Doctors who get convicted of a Colorado felony or a Colorado drug crime face possible license suspension or revocation by the state medical board. Physicians who neglect to inform the board about their criminal cases within 30 days of the conviction face disciplinary proceedings as well.
Doctors applying for a Colorado medical license are not required to submit to fingerprints and a background check. However, they are required to be truthful when answering application questions about their criminal record.
People who practice medicine in Colorado without a current and valid license face criminal charges for a Colorado misdemeanor, carrying:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000 in fines
In this article, our Denver 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
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].
People applying to become a doctor in Colorado do not have to submit to fingerprints and background checks. Instead, they are required to self-report any criminal history they may have. Applicants may also need to submit court records and other materials to substantiate their claims.2
Having a criminal conviction is not an automatic bar to getting a license. The CMB understands how hard it is to go through medical school and residency. They will not deny an otherwise-qualified doctor a license unless it believes the applicant's criminal history outweighs his/her qualifications and poses a risk to patients and public safety.
The important thing is for applicants not to lie to the CMB. The CMB could deny doctors a license just for being dishonest on the application. Doctors who have had their criminal record sealed or expunged should speak with an attorney first about whether they should reveal their record on the application. (Refer to our articles about Colorado record seals and Colorado record expungements.)
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 a doctor gets a "compact license" in Colorado as opposed to a "single-state license", it will be quicker for him/her to obtain a compact license in another state that has adopted the IMLC.
But in order to get a "compact license" in Colorado as opposed to a "single-state license," the doctor will need to submit to a background check and provide fingerprints.4 Learn more about Colorado's fingerprinting and background check guidelines.
Colorado-licensed physicians, physician assistants, and anesthesiologist assistants have 30 days to tell the CMB when they are convicted of a felony or a drug crime. Failing to "self-report" is itself a grounds 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 the person's license, he/she can request a hearing to contest the suspension. Depending on the gravity of the situation, the CMB could suspend the person's license right away or pending the results of the hearing.
Doctors, physician assistants, and anesthesiologist assistants who have their licenses revoked are prohibited from getting a new license for at least two years.5
Any doctor facing a disciplinary hearing is 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,
- the doctor has a good reputation and a long history of helping patients,
- the doctor poses no threat to colleagues, patients, or others, and/or
- the doctor has completed all the terms that the judge imposed and has taken responsibility for his/her actions
If the doctor was falsely convicted, the attorney could also argue to the CMB that the court got it wrong, and the doctor should not be doubly punished by having his/her livelihood stripped away as well.
Former patients and fellow physicians could also write letters to the CMB to support the doctor keeping his/her license.
Colorado judges hand down harsh penalties to people convicted of working as a doctor without a current and valid medical license.
A first-time offense of practicing medicine without a license is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. The penalty is:
- 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
- $250 to $1,000 in fines
A subsequent offense of practicing medicine without a license is a class 6 felony in Colorado. The penalty is:
- 1 year to 18 months in Colorado State Prison, and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines
Note that it is also a class 6 felony for a person to take any of the following four actions:
- presenting another's diploma, certificate, license, or credentials as his/her own;
- giving false or forged evidence in an application for a license to practice as a doctor (or as a physician assistant or anesthesiologist assistant);
- practicing medicine (or as a physician assistant or anesthesiologist assistant) under a false or assumed name; or
- falsely impersonating another licensee
The penalties include:
- 1 year to 18 months in prison, and/or
- $1,000 to $100,000 in fines7
Furthermore, the CMB could deny licenses to doctors applying for a medical license in Colorado if they have a past conviction for the unauthorized practice of medicine.
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.
Call a Colorado criminal defense attorney...
Are you a doctor who has been charged with a crime in Colorado? Then contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys at 303-222-0330 for a FREE consultation. We will fight our hardest to persuade the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges. And if the CMB is threatening to suspend or revoke your license, we will fight to show them that you are an asset to the medical community who deserves to continue practicing medicine.
In California? See our article about how criminal convictions affect medical licenses in California.
In Nevada? See our article about how criminal convictions affect medical licenses in Nevada.
- 12-36-103 C.R.S.
- 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.
- 12-36-117 C.R.S; 12-36-117 C.R.S.; 3 CCR 713-36.
- 12-36-129 C.R.S.