California doctors risk having their medical license suspended or revoked if they get convicted of certain criminal offenses. Convictions that may trigger disciplinary action include either misdemeanor or felony convictions that are “substantially related” to the qualifications and duties of a physician. Examples include convictions for crimes involving fraud, theft, or violence.
The Medical Board of California may also disqualify aspiring doctors from receiving a medical license if they:
- were convicted of a crime substantially related to the functions of a physician within seven years from the date of their license application,
- have a past criminal conviction, from any time, that is for a serious offense (such as murder, rape, or grand theft), or
- have a criminal conviction from any time for a sex offense that requires Tier II or Tier III sex offender registration.
Note that doctor’s have the right to attend an administrative hearing before the Board can take disciplinary action against the convicted physician.
Hearings are held before an administrative law judge and are like mini criminal trials. A lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office represents the Board and presents evidence of why discipline against the convicted physician is appropriate. The physician, or his/her lawyer, then presents evidence of why discipline is not appropriate.
The judge typically recommends license suspension or revocation if it finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that discipline is appropriate. This burden of proof is a lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in California criminal trials.
The Medical Board then either accepts the judge’s decision, modifies it, or rejects it.
A doctor has the right to appeal the Board’s decision to suspend or revoke a medical license.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Who regulates doctors in California?
- 2. Do criminal charges lead to disciplinary action by the Medical Board?
- 3. Do all criminal convictions lead to physician discipline?
- 4. Do physicians have a right to an administrative hearing?
- 5. Can a doctor appeal a license suspension or revocation?
- 6. Can I become a doctor if I have a criminal record?
1. Who regulates doctors in California?
The Medical Board of California regulates physicians and allied healthcare professionals (including licensed midwives and medical assistants). The Medical Board is a state governmental agency within the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
The Board enforces the Medical Practice Act and implements regulations in accordance with its mission of public protection.1
The Medical Board can take the following actions when disciplining a physician:
- reprimand the physician,
- place the doctor on probation,
- suspend the doctor’s license for the practice of medicine, or
- revoke the physician’s license.2
2. Do criminal charges lead to disciplinary action by the Medical Board?
A criminal charge on its own typically does not trigger discipline by the Medical Board. Rather, the Board will investigate a doctor if the physician is convicted of certain criminal offenses.
“Convictions” include felony and misdemeanor convictions secured through:
- guilty pleas and California jury trial verdicts,
- “no contest” pleas, and
- convictions that may later be expunged under California Penal Code Section 1203.4.
The Board can take disciplinary action even if a physician successfully completes a court-ordered diversion program.3
Generally speaking, the Board can act with respect to a conviction when:
- the time for appeal has passed,
- the judgment has been affirmed on appeal, or
- an order granting probation is made.4
The Board can take expedited action where a licensee has been incarcerated after conviction of a felony.5
Note that doctors have an ongoing duty to disclose convictions to the Medical Board.6
3. Do all criminal convictions lead to physician discipline?
Not all criminal convictions will result in action against a doctor.
Convictions that may result in disciplinary proceedings are those that are “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a physician.7
The Board considers all of the facts of a conviction in deciding on whether it is substantially related to the functions of a doctor. This includes:
- when the police arrested the doctor of a crime,
- the circumstances surrounding the arrest,
- any prior criminal history of the physician,
- the doctor’s compliance with the court, and
- any evidence of rehabilitation.
Examples of where the Board found a conviction to be “substantially related,” are in cases of DUI convictions and convictions for:
- Medical Practice Act violations,8
- crimes requiring registration as a sex offender,9
- murder and second-degree murder,10
- lewd acts with a minor,12
- battery and the sexual exploitation of a patient,13
- drug abuse and drug crimes (such as possession of a controlled substance),14
- driving under the influence,15
- public intoxication,16
- accessory to medical fraud,18 and
- petty theft with priors.19
4. Do physicians have a right to an administrative hearing?
Yes. Before the Board can take action against a convicted doctor, the physician has the right to attend an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
The hearing takes place at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
Hearings are basically minitrials. A lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office makes the case for the Medical Board and presents evidence of:
- why discipline is appropriate, and
- what type of discipline the judge should impose.
The convicted doctor, or his/her criminal defense attorney, then presents testimony and evidence in his/her defense. This evidence includes any evidence of rehabilitation.
The ALJ will issue a Written Proposed Decision typically within 30 days after the hearing. The decision sets forth the ALJ’s recommendation as to disciplinary action. The Board can either adopt it, modify it, or reject it entirely.
If the Medical Board rejects a decision, it sets forth whatever disciplinary action it deems appropriate.
5. Can a doctor appeal the Board’s decision regarding discipline?
Yes. A physician can appeal the Medical Board’s decision following a hearing.
The appeal is heard by a California Superior Court. The court reviews all of the evidence that was presented in the administrative hearing and upholds a Board’s decision if it is reasonable based upon the evidence presented.
A doctor must file an appeal within 30 days of the effective date of the Board’s final decision.
If the Board suspended or revoked a doctor’s license, and the doctor loses on appeal, the physician can try to petition the Board for the reinstatement of his/her license.
6. Can I become a doctor if I have a criminal record?
Maybe. The answer to the question depends on when a doctor was convicted of a crime and what crime the physician was convicted of.
The Medical Board may deny people from getting their medical license if they have been convicted in the past seven years of a crime substantially related to the qualifications or duties of being a doctor. The term “substantially related” carries the same meaning as discussed above.20
The Board may also deny people from getting their medical license if they have a criminal conviction, no matter how old, for either:
- an offense for which the applicant has to register as a Tier II or Tier III sex offender, or
- a serious offense, as defined in Section 1192.7 of the Penal Code.
Examples of “serious crimes” under PC 1192.7 include:
The Medical Board does permit rejected applicants to appeal if their denial was based on having a criminal history.22
For additional help…
If you are a doctor and are under investigation by the Medical Board, we invite you to contact our criminal defense firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our lawyers also represent clients throughout California, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills, Orange County, and Sacramento.
- See California Business and Professions Code Section 2000 et seq. See also California Code of regulations Title 16, Division 13 (Medical Board of California).
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2227.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 492.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2236.
- See same.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 802.1.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2236.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2232alifornia Code of Regulations Title 16, Division 13, Section 1360.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2232.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2236.1.
- See same.
- See same.
- In the Matter of the Accusation Against Kamron Hakhamimi (2011).
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2237.
- Griffiths v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 96 Cal.App.4th 757 (2002).
- In the Matter of the Application of Hrayr Georges Basmajian.
- Krain v. Medical Board, 71 CA4th 1416 (1999).
- In the Matter of the Accusation Against Donald Lew Bedney [license surrendered].
- In the Matter of the Accusation Against Aaron Lang [license surrendered].
- See California Assembly Bill 2138.
- California Penal Code 1192.7 PC.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 480.