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Medical Board of California Disciplinary Actions Against Physicians and Surgeons

The Medical Board of California (MBC or “Board”) is the state agency responsible for the licensing and disciplining of physicians and surgeons. Each year the MBC processes around 1,000 disciplinary actions against licensees. Not every action concludes in discipline against the licensee, but whatever the outcome may be, when a physician learns that there is an MBC investigation or an Accusation filed against his or her license, the physician should contact a professional license defense attorney right away. Defending this disciplinary or investigatory action, even if the physician believes it is unwarranted, may be critical to preserving the physician’s license and career.

Usually, the disciplinary process begins with an investigation by the Board. The investigation may be triggered by a complaint from a patient or colleague of unprofessional conduct or by evidence that the physician has violated the law.

The Medical Practices Act (Business and Professions Code sections 2050-2079) and section 2234 of the Business and Professions Code govern what type of acts constitute unprofessional conduct. There are many such acts but the most common are:

  1. Repeatedly and excessively prescribing or furnishings drugs or treatments beyond that considered the standard of care. This may include the overuse of diagnostic procedures or treatments. It also includes over-prescribing controlled substances.
  2. Sexual abuse or misconduct, whether with a patient, client, or customer, and even under certain circumstances when the sexual conduct with the other party is consensual and the other party is a former patient, client, or customer.
  3. Gross negligence in the practice of medicine, or two or more negligence acts in the practice of medicine, or incompetence.
  4. Committing an act that involves dishonesty or corruption and that is “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a physician and surgeon.”
  5. Abetting or conspiring with others to violate any provision of the acts above.

Business and Professions Code section 2236 provides that a conviction on any offense that is “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a physician and surgeon constitutes unprofessional conduct.” The conviction may be a misdemeanor or a felony. Almost any criminal offense conviction will trigger an MBC investigation and possibly disciplinary action. (Note, this usually only applies if the physician has been convicted, although some pending charges may cause the Board to request an Interim Suspension Order.)

What does “substantially related” mean? This term is broadly construed to mean an act of dishonesty or corruption. Such conduct can include anything from serious crimes to public intoxication. Criminal convictions on fraud or theft obviously apply, but what about a conviction for trespassing or disturbing the peace? Depending on the circumstances, such conduct may also be considered “substantially related”. For instance, a doctor who is convicted on the misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace after being arrested for harassing passersby on a city street would probably face a disciplinary action by the Board. Among the most common events that trigger an MBC disciplinary action under the rubric of “substantially related” conduct are alcohol or substance-abuse offenses, such as a conviction for driving under the influence or drug possession offenses.

It is imperative that a physician who faces any criminal charge, no matter how minor, consult with a criminal defense attorney. It is often possible negotiate a plea arrangement to a lesser charge or sometimes even get the charges dismissed, thereby mitigating the detrimental impact on the physician’s license. Many criminal defense attorneys have a narrow focus on the criminal charge without considering—or even knowing— how a conviction could affect the client’s professional license. Orange County Professional license and criminal defense lawyer William Weinberg understands the interplay between criminal charges and professional license discipline and will defend both from beginning to end.

When the disciplinary action relates to unprofessional conduct that is not triggered by a criminal conviction, Attorney Weinberg will thoroughly investigate the allegations for truthfulness and accuracy. Even when the allegations are substantiated, there is plenty that can be done to allay the damage to the physician’s license. After completing a complete review of the allegations and the physician’s career history, Mr. Weinberg will be armed with all favorable mitigating evidence and can make the most forceful argument available for the least possible disciplinary action against the licensee.

Professional License defense lawyer William Weinberg also assists prospective licensees. He advocates for individuals who have applied for a California physician license overcome any past discipline or criminal hurdles in the licensing process. Occasionally, the Board will deny a license due to a prior finding of unprofessional conduct or criminal conviction in California or in another state. A physician who had faced discipline or who suffered a criminal conviction in another state may find that his or her application to practice medicine in California is denied. This may be true although the physician’s license is active, and even in good standing, in another state. Every state’s medical board has different standards and California’s board has had a reputation for being among the strictest in granting licenses.

Fortunately, the California statute has recently changed (effective July 2020). A criminal conviction that has been dismissed or expunged can no longer be used to deny a license. In California, as in many other states, it is a simple process to get most misdemeanor convictions expunged. Attorney Weinberg can help with that process.

Attorney William Weinberg approaches every client as an individual with a genuine commitment to personal attention and an understanding of the client’s unique requirements. It is never advisable to try to take the Board on by yourself as the discipline process is complex with unexpected hazards if the rules are not carefully followed. Mr. Weinberg will fight by your side to preserve your professional license and your career. You may contact Attorney Weinberg for a free consultation regarding your problem or concern with the MBC. He may be reached at his Irvine office at (949) 474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.

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