Medical Board Criminal Investigations - A Simple Administrative Inquiry Gone Wild
The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Recent Medical Board License Actions
The California Medical Board recent license actions page is a goldmine for physicians and lawyers who wish to see the trend in medical board disciplinary filings. How many of these license actions started as a criminal investigation or have a concurrent criminal inquiry ongoing?
Typically medical boards are responsible for overseeing the licensure and conduct of healthcare professionals, ensuring that they adhere to established standards and regulations. However, when a seemingly routine inquiry turns out to be linked to a criminal investigation, the stakes for physicians are significantly raised. The interface between the administrative and criminal dimensions introduces potential risks that extend beyond the immediate threat to their medical license.
The administrative side of the board can be a wolf in sheep's clothing. In general terms the Medical Board of California is responsible for licensing and regulating physicians and surgeons in the state of California. The Alerts section on their website contains updates, notifications, or important information related to medical practices, regulations, or licensing. The enforcement section is tied to the State of California Attorney General, Department of Insurance, DEA and other law enforcement entities that interface with the administrative board.
The Slippery Slope
Sometimes a simple records request can take an unexpected turn. As the "simple" investigation progresses, the lines between administrative and criminal inquiries become blurred. What was once a simple review of medical records and patient complaints suddenly transforms into a hunt for evidence of criminal intent.
The problem lies in the inherent complexity of medical cases. Medical professionals often face challenging situations where decisions must be made quickly, and outcomes are not always favorable. Unfortunately, these complexities can be misinterpreted, leading to unwarranted suspicions and accusations.
As the investigation intensifies, the doctor's reputation and livelihood hang in the balance. Rumors spread, tarnishing their name and causing distress among patients who once trusted them implicitly. The stress and anxiety take a toll on the doctor's mental and emotional well-being, affecting their ability to provide quality care.
Law Enforcement Agencies are Integrated into the Board
This morphing of a simple board inquiry is structural. The medical board is set up to protect patient safety but look at the structure - consider who you are dealing with.
The DEA is a criminal investigative unit of the federal government. The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement entity in the state. The Department of Insurance has a major insurance fraud investigative and funding unit.
So when the Medical Board makes an inquiry it is worth your time to consider whether there is a criminal aspect because the criminal unit is inseparable from the patient safety unit.
This dual nature of investigations means that physicians need to be mindful of the broader legal context in which their case is being handled. Did your case start as a criminal case? Was there an overprescription allegation? Stark violation issue? Have undercover agents come to your office?
Even during a medical board inquiry undercover agents may come to your office!
All of this underscores the importance of seeking legal counsel experienced in both healthcare and criminal law to navigate these intricacies effectively. The potential dangers mentioned refer to the fact that issues initially addressed by the medical board could have far-reaching consequences, potentially involving law enforcement and the legal system, with implications that extend beyond the professional realm and into the criminal justice system.
The Criminal Adjunct to a Medical Board Investigation is Usually Hidden
This criminal aspect is largely hidden. If you look at the “Bible” for medical board discipline “MEDICAL BOARD OF CALIFORNIA MANUAL OF MODEL DISCIPLINARY ORDERS AND DISCIPLINARY GUIDELINES” there are no mentions of criminal conduct other than:
“29. Obey All Laws Respondent shall obey all federal, state and local laws, all rules governing the practice of medicine in California and remain in full compliance with any court ordered criminal probation, payments, and other orders.”
Do not be fooled by the Medical Board's public image. They see no distinction between protecting the public from medical errors vs medical crimes. In fact, the criminal aspect of medical doctor supervision may be a HIGHER priority than the quality of services aspect.
Physician Arrest - Shock & Awe
In practice physician criminal defense lawyers see the regular sharing of expert reports, investigative materials and investigators between civil and criminal departments. If criminal charges are filed it takes place with lightening speed. There is a standard shock and awe approach. 7:00 am knock at the door. Arrest in front of family and neighbors. Search of the residence and office. Interviews with office staff. Seizure of your business and personal bank accounts.
An experienced criminal defense team can lawfully and ethically help protect your assets and your business. Otherwise, most practices collapse within months of the initial arrest and search.
Horowitz Physician Lawyers are Your Best Legal Choice
For these reasons our Horowitz Physician Practice group is particularly qualified to represent doctors. We have a licensed physician who is also a lawyer, a licensed chiropractor who is also our paralegal and two criminal defense specialists on our teams. Our combined physician, administrative and criminal law expertise protect you.