Conspire with, or aid and abet, another person to unlawfully practice medicine.1
A person violates 2052 BPC even if he/she never ends up seeing patients or if no patients end up getting hurt. Nor does it matter if the person has no intent to injure or harm anybody. The unauthorized practice of medicine can be a victimless crime.2
Practicing medicine without a license is a wobbler in California, which means that the D.A. can prosecute it as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, the penalties include:
- Misdemeanor (summary) probation;
- Up to one 1 year in county jail; and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000
As a felony, practicing medicine without a license carries:
- Felony (formal) probation;
- 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in county jail; and/or
- A fine of up to $10,0003
- California Business & Professions Code 2052 BPC – Practice without certificate. See also People v. Superior Court (Cardillo) (Cal. App. 2d Dist. July 31, 2013), 218 Cal. App. 4th 492.
- Same. Davis v. Physician Assistant Bd. (Cal. App. 3d Dist. July 2, 2021), 66 Cal. App. 5th 227.