If you are a physician in California, the Medical Board of California can suspend or revoke your license for misdemeanor or felony convictions substantially related to your qualifications and duties. However, the Board will consider mitigating circumstances and context before imposing discipline.
Here are five key things to know:
- If you apply to be a doctor, the Board can reject you for past convictions of serious felonies or Tier II or Tier III sex crimes.
- If you are currently a doctor, you have 30 days to self-report any felony charges and any criminal convictions.
- If you renew your doctor’s license, you must disclose any convictions and professional discipline from other states.
- You may have an administrative hearing before the Medical Board can take disciplinary action.
- You can appeal the Medical Board’s decision to suspend or revoke your license.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What do I have to disclose to the Medical Board, and when?
- 2. Will I lose my medical license for a criminal conviction?
- 3. Will an arrest or charge trigger discipline?
- 4. Can I become a doctor if I have a criminal history?
- 5. What is a disciplinary process?
- 6. Can I appeal?
- 7. What happens when I get a complaint?
- 8. What other consequences are there if I get convicted?
- Additional resources
1. What do I have to disclose to the Medical Board, and when?
If you currently hold a medical license in California, you have an ongoing duty to self-report using this Medical Board form within 30 days of:
- getting charged with (or indicted on) a felony or
- getting convicted of a felony or misdemeanor
Therefore, you never have to self-report misdemeanor cases that get dismissed (such as through Penal Code 1385).
Failure to report a criminal action can result in penalties (including up to $5,000 in fines) and disciplinary measures.1
1.1. If you are renewing your medical license
During the license renewal process, you must disclose whether you have faced disciplinary action or have been convicted of a crime in any jurisdiction since your last renewal. Convictions comprise:
- convictions for any crime, regardless of jurisdiction,
- no contest pleas,
- deferred entries of judgment,
- set aside or deferred convictions, and
- infraction convictions carrying a fine of at least $300 or that involved alcohol or controlled substances.2
1.2. If you are applying for a medical license
The Medical Board will become aware of any criminal record through the fingerprint results it receives as part of your application. At that point, the Board may or may not request an explanation and evidence of rehabilitation.
You may also be asked to disclose any disciplinary history and any factors that could impair your capacity to be a doctor, such as substance abuse or medical/mental health problems. Failure to disclose any of this requested information could result in your license being denied.
2. Will I lose my medical license for a criminal conviction?
The Medical Board of California (MBC) could discipline you if you were convicted of a crime “substantially related” to a physician’s “qualifications, functions, or duties.”3 Offenses that have triggered discipline in the past include:
- Medical Practice Act violations,4
- crimes requiring registration as a sex offender,5
- murder and second-degree murder,6
- lewd acts with a minor,8
- sexual exploitation of a patient,9
- drug crimes (such as possession of a controlled substance),10
- driving under the influence,11
- wet reckless,
- public intoxication,12
- accessory to medical fraud,14 and
- petty theft with priors.15
2.1. Case-by-case approach to discipline
The Board takes a case-by-case approach before imposing discipline. It considers such factors as:
- when the police arrested you,
- the circumstances surrounding the arrest,
- underlying issues that resulted in the criminal case,
- your prior criminal history,
- whether the case affects public safety or your ability to practice,
- mitigating circumstances, such as your past compliance with court orders and evidence of rehabilitation (AA meetings, etc.)
Therefore, even a disorderly conduct conviction could affect your license while a relatively serious conviction might not: It largely depends on the surrounding circumstances. That is why you should retain legal counsel to craft a case that makes the Board see your situation in the most favorable possible light.
3. Will an arrest or charge trigger discipline?
An arrest or criminal charge does not usually result in discipline by the Medical Board of California. Rather, the Board investigates if you get convicted of a felony or misdemeanor – by either a guilty verdict or a guilty- or no contest plea – after judgment has been entered.
However, you can still face professional discipline if your charge gets dismissed through a court-ordered diversion program. This is typical in cases involving drugs or alcohol.16
4. Can I become a doctor if I have a criminal record?
The Medical Board of California may deny you a medical license if you have been convicted in the past seven years of a crime substantially related to the qualifications or duties of being a doctor.
The Board may also deny you a medical license if you have a criminal conviction – no matter how old – for either:
- an offense for which you have 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.
You may appeal your denial if it was based on having a criminal history.17
5. What is the disciplinary process?
Before the Medical Board of California can take disciplinary action against you, you have 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 mini-trials. 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 ALJ should impose.
We would then present testimony and evidence in your defense, including any proof of rehabilitation.
5.1. Before the hearing
Once you are served with an Accusation, you have 15 days to request a hearing with the Deputy Attorney General (AG). Otherwise, you waive your right to a hearing, and the Board can impose discipline. You have the right to all the records the Board relies on in your case, plus you have the right to subpoena evidence and witnesses.
The Medical Board may push for a settlement conference with the assigned Deputy AG to avoid having a hearing, which may not occur for several more months due to scheduling backlogs. The Deputy AG may rely on the Manual of Model Disciplinary Orders and Guidelines which includes penalties ranges for various violations.
The Board needs to approve any settlement. In practice, these settlement conferences tend to skew in favor of the Board and not the physician.
5.2. After the hearing
The ALJ will typically issue a Written Proposed Decision within 30 days after the hearing. If the ALJ finds that the A.G. proved its case by clear and convincing evidence, it may recommend disciplinary action.
The Medical Board can adopt, modify, or reject the ALJ’s recommendation entirely. If the Medical Board rejects the decision, it sets forth whatever disciplinary sanction it deems appropriate. This may include:
- reprimanding you,
- remediation activities,
- placing you on probation,
- suspending your license, or
- revoking your license.18
6. Can I appeal?
Yes, you can appeal the Medical Board of California’s disciplinary decision to a Superior Court. After reviewing all of the evidence presented in the administrative hearing, the judge will uphold the Board’s decision if it is reasonable based on the evidence presented.
Your deadline to appeal is within 30 days of the effective date of the Board’s final decision. If the Board suspends or revokes your doctor’s license and you lose on appeal, you can try to petition the Board to reinstate your license.19
7. What happens when I get a complaint?
The Medical Board of California’s Central Complaint Unit (CCU) reviews, investigates and handles any complaints made about doctors such as by patients or whistleblowers. The CCU may file charges through the state Attorney General’s Office, depending on what they find.
Some of what the CCU investigates includes your criminal convictions and accusations stemming from alleged incidents of:
- criminal convictions substantially related to the duties and functions of medicine and managing patients in violation of BP 2236
- dishonesty or corruption substantially related to duties and functions of practicing medicine
- unlawful sexual contact (including misconduct, exploitation, or being a registered sex offender) in violation of BP 726, 729, and 2232
- delayed or negligent treatment of patients, repeated negligence, gross negligence, omitting medically appropriate actions, and/or misdiagnoses
- over-prescribing medications or prescribing certain medications to drug addicts in violation of BP 2241
- using unlawful cancer treatments in violation of BP 2252 and 2258
- HIPPA violations and/or failing to give medical records to patients
- altering medical records or making false statements in violation of BP 2261 and 2262
- practicing without a current or valid license (or helping someone do so) in violation of BP 2264
- obtaining a license through fraud in violation of BP 2235
- other unprofessional conduct (or aiding and abetting such conduct)
- being physically or mentally ill in violation of BP 820
- prescribing or administering to yourself controlled substances
- using drugs or drinking excessively in violation of BP 2239 and 2234
- practicing medicine while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs in violation of BP 2280
- other drug crimes in violation of BP 2237, 2238 and 2239.
- DUIs charged under Vehicle Code 23152(a) or Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) (even having a BAC as low as 0.09% can trigger disciplinary proceedings)
Minor incidents are dealt with through reprimands, fines, and/or citations. A Deputy Attorney General reviews everything else to determine whether to file an “Accusation” for discipline. In some cases, the Board will have an investigator interview you before filing the Accusation.20
If this happens, we would speak to the interviewer. In some cases, our proactive intervention can stop the Board from pursuing disciplinary actions at all.
8. What other consequences are there if I get convicted?
If you are a doctor convicted of a crime, you face other collateral consequences aside from discipline from the Medical Board of California. Examples may include:
- Disqualification from being able to testify as an expert witness, to evaluate workers’ compensation cases, and/or to serve on Professional Certification Boards or Societies.
- Exclusion from being on the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medi-Care Provider List and/or the preferred provider lists of private insurance companies.
- Discipline from other states’ medical boards where you hold a license, or the inability to get a license from other states.
- Inclusion of your conviction on your public license profile.
- Placement of your name on the “Ineligible Provider list” for Medi-Cal and other state-funded insurance providers.
- Constraints on your DEA (Drug Enforcement and Administration) Certificate.
- California Department of Consumer Affairs – Oversees various licensing boards including the Medical Board and has resources on filing complaints.
- California Medical Association – Organization that provides advocacy and practice resources for member physicians.
- Federation of State Medical Boards – National nonprofit that assists state medical boards and has policy info and disciplinary data.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – 12-step recovery program for alcohol addiction.
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – 12-step recovery program for drug addiction.
- Medical Board of California – Frequently Asked Questions. Medical Board of California – Disciplinary Action Disclosures.
- Same. California Business and Professions Code Section 802.1. California Business and Professional Code Sections 800 – 809.9.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2236.
- California Business and Professions Code Section 2232; California 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].
- California Business and Professions Code Section 492.
- See California Assembly Bill 2138. California Penal Code 1192.7 PC. California Business and Professions Code Section 480.
- See note 15. California Business and Professions Code Section 2227.
- Medical Board of California – Enforcement.
- See Medical Board of California – Consumers.