If you are a Colorado doctor convicted of a felony or a drug crime, you face a possible license suspension or revocation by the state medical board. Though you are entitled to a hearing to contest the discipline.
Here are four key things to know:
- You can be disciplined if you neglect to inform the board about your conviction within 30 days.
- If you are applying for a medical license, fingerprints and background checks are not required.
- However, you have to be truthful when answering application questions about your criminal record.
- Practicing medicine without a license is a class 6 felony carrying 1 year to 18 months in jail and/or $1,000 to $100,000.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss how criminal convictions affect medical licenses in Colorado. Click on a topic to jump to that section:
- 1. Who regulates licenses
- 2. Applying for a license with a criminal record
- 3. Discipline following a criminal conviction
- 4. Fighting disciplinary penalties
- 5. Working as a physician without a license
- 6. Other professional licenses
- Additional resources
1. Who regulates medical licenses in Colorado
The Colorado Medical Board (CMB) regulates medical licenses in Colorado. The CMB has sixteen members appointed by the Colorado governor for four-year terms. The board consists of:
- eleven physicians (currently, these include eight medical doctors (M.D.s) and three doctors of osteopathy (D.O.s)),
- one physician assistant (P.A.), and
- four members of the public1
The CMB is located at:
1560 Broadway, Suite 1350
Denver, CO 80202
The phone number is 303-894-7690. The fax number is 303-894-7692. And the email is [email protected].
2. Applying for a medical license with a criminal record in Colorado
If you are applying to become a doctor in Colorado, you do not have to submit to fingerprints and background checks. Instead, you are required to self-report any criminal history you may have. You may also need to submit court records and other materials to substantiate your claims.2
Having a criminal conviction is not an automatic bar to getting a license. They will not deny an otherwise-qualified doctor a license unless they believe your criminal history outweighs your qualifications and poses a risk to patients and public safety.
The important thing is not to lie to the CMB. The CMB could deny you a license just for being dishonest on the application. If you have had your criminal record sealed or expunged, you should speak with an attorney first about whether you should reveal your record on the application.
Colorado is one of only five U.S. states which operates under this “honor system” that relieves doctors from undergoing a criminal background check.3
2.1. Background checks for Compact Physician Licenses
Colorado has adopted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC), which is a mechanism that expedites the licensing process for doctors in multiple states. If you get a “compact license” in Colorado as opposed to a “single-state license”, it will be quicker for you to obtain a compact license in another state that has adopted the IMLC.
In order to get a “compact license” in Colorado as opposed to a “single-state license,” you will need to:
- submit to a background check and
- provide fingerprints.4
Learn more about Colorado’s fingerprinting and background check guidelines.
3. Discipline for doctors following a criminal conviction in Colorado
If you are a Colorado-licensed physician, physician assistant, or anesthesiologist assistant, you have 30 days to tell the CMB when you are convicted of a felony or a drug crime. Failing to “self-report” is itself a ground for discipline.
Once the CMB learns of the conviction, they would then investigate the case and determine whether to impose any disciplinary actions. If the CMB votes to suspend or revoke your license, you can request a hearing to contest the suspension.
Depending on the gravity of the situation, the CMB could suspend your license right away or pending the results of the hearing. If you have your license revoked, you are prohibited from getting a new license for at least two years.5
4. Fighting discipline by the Colorado Medical Board
If you are facing a disciplinary hearing, you are strongly encouraged to hire legal counsel who has experience in administrative proceedings. Depending on the circumstances of the case, an attorney would argue to the CMB that:
- the conviction was for an offense that has nothing to do with the practice of medicine or patient care,
- you have a good reputation and a long history of helping patients,
- you pose no threat to colleagues, patients, or others, and/or
- you have completed all the terms that the judge imposed and has taken responsibility for your actions
If you were falsely convicted, the attorney could also argue to the CMB that the court got it wrong, and you should not be doubly punished by having your livelihood stripped away as well.
Former patients and fellow physicians could also write letters to the CMB to support you keeping your license.
5. Penalties for the unauthorized practice of medicine in Colorado
Colorado judges hand down harsh penalties for working as a doctor without a current and valid medical license. Practicing medicine without a license is a class 6 felony carrying:
- 12 months to 18 months in jail and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines.6
Furthermore, if you are applying for a medical license, the CMB could deny you if you have a past conviction for the unauthorized practice of medicine.
6. Other professional licenses in Colorado
It is only recently that nurses have been required to submit to a background check in order to obtain a license in Colorado. Learn more about discipline for nurses with criminal convictions in Colorado.
Following a criminal conviction, dentists have 90 days to notify the state licensing board. Learn more about how criminal convictions affect Colorado dental licenses.
6.3. Real estate agents
Realtors who have had their licenses revoked need to wait a full year before applying for another realtor license. Learn more about discipline for Colorado realtors with criminal convictions.
Contractors licenses are usually issued by local governments, not the state. Learn more about Colorado contractor licenses and how criminal conviction affect them.
6.5. Social workers
Like doctors, social workers are not required to provide fingerprints on their license application. Learn more about how a criminal record affects social work licenses in Colorado.
CPA license applicants must report their criminal history to the licensing board. Learn more about how a criminal record affects accountancy licenses in Colorado.
Attorneys who apply to practice in Colorado must submit to a criminal background check. Learn more about how a criminal conviction affects law licenses in Colorado.
For more information or help, refer to the following:
- Colorado Medical Board: Discipline and Enforcement
- Colorado Medical Board: Colorado Medical Board: Medical Professional FAQs
- 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.
- CRS 12-240-105 (formerly CRS 12-36-103).
- Physician (DR) Application Checklist, Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.
- Christopher Osher, “Most states require criminal background checks on doctors. Colorado doesn’t,” Denver Post (July 31, 2016); Kevin Simpson, “No fingerprint-based background checks for Colorado health care professionals; bill dies in committee,” Denver Post (May 5, 2017).
- Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.
- CRS 12-240-125 (formerly CRS 12-36-117); 3 CCR 713-36.
- CRS 12-240-135. Unauthorized practice of medicine was formerly prosecuted under CRS 12-36-129. It was usually punished as a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by 3 to 12 months in jail and fines of $250 to $1,000. HB 19-1172.